By Alex Litton

Think dark, intense, hypnotic; electronica-meets-shoegaze: ‘glacial guitar ripples spliced with an eerie synth pulse.’ Believe the hype? With this two-man outfit hailing from South Wales by the name of Man Without Country, you’re probably safe to do so. The duo, Tomas Greenhalf, synths/samplers and Ryan Owen, vocals/guitars/FX pedals, have created something of a buzz amongst those who’ve already chanced upon the taster track ‘Inflammable Heart’ from the soon-to-be-released first album, ‘Foe’. MWC look set to be a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of..

The 405: First of all, what is the reason behind the ‘Man Without Country’ name? Is it meant to convey a message of some sort?

Ryan Owen: It's something that stuck with me even before I thought of it as a name for a band. I interpreted the phrase as 'a sense of not belonging', which seemed like an appropriate choice for us.

Tomas: Our aim is to create powerful and emotive music that we feel passionate about, and people of all ages can relate to. We make music with no creative restrictions, both musically and lyrically.

Your sound, while being quite accessible and ‘dancey’, also contains some quite novel, and dark, undertones…?

TG: Yes, it’s deliberate! As we just mentioned in the previous question, there are no creative restrictions with our music. The contrast between upbeat, atmospheric soundscapes and acrimonious lyrics could be described as an unlikely combination, but we feel it is rather unique.

Ryan, you described your lyrics as being ‘very personal and very bitter’ - quite an intense statement?

RO: That's right - though it’s not necessarily the case with every song! I think lyrics are often considered to be of little importance in lot of music today, particularly in most electronic genres. But I've always liked music that has substance, something to connect with below the surface. The words I write are quite intense I guess, but if I was to filter everything I said then I might as well not write lyrics at all. It is fairly likely that I will always continue to write negative words, but not always from a subjective viewpoint.

How did the two of you meet and come to start working together?

RO: We both lived in Cardiff whilst writing and recording the album. Tomas is originally from a small village called Mynyddygarreg and I am from the infamous Bridgend!

TG: Initially the project was an online collaboration, sharing audio snippets and discussing musical ideas. This soon progressed into a home studio experimentation where ideas evolved into finished compositions.

TG: We still feel it's early days [at the moment] but I guess things started to take off once we uploaded an early recording of 'Closet Addicts Anonymous' to various online sources. We began to receive radio support from the BBC, initially from Bethan Elfyn and Adam Walton in Wales, followed by a live session for Lauren Laverne on 6Music and plays by Huw Stephens on Radio1. This led to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell music.

You brought Ken Thomas in to mix the album, how did you come to work with him?

TG: We had a long list of names who we wanted to mix the album, and Ken Thomas was at the top! To our amazement he really liked our album demos and agreed to work with us. His work with Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins, M83 and Moby has profoundly influenced our music. We don't want to give away too much this early about the album, but it could loosely be described as a 'concept' album. Every track has its place and conforms with the title 'Foe'. It’s 45 minutes of music, which almost works as one continuous piece, with many of the songs linking with instrumental passages. ‘King Complex’ is a statement song, and gives a clear summary of what the album is about, I think.

You have elected to release ‘King Complex’ as the single. Rather a surprising choice, given the appeal of ‘Inflammable Heart’?

TG: That's right. We felt that ‘Inflammable Heart’ was the perfect choice to put out as more of a taster for the music of 'Foe', rather than a single as such. But it will be on the physical release of ‘King Complex’. We shot the video in West Wales with Christopher Tirrell. We felt that Chris was a suitable choice as a lot of his work is very natural and atmospheric. The intention was to create an introductory video which encapsulated our identity, and emphasised the energy of the song.

Which it does, indeed. It seems to be the one track that people are falling in love with straight away, yet the lyrics are quite ‘deep’ underneath that energy?

RO: Yeah! The song gradually builds in steps by introducing instruments separately. Initially the lyrics are quite languid and almost self-loathing, but there is a positive twist in the last section! It's the final track on the album so I guess the idea was to end on a positive thought: it's like - a dawning realisation!

Man Without Country may not be giving too much away at this stage, but as they say in the valleys - it’s all gwych!