Super Furry Animals Have a Few Things to Say

Charleston City Paper | November 22, 2005
The Super Furry Animals -- lead singer/guitarist Gruff Rhys, drummer Dafydd "Dafa" Ieuan, guitarist/singer Huw "Bunf" Bunford, bassist Guto Pryce, and keyboardist Cian Ciaran -- recently started a tour across the U.S. and Canada in support of their seventh studio album, Love Kraft (Beggars), a wonderfully congested, melodically lively disc that finds frontman Rhys in his usual smart-aleck/romantic mode, but also features other members of the band on lead vocals, as well.

The quintet first started poking their heads around the corner of the official Britpop establishment with an oddly aggressive power-pop sound that's still at the heart of what they're up to this year. Worth the gas and time? You betcha. Maybe we can get 'em to town next year!

Formed in Cardiff in 1993, the group tinkered with techno and house music but quickly began leaning towards the psychedelic. By the end of 1995, the band had released two EPs (sung entirely in Welsh) on the tiny indie label Ankst, and had grown in popularity enough to ink a six-album record contract with Creation Records.

As part of a loose "Welsh movement" (the band has a tendency to sing songs in its native language) alongside Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, 60 Foot Dolls, and Catatonia, the Furries broke out in grand style with the 1996 debut Fuzzy Logic (Creation). The album's "Something 4 the Weekend" and "If You Don't Want Me to Destroy You" both became hit singles in late '96. 1997's Radiator, '99's Guerrilla and 2000's MWNG (pronounced "mung," the Welsh word for "mane") followed with strong reaction on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain, however, the band still carried the burden of being something of a "Welsh novelty."

2002's Rings Around The World (XL/Beggar's Group), was a lush, fluid piece of work that has more in common with the likes of E.L.O., Buffalo Springfield, and Burt Bacharach than Oasis, Blur or Radiohead.

On day one of the band's 2005 US tour, guitarist Huw "Bunf" Bunford, 38, took a few moments to speak with the City Paper via telephone from Montreal:

City Paper: Tell us what you and the band have planned for the stage show during this tour.

Bunf: We're experimenting on being basically plugged into the lighting system during the show. We have suits that have lighting fixtures, so we're kind of walking lamps at the moment. There's a new subliminal bit, but it will depend if it actually all works, you know there's always a Spinal Tap element with what we try and do -- there are always pitfalls, like most things in life. That's the kind of obvious visual thing we're doing. Sonically, we're keeping true to doing as many songs as we can off the new album -- maybe seven or eight. By the time we get halfway through the tour, we may have more ready for the set.

CP: Do you have the flexibility to change the set lists around from night to night? Like, are you and the band backstage brainstorming over a song order, or is it all so choreographed that you have to stick with the same order?

Bunf: Have to do a bit of both, really. There's enough flexibility to make changes. The hardest thing is to do something from scratch, brand new -- that takes sometimes a bit of time to bring together, because you have to think of visuals as well. We try to give every song its place in the set, you know? This time, there's like four singers as well. Gruff obviously sings most of them, but we'll have Daf sing a few, and Cian sing on a few, and myself -- that's a new thing on this tour.

CP: With Love Kraft, is there a specific album theme, or is it one of those typical Super Furry Animals mysteries?

Bunf: Really, it's just our love album. Putting a bit of it back to everyone.

CP: Working with a versatile sound seems to be the band's style in every project -- a natural thing -- and that's really the case on Love Kraft with all five members of the band singing lead here and there.

Bunf: Yeah, that's what we were hoping for. We wanted to try and do an album like that. A lot of factors contributed, too. We have our own studio now in Cardiff and we have to learn how to really use it. It's taken three years to get that up and running and to figure out how we can get comfortable with using it. We'll go off, disappear, then come back with a pile of demos. Maybe that's why everybody had so many contributions on this album. We thought maybe it would be a problem with continuity, but, I dunno, I think it's quite listenable.

CP: Well, the Beatles and the Beach Boys had four vocalists.

Bunf: Yeah, we lightheartedly joked about all the Beach Boys -- like everyone had their favorite Beach Boy -- and had their least favorite Beach Boy, too [laughs]. You can do the same with us now. So who's the Mike Love in our band? Maybe that would be me. We definitely have a rule now where if you write the lyrics, it's best that you sing them.

CP: Are you or the others ever intimidated by the vocal microphone on stage? Is it tough on stage, which is entirely different from in the studio, to step up to the mic stand as the lead singer?

Bunf: Oh yeah, it comes with the territory, you know. I am glad I'm not seen as the lead singer. Gruff is still the main singer, you know? But I think it is more interesting for the punters, really.

CP: How have the U.S. audiences reacted to the band's recent performances compared to the audiences in the U.K. and Europe?

Bunf: Obviously in Britain, they've had 10 years of Super Furry Animals, and maybe they're quite used to some of our actions.

CP: And antics?

Bunf: Antic and gimmicks -- maybe. We try not to call them gimmicks. We try to put on a show wherever we go, you know, whether in Wales, Antarctica, or Atlanta. There's probably a lot in the actual show that's not lighthearted and throwaway. So maybe, us coming on in crazy costumes softens the blow a bit.

CP: One thing I think strikes people about the band is that there is a sense of humour to go along with the high sense of ambition. Unlike a lot of modern rock bands -- and certainly a lot of British rock bands -- that sense of humor comes through in clever ways.

Bunf: There's a lot of earnestness and senseless insanity in pop music that's not justified at all, you know? We just kind of cringe at some of it. You know, we spend most of the time traveling the nightclubs and bars of the world. It's not like we're going to museums and putting on shows. Half the audience are possibly shit-faced when they hear us, so you have to have a lot of relevant outlook with it.

See for more.

Charleston City Paper

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated City Paper is Charleston's only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-largest publication in the metro Charleston area. Reaching a strong mix of active, affluent locals and tourists, the City Paper has thrived...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1316 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403
  • Phone: (843) 577-5304