Tom Emlyn is the guitarist in Swanseas bilingual noise bandits Bandicoot, whose Fuzzy sounds are currently creating a mini maelstrom around the world. But how many people know that in his spare time, Tom is also the creator of his own heart stoppingly beautiful and original tracks? These showcase his expressive and evocative voice, soaring melodies and powerful poetic lyrics, all of which promise great things from his debut album.
And now, the time has come to unleash this long awaited
debut. Years in the making, the record is a bittersweet love letter,
a swirling mix of psychedelia, indie, and folk-tinged lyricism inspired
by the post-industrial ghosts of the beaches and desolate suburbs of
Time certainly for us to find out what else lies beneath the paving stones.
Tom Emlyn - who, what and why?
Tom Emlyn is a human being and a singer and songwriter from Swansea, Wales. Not sure about the why, but that's how it is. Why not?
Describe your sound to an out of touch alien.
It's hard to say what conception of music an alien might have - you'd have to start by explaining that it's an art form based on mysterious mathematical vibrations that provoke emotional responses in human beings. Once that was out of the way (if they understood and didn't try to kill or eat me) I'd explain to them that my sound is a kind of swirling lyrical psych folk indie garage rock soup, with observationally poetic words. They'd probably be even more likely to kill me or invade earth, after such a convoluted attempt to describe myself.
How different is this to News from Nowhere?
News From Nowhere was a band that existed for a few years, did a few
albums, and dissolved somewhere in the first lockdown of 2020.
How does playing solo and acoustic compare with having a band with you?
In a way, it's two sides of the same coin. I'm just going to be doing
acoustic gigs for the foreseeable future, because it's logistically
easier, but I'd say both have positives. There are more opportunities
for intimacy and vulnerability as a solo acoustic performer, but it's
a little lonelier and less powerful than having a full electric band
with you. That's the challenge I'm trying to overcome really - I'd like
to fill the stage with music as if there is a full band, even if it
is just me playing. I think this can be done, if you play with commitment
If you were playing a solo acoustic festival, which 3 acts (living or dead) would you like to support you?
1.Roy Harper 2.Richard Dawson 3.Elliott Smith
How important is sense of place, and history of that place?
I think it's very important to my tunes. It's a weird time, the misinformation
age. We're all displaced from our surroundings, connected all the time
but cut off from our sense of place and history. I think I've written
such psycho-geographic lyrics partly as a response to that alienation,
hyper-fixating on the specific and local, to try and find some sense
of belonging or anchoring.
In that respect, do you feel yourself displaced in Cardiff? Not far away geographically, but maybe rather different?
I definitely feel like I've entered a new chapter in the last year or two. I'm ready to write new kinds of songs about new ideas, although I'm not too sure, yet, what those will be! I feel that I've completed a bunch of songs in a certain Swansea- ish mould, and it's time to get those out into the world, before moving on.
How important are the words in what you do?
They're extremely important, but so is the music. I might be wrong,
but I think a lot of people these days don't listen to the words enough.
Although that doesn't really matter, I'll still write and perform.
Why did you chose the situationist slogan to go with Under the Street?
I studied some situationist literature in university, and that quote always stuck with me. I like the way the situationists forced people to look at their surroundings more intently and recontextualise their sense of space. That's kind of what I try and do in my songs too. When I ended up writing about some of these psychogeographic themes, it popped into my head, especially since it seemed to fit the seaside theme of the album artwork and video for Under the Street.
What can we expect from the album? The singles make it sound fairly varied. What are your hopes for it? How can people hear it?
I'm very proud of the album. It's been really nicely mastered by Charlie
Francis, who has worked with REM and Robyn Hitchcock. He's done a great
job. I feel like it has some great performances, and treads a line between
simplicity and complexity that I've been striving for for a while. It's
pretty varied, but fits together as a psych garage folk kind of indie
sound, whatever you want to call it. It's pretty much come out the way
I wanted. Tom Rees of Buzzard did a great production job on it, and
Rhiannon Rees kindly let me use her photo for the album artwork.
It seems to distil many years of your life. How difficult will it be to write a follow up?
I've already written the next few follow ups! (See below). It's like my diary, there's no difference to me between my life and the songs, they flow into each other. I've written a lot and not released much so far, so I'm playing catch up with myself really. But I'm always looking for the inspiration for a new chapter.
If you were in a cover band, what would you play?
Songs from 'The Anthology of American Folk Music' in a fuzzed-up psychedelic style
What have you learnt from your time around 'the biz'? What advice would have for a year 6 band I work with?
What's that quote? "The music industry is a shallow trench filled with con men, cutthroats and sharks. There's also a negative side". Something like that. Don't expect an easy ride or an honest living, but at least you're always guaranteed wild, fun experiences! You just have to be honest and real with yourself, and the music will teach you that if you listen.
What's next for Tom Emlyn?
I'll be supporting Adam Walton June 24th in Elysium, Swansea (tickets
and playing a few festivals in the summer including Nozstock. Also,
I will be releasing more music from my archive over this summer. It's
all ready to go and I've been sitting on it for a while, so it's exciting.
I consider it all one body of thematically related work, so the debut
album is just the start! Keep an eye out for the rest.
News from Nowhere released on 30.5.22. Produced by
Tom Rees (Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) at Rat Trap Studios, Cardiff, and
mastered by Charlie Francis (REM, Robyn Hitchcock), the album features
a powerful electric band made up of friends and collaborators from the