It’s a long way from Carmarthen to Ulan-Ude, 5522 miles to be precise, including a journey on the longest railway line in the world. It’s not a journey many people will have ever made, before Adwaith did it back in 2020, it’s quite possible nobody had ever done it before, with the current state of Russian politics, it might not be a journey anyone ever makes again. It says a lot about the Welsh-language trio’s ambition that, invited to play a festival in Eastern Siberia, they didn’t just assume it was a scam email, that they actually went ahead and performed there is remarkable.
Along the path to Ulan-Ude, Adwaith didn’t just learn about the farthest reaches of Eastern Europe, didn’t just discover about the music and the landscape, they learnt a lot about themselves, about the places they’ve come from and the places they’re going. All of this experience pours into their upcoming album, Bato Mato, the follow-up to their 2019 Welsh Music Prize-winning debut Melyn. It is a record of bracing cold, of the mechanical throb of trains, of the forgotten places, the empty industrial cities, be it South Wales or the furthest reaches of Eastern Europe. As the band put it, their attempt to make, “the writing and sound of the album to be as open and big as the limitless sky around us there”.
Despite being heavily influenced by a single journey, Bato Mato is not a record that forgets where it comes from. If Melyn was a record of escapism, dreaming of the possibilities that adulthood could bring, Bato Mato is its reality check, a record of reaching adulthood and finding it isolating, confusing and much messier than you ever imagined, as they explain, “this is the next step in our journey: shit, this is life. We hit reality”.
While the themes have changed, and the worldview evolved, Bato Mato is not a record that forgets what Adwaith have already achieved. It remains proud of its Welsh roots, a record determined to challenge the global dominance of English language music and to share the vibrant, inclusive music scene in their home country. As well as fellow Welsh speakers, Adwaith also find kindred spirits in a variety of international acts who embrace their multilingual talents, be it Can, Khurangabin or Gwenno, musician’s who use vocals and lyrics as another instrument in their musical arsenal. Like those artists, Adwaith create music that resonates with listeners whether they are Welsh speakers or not, reaching beyond what they’re saying and into another plane of communication.
Bato Mato is perhaps a slightly more streamlined affair than Melyn, while their debut took a Magpie-like approach to music, borrowing from genres and styles with effortless aplomb, here they seem to focus in. This is a record of driving, big sky music, whether it’s the motorised chug of Yn Y Swn, the psych-jazz flourish of Anialwch or the arena-sized ambition of the brilliant recent single ETO. Take the album’s next single, Nid Aur, possibly the record’s biggest sonic departure, it’s a fizzing wonky-pop classic in the mould of The Orielles or Pip Blom where huge fuzzy guitars collide with urgent yelped vocals and clattering drums, it instantly feels like a break out single in the making.
It may have begun life in Wales, the same friends, the same collaborators, the same producer, yet Bato Mato feels limitless, a record looking at the vast possibilities the world has to offer and embracing the terrifying array of paths on offer. It encourages you to dive in, find your own adventure, and go wherever your heart desires. Ahead of the album’s release next month on Libertino Records, this week I spoke to Adwaith about Siberian adventures, starting album number three and why Welsh language music is, “who we are”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Adwaith?
We are a band from Carmarthenshire, West Wales. Our music is definitely a melting pot of influences from post-punk, pop to krautrock. OH, we sing in Welsh too!
FTR: Your new album, Bato Mato, is out next month, what can you tell us about the recording of the album?
We recorded it in a residential studio in Mid Wales called Giant Wafer. I think we were there for a couple of weeks and we had the best time! It’s always nice to get away from civilisation for a while to fully immerse yourself in the recording process.
FTR: I was reading the record was inspired by a trip to Siberia, why did that trip have such an impact on you?
It was such a crazy and bizarre experience, how could it not! Three girls from West Wales playing in an arena in Siberia. Very bizarre! The city we were playing in was so industrial and bare. It had a ghost town feel to it. There were billboards around the city with our faces on it (still strange to this day!) We also got to travel on the Trans-siberian express for 8 hours which we didn’t know was happening until we got there. It was just wild from start to finish.
FTR: You mention in your press release that you saw similarities between Ulan-Ude and Carmarthenshire, what were those?
I think the city seemed to have been forgotten a bit. It was really quiet and there wasn’t a city centre or any main shopping streets. There were many abandoned buildings which have been half built. In that sense I think it was similar. A quieter and slower paced way of life.
FTR: You describe this album as being about hitting reality. Is is therefore a less optimistic record than Melyn?
Definitely. Melyn was optimistic, all about growing up in your teens and feeling like you could do anything. Bato Mato is very much reflective of being in your early teens and realising life isn’t so good. There are moments of hope by the end of the album though, it’s not all doom and gloom.
FTR: This whole album is sung in Welsh, is it important you to represent your native language?
100%! It’s who we are. It’s brought us so many opportunities as well as setbacks but we wouldn’t change it for the world! It’s an amazing feeling being able to introduce the Welsh language to people all over the world.
FTR: Do you think it has been a help or a hinderance for the band going against the dominance of English language acts?
It’s been both. On one hand, it’s definitely something that makes us standout from English language acts. Most people don’t listen to Welsh music so it does make people stop when they hear it. On the other hand, some industry folk don’t know what to do with it or how to react. This is something Welsh acts have to deal with all the time. “This band are really great but they sing in Welsh” is something we’ve heard quite a lot. But these same industry folk work with artists who sing in Spanish, French and even Turkish. There’s nothing that fuels us more to takeover the world singing in Welsh than that.
FTR: What other Welsh language bands should we be listening to? Do you think the music scene is in a good place at the moment?
There’s such a diverse scene in Wales, we could go on forever! Our favourites at the moment though are Gwenno, Ani Glass, Cerys Hafana and Papur Wal. We saw Cerys play in Wrexham at Focus Wales back in May and our minds were BLOWN! So excited to have her support us at Moth Club.
FTR: What are your ambitions for this record? Do you see music as viable career?
We were just discussing this today funnily enough. It’s really hard to see it at the moment. We have to work full time jobs to live but also have to be available for gigging or upcoming tours. It’s a vicious circle. We’d love to be able to but it doesn’t look possible unless we’re touring constantly which is not viable at the moment.
FTR: What can people expect from the Adwaith live show? Are you going to be touring Bato Mato?
We will indeed! We have shows in London, Cardiff, Carmarthen and Swansea along with others. We also have a few festivals coming up with Glastonbury, Big Love, Nozstock and Greenman on the horizon.
FTR: What’s next for Adwaith?
We’ve already started writing album 3 (we’re gonna be one step ahead this time) so hopefully some more recording before the end on the year which is very exciting!