Trwbador are a little band from West Wales who are creating a mighty stir. The duo comprises of guitarist Owain Gwilym and singer Angarad Van Rijswijkmet who met each other through the West Wales dance scene before setting up Trwbador as a small side-line project. The band describe their sound as "acoustic/electronica" with "elements of folk, a bit of skwee, a bit of Hip-Hop and Trip-Hop and some quirky surreal bits but ultimately Pop." Anything that can be found to read about the band's music seems to be peppered with the words "Magic, beautiful, stunning" and for all my general life cynicism, this time I am happy to smile, nod and ultimately agree.
Interestingly for the listener's ears, Trwbador's songs are sometimes written in Welsh and sometimes in English. Angharad states "Without Sounding like I'm stating the obvious; both languages express themselves very differently in songs in terms of poetry, structure, vibes and meaning. I think then depending on those factors of what I'm after/feeling how the song is panning out, I'll pick the according language." Owain continues: "The words don't translate literally or mean the same thing across both languages and sentences are formed differently, so inevitably approaches differ. Our Welsh songs tend to be more story like and I try to write things that make use of the percussive and rhythmic nature of some of the words in the language. Sometimes you hear Welsh music being sung in an American accent on the radio and I think we definitely wanted to go completely the other way to that and work with what the language had… it sounds terrible being sang in a Mariah Carey type way."
Owain and Angharad say that they both share similar music tastes to each other, which must clearly ease their creative processes. "We're into some of the same music as each other and that helps a lot," says Owain. "Things like Broadcast, Air, a lot of minimal techno, Steve Reich, stuff on the project mooncircle label from Berlin and some 60s folk stuff. When it comes to making tunes we have different approaches to each other but can usually agree on where things should go." Of course two people cannot always agree... "If we can't battle it out and make a song that sits somewhere between the two of us, one of us will make a tune completely by themselves, there is no set pattern (yet).
The last 12 months have been pretty huge for Trwbador, perhaps most excitingly and importantly they've just released their self-titled debut album via Owlet Music. "My highlight has been releasing the record and having it in shops this time," says Owain. "We've done a few low-key EP releases ourselves and sold them at gigs and a couple of Welsh record shops, but having a CD out for everyone to buy is something I didn't think we'd be able to do on our own for a long time." It wasn't all smooth sailing though: "The album recording was a nightmare – all the tracks are old and made across three different computers, four different homes and I think one track was done on tape. It's basically a compilation of things from where we've been and what we've been using over the last three years."
The difficulties didn't stop after the recording process was over either, Owain confesses: "The release was a bit bumpy, we still aren't great at timing things – for instance, we toured to promote the record a month before it was released haha. We never got around to making any official music videos either, which would have helped." He goes on to say that, "In the end it was a bit of a chore to get it finished so we could move on." But thankfully that's not the case anymore: "Things are a lot more settled now and we're enjoying producing again, so that's cool.
As well as releasing their album, the past year has also seen Trwbador get a new dog, have their music used for the Welsh Tourist Board's television advert and go to India with the British Council to play a festival in Mumbai. Even more excitingly they have also collaborated with Cornershop. Angharad explains: "The Cornershop connection came about when I received an email to feature on a Christmas single Cornerhsop were producing, originally Sinead O'Connor had laid down the vocals for the track. Fortunately for me she decided to pull out. They had already recorded Sitar and Tampura for the album version of our track 'Sun In The Winter' and done a remix/colab/new version of 'Red Handkerchiefs'. They're great people and they're label is really cool."
Despite their incredible successes over the past year, the two still have to work outside the band to make a living and pay the bills. Angharad freely admits that "The toughest thing would have to be paying the rent." Owain goes further: "I work full time so I see myself as an amateur or 'part-time' musician. I love it though and probably hate it in equal measure. It's taking years off my life, driving to gigs then going back to work and using all of my holidays to either play live or record songs. I have to do it though for some reason and so try not to think about it or question it. The toughest issue is the money, if I could pay the rent through music then I'd be very lucky."
The obvious thing to do here folks, is for us all to buy their album, let's free these lovely talented people from the shackles of mundane work so they can make even more music. If you think about it, it is quite exciting to think of where they will take their music next.