By Aaron Binder
Photos By Erin Burrell
It was a calm and clear night in downtown Toronto looking out over the Queen Elizabeth Way, 10,000 cars flowing by to 10,000 destinations and how many are listening to the same radio DJ spin the same song while simultaneously tapping their steering wheels? These are some of the great mysteries that pass us by everyday while we worry about small happenings that may or may not improve our understanding of what it means to drive down that highway, tapping a steering wheel harder and harder as The Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight Tonight” reaches its brilliant climax.
Not everyone has to have the same taste in music or the same favourite band but there is one note we can all agree upon, when that perfect tempest of a chorus kicks in, music fans feel the same way, pure elation where air drums become involuntary. For some people, that feeling comes when listening to The Roseville Band, a Welsh band with big hooks and even bigger ideas. Lead vocalist Andy Jones is well known not just for his musical prowess but as a founder of FocusWales, one of the county’s best current examples of how small changes can influence larger movements.
During CMW 2014, I had a chance to meet with the surprisingly soft-spoken Andy at a pizzeria just around the corner from Rancho Relaxo in the north-end of Toronto’s Chinatown. It was the perfect setting for his smooth voice to explain, in detail, so many passionate details about music, the business and why he believes in his band. Don’t mistake soft-spoken for passive, when he starts rolling his words become infected with passion and aplomb comparable to the greatest politicians.
The Roseville Band
Andy: So we had a Scottish band, an Australian band and a Welsh band playing a rooftop showcase, streaming worldwide, it was awesome and, you know, it was totlaly unnoficial but it was one of the things that led to our deal. So coming back to CMW is the completion of the story, really.
Aaron: And you guys did NXNE last year.
Andy: Of course, well, this is our 4th trip since then, we did NXNE 2012 and 2013. For us as a Welsh band coming to Toronto, i don’t know how the politics works between the two festivals, but we see them as great events and they’ve both been really supportive of what we do and really welcoming.
Aaron: It’s really cool this year because Audio Blood is taking the back-end reigns at CMW this year.
Yeah, it’s good, they’re a great team. I think the way they look after their artists is great. I’ve dealt with PR companies in Europe and the UK and those guys are really passionate about the bands they represent. I was at SXSW in March and hung out with a few of the guys from Audio Blood and, you know, they’re not regular industry folk. They’re at the shows and they really love it, the seed behind what they do is they love the bands. You want those sorts of people representing you.
Aaron: And you guys aren’t young either, you put out your third album last year.
Andy: Yeah, we brought our second album to Canada and we got ourselves to the point where in Europe we had distribution through Papyrus and we’re working with a team out there. And we’re getting some BBC exposure and playing some festivals.
Aaron: But the important question is, which one of the five BBC channels?
Andy: Well there’s so many really…cause like the…
Andy: Oh, I get it, it’s like the Austin Powers thing. BBC 1 have played us and BBC 2 and 6 Music and Radio Wales. That’s what’s important, the guys jumping on the music there. There are a bunch of great people championing new music and alternative new music so we’re fortunate, we come from a really strong scene in Wales. For such a small nation we produce such diverse and quality of output it always surprises people.
Aaron: I’ve studied Wales a bit over the past couple of years and it seems almost like the East coast of Canada in a way. It’s often considered a second or third tier tour destination but filled with some of our greatest talent.
Andy: There’s positives there though, creative people in the shadows often end up creating the most interesting things. I’ve met with people that run labels and they’re never really interested in bands in teh big cities, if they’re any good in the big cities then they’ve been picked up already. Often you find people in rural communities getting along with precisely what they want to do because they’re not contaminated by any sort of fashion. It’s the same where we are in North Wales, there’s no major music industry infrastructure, it’s just loads of little bands living in villages making great music.
Aaron: It sounds like everyone wants to experiment with their own thing, a huge part of progressive music culture. Your music, the way the guitars interact with drums and bass and vocals, you can tell it’s quite practiced and certainly has been practiced live a lot.
Andy: For us it’s always been an amazing thing. We grew up listening to a lot of American music, a lot of music from the late 60’s and early 70’s, it’s what got us into playing guitars and wanting to be in a band in the first place. And you just idolize Buffalo Springfield are a massive influence and then The Band, The Last Waltz was like a Bible to us, it’s the thing we checked out every day, we were obsessive about The Band at one point. So that influence has always been there and those guys really gig, talk about earning your stripes, so we’ve always tried to emulate that. As much as it was about proving to people that we were worthy of an opportunity at a festival or some radioplay, we knew that if we gigged and gigged we eventually get better.
We would improve our songwriting and playing, we played like 500 shows before coming to Canada. We had developed what we wanted to do but coming to Canada was so explosive for us in the most positive way. We left here and Temper is such a Toronto record, really, because we had this experience playing CMW and NXNE within a couple of months and then we left here and within the space of two months we wrote and recorded the Temper album and then we came back out here. And coming back to CMW is a story coming to fruition.
Aaron: And some of the stories on that album are quite amazing. You’ve got a song like City Rats which is fun and then the first few songs just hit you right in the heart.
Andy: Thank you, we tried to make a far more dynamic record this time and you’re also trying to make a more complete record that will engage more people and tell the stories better. So you have the songs at the most basic level you can play to somebody on the acoustic guitar but we wanted the record to have so much more dynamic. So songs like City Rats can punch through and tell the story in 3 1/2 minutes and then we have songs like Take It which are a lot darker or She’s In Love that play on a variety of themes, we’re very aware that after the first couple of records we told the story of us being kids from a small town trying to make it.
Coming to Canada we got to meet people from all over the world and play some amazing shows as part of a huge festival, it was inspiring stuff for us, and also getting to see so many bands. It’s often overlooked that bands like to look to other indie bands, people are always so busy trying to suggest they’re the next big deal but for us we were just as much watching bands at Rancho Relaxo or The Dakota. So we came away with so many ideas and thoughts about how we can be better.
We’re developing our fourth album right now and as much as we’re proud and excited of our third record, we can see ways that its gonna take off now. We feel really good about that, it might not make us millionaires but the record will be what we want it to be and that’s the main thing.
Aaron: You’ll die happy.