At Wales Goes Pop! I had the absolute honour of meeting and chatting to one of Wales’ most talented rising artists, Welsh Music Prize winner and electropop-Queen, Gwenno Saunders. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to sit down for an interview after Gwenno’s performance at Wales Goes Pop!, which you can read about here. So instead, I caught up with Gwenno after the festival to talk about ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘, the Welsh language and the 80s.
RRW: Shwmae Gwenno, thanks so much for this interview. First of all, really, I wanted to say “Welcome back to Wales” how was SXSW?
Gwenno: It was great! My husband and I took our 4 and a half month old son with us and it worked out really well, surprisingly. Austin is a great city and pretty baby friendly apart from the mayhem on 6th St so as long as you avoid that you can have quite a nice, cultured and relaxing time.
RRW: I’m curious to know how Welsh language music goes down in the states? Over here I’ve found lot of music fans, even Welsh people, aren’t really open to it.
Gwenno: I have to say that I have only had a positive experience singing in Welsh everywhere that I’ve been so far. I haven’t found that it’s a barrier at all, after all, music is the international language so I don’t think it matters that much which language you sing in, especially with the type of music that I make where the vocals are buried in the mix with all the other instruments.
RRW: How does it feel to be back performing in Wales, particularly at Wales Goes Pop!?
Gwenno: I had a wonderful time! It was the first year that I’d attended and I was overwhelmed by how kind everyone was – audience, bands, and organisers alike. It was a real pleasure to be a part of it.
RRW: How are festivals like Wales Goes Pop! important, not only to you, but for Welsh music in general?
Gwenno: Wales Goes Pop! is incredibly important to Cardiff, I think, as it’s internationalist for a start and it also provides a platform for very different bands and artists. It brings the world of indie pop to Wales, and that’s a very good thing.
RRW: I talked to A N i • G L A S S about the importance of women in music and the number of women on this year’s Wales Goes Pop! line-up. It’s certainly something I’m passionate about, and judging by some of the themes you cover in ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘, I’m guessing it’s something you’re passionate about too?
Gwenno: I am passionate about it and I think that WGP! again provides that much needed platform for all musicians, whatever gender they happen to be.
RRW: Something else I’m passionate about is pop music, particularly the pop music that came about in the 80s and I hear a lot of that in your music, especially in the ways you use the synthesiser, has that era had a big influence on you and your sound?
Gwenno: It has been huge, particularly post-punk artists and bands from the Welsh language scene. I find it to be an incredibly fruitful time where visual art, theatre, and music intertwined and created something very exciting.
RRW: ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘ is so beautiful in so many ways. Are there challenges in using experimental and conceptual techniques that not everyone might appreciate, whilst still maintaining the simplicity of the pop music element, which is something that connects with pretty much everyone?
Gwenno: I think it was the combination of both that we wanted to create. Both Rhys (Edwards, who produced the album) and I are passionate about both approaches and we were really trying to bring the two together on ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘, and it’s something that we’re developing on the live front too.
RRW: I know you’ve had a busy couple of years and things seem to be moving pretty fast for you right now; are you finding the time to write or even think about new music or are you focusing on touring ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘ as much as possible?
Gwenno: I am thinking a lot about the next album, and getting very excited! I feel that we set a tone with ‘Y Dydd Olaf‘ and really, I’d like to keep going on the same path, whilst developing new ideas. I feel a certain sense of freedom at this point in my life and a confidence too that it’s worth making something that I really want to make regardless of anything else.
RRW: You’re playing a lot of festivals this year and you co-curate your own festival. Are there any artists you’d particularly love to perform with or have on your own line-up? Or even write and record with! (This can be as realistic or unrealistic as you like! Haha)
Gwenno: Well, we are constantly bothering people to play our festival, CAM [launched in 2015 and named from Gwenno’s experimental radio show Cam O’r Tywllwch] so I’m going to keep quiet on that front and hope that one of my dream artists says yes!
Diolch yn fawr, Gwenno for taking the time out for this interview. To read more about Gwenno’s performance at Wales Goes Pop!, check out my review of Sunday’s event.
I’m beyond excited for new music and new shows. You can find out where Gwenno is performing and keep track of her latest updates by ‘liking’ her page on Facebook, following her on Twitter and supporting her music here.
Header image by RRW.