Sunday, 28 February 2016

The 4Tunes Hit The Right Note On New Tour - Q&A With Michael Conway and Owain Williams

The 4Tunes, who are mesmerising audiences with their breath-taking voices and stunning harmonies in their first UK tour, will be appearing at the Blake Theatre, Monmouth on March 4th followed by The Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl on March 12th.

The Porthcawl concert will be a return to home turf for two of the quartet, lead singer Michael Conway and Owain Williams. They were brought up in the town and trained and performed at The Grand Pavilion in their youth before going on to appear in a host of top West End shows. Andy Howells recently  put questions to the pair.

How did The 4 Tunes come together?
OWAIN: We were all working in the West End in different shows in 2013 and had always wanted to sing together.   We got together for a friend’s wedding and loved it so much we did a few gigs in London, which went down really well.  As with all the performers in the West End, you never know when your next job is coming from, and in October 2013 we were all not in shows so did a cruise on the Aurora.  The 4Tunes were born and we have never looked back

You all have immense singing experience how different is performing songs from shows as opposed to performing in a show?
MICHAEL: It is great to sing with a live band on the ships and do ‘our own thing’.  We can sing songs from shows we had never been in and also our favourite songs from composers we would never normally get the chance to sing. So when we decided to do the tour, we all came up with favourites and classics, and as we say every night “there’s a song for everybody” on the tour.  Being in a show is great but it can get boring and sometimes you want to just sing what you feel, so in the tour we chop and change to suit the day!  The sound man never likes us doing that!

You are both from Wales originally, how important is it to you to be back on home ground performing these songs?
MICHAEL: It is great to travel around the country and later in the year we will be in Newcastle where Dominic is from, so he will have all his family with him.   I  was born in Port Talbot and have sung as a child many times at the grand Pavilion in Porthcawl, so it will be an emotional time and honoured to be back.  Owain is from Carmarthen and works in Cardiff on a TV show and knows how special it will be to sing in his home country, and maybe even do a song in Welsh!

What can people expect from your forthcoming shows?
OWAIN: Well it is 2 x 45 minute sets, both different and features a song for everybody.  So we will do numbers from shows we have performed in like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Jersey Boys, the classic Sinatra/Buble songs and modern day classics from Queen.  The first half tends to be more ballad like and second have songs to get you on your feet and dance and sing along, as long as you are in tune!

Is there a particular song you enjoy performing?
OWAIN: We love singing Bohemian Rhapsody, as not even Queen sang it live as it’s too difficult.  It always brings the house down and we are left exhausted after a 7 minute assault course on our vocals.   We also all have a solo which we change to suit the mood, which is an indulgence and love to make each one personal to maybe somebody in the audience.

What has been your best live experience?
MICHAEL: We have too many AMAZING experiences but Michael played the lead in Jersey Boys in the West End and to take the bows singing Frankie Valli was life-changing.  Owain sang for the Prince of Wales in Wales and also at The Phantom of the Opera’s 25th anniversary at the O2 in London.   Jimmy sang with Brian May and Queen whilst in We Will Rock You but seeing the many fans who have supported us over the years come out and see us on tour is just amazing!   We always stay behind to chat and to have pictures taken too, so bring your cameras!

Where can people find out more about you and your shows?
OWAIN: Well we have our new Twitter page and our website which is   
  • A version of this Q&A with Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on February 26, 2016. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Meet The Band: Field Music

Commontime is the new record from Field Music, the first album from Sunderland siblings Peter and David Brewis since 2012’s Plumb.

Written and recorded in spontaneous bursts over six months in their Wearside studio, Commontime is built around the brothers playing, writing and singing together again after four years of solo works, collaborations and soundtracks. "As much fun as we might have had on our own or collaborating, we missed just spending time in the studio, the two of us, trying things out together." explains David. However, the album also features a wider array of players, including original Field Music keyboardist Andrew Moore, Peter's wife Jennie Brewis and new member of the live band Liz Corney on vocals, along with a panoply of strings and brass.

Ahead of the band's appearance at Cardiff Globe on March 3, Andy Howells put questions to Peter Brewis

Who are you and how did you come together?
Field Music started in 2005, not really as a band as such, but a one off album. It was initially me (Peter), my brother, David and our school friend, Andrew Moore. Over the years Field Music has become a bit of an umbrella organisation for all of the different musical things we do. Sometimes it’s even a band!

Where are you from?
We’re from Sunderland in the North East of England.

How would you describe your music style?
I would like to think we have a bit of a magpie-style. We’re happy to take ideas and influences from anywhere so long as we think we can transform them into something that we can make our own. Having said that, everything we do as Field Music, the band, tends to sound like a good little band!

What's been your best live experience?
We’ve had lots of good live experiences so far. In terms of us playing well to a great audience I'd say Green Man festival in 2012 is pretty hard to top.

Can you tell us about your new album?
The album is out and in the shops! We’re really pleased with it and the reaction it’s had thus far. We’ve written some fairly conventionally structured songs this time. We’d shied away from that sort of thing in the past.

You're touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Yes, we’re really looking forward to touring. We’ve got a new member of the band who’s helping us to sound good and a bit different. It’s exciting!

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
It’s been a while since we last played there and I don’t know what people might be expecting. If people are expecting the old Field Music with a little something extra then hopefully they won’t be disappointed.

Where can people hear your music?
We’re on all the usual online music outlets: Spotify, Apple and so on. People might even be able to hear us on the old wireless from time to time. BBC6Music have been good enough to play us a fair bit over the past few months.

  • A version of this Q&A with Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on February 26, 2016

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Meet The Artist: Allison Weiss

Following the recent release of her album New Love, singer/songwriter Allison Weiss embarks on a UK tour taking in Bristol's Louisiana  on February 22.

Originally from a small town in Georgia, Weiss knew early on that her relationship with pop music wasn’t a casual one. Whether she pressed her ear to the wall of her older brother’s bedroom to hear the latest Green Day song or played the radio while she was asleep so she could soak in the melodies through osmosis, the attraction was immediate and undeniable.

After high school, Weiss studied art at University of Georgia in Athens, but she soon started learning more about music by performing at local coffee shops than sitting in stuffy lecture halls. The plucky teen started developing a pretty impressive local following, playing larger and larger venues, until she ultimately decided to evolve her passion into a full-time profession.  Andy Howells recently put questions to Allison.

When & why did you know you wanted to be a musician & how did you get your break/get signed?
I’ve been writing and performing since I was 17, so about 11 years now. I don’t know that I ever “got my break”, but after many years of touring and practicing and working in the industry, I was signed to No Sleep Records in 2012. They put out my last album, and then I signed with Side One Dummy, my current label.

How would you describe your music?
Musically it’s very fun and upbeat, I write pop songs. They’re catchy and very melodic. Lyrically it’s about those depressing moments in relationships and life that we all deal with. So there’s a bit of a juxtaposition there, but I don’t mind it. I like fun music and sad songs, so I put them together.

Who are your musical inspirations?
I grew up listening to a lot of Tom Petty, Beatles, etc. because of my parents. In high school I got into pop punk which led me to the DIY punk scene. In college I fell in love with Rilo Kiley, Death Cab, Tegan & Sara, and so many more. I’m constantly inspired by all the new music coming out, and the old stuff I haven’t gotten around to listening to yet.

Can you tell us about your most recent album?
New Love is my favorite record I’ve made. I worked with Brad Hale and Forrest Kline, two incredible producers. We made it last summer in Long Beach, CA, and I think you can feel that in the recordings. It’s got a very laid-back poppy vibe, but it’s still cinematic at times.

What’s been your live show highlight so far?
I just headlined in the U.S. and those shows were some of the most fun to date. There were the big ones, of course, like New York. Those were amazing. But the stand-out show for me was a Halloween set in Columbus Ohio. My band and I all dressed up as Luigis (as in Mario’s sidekick), and the other bands on the tour dressed up too. It was a low stage, almost on the floor, so we were right in the crowd’s faces. Everyone was packed in and it was sweaty and energetic and exciting.

What can we expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig?
I hope to bring that full-band experience over to the UK! I’ve only ever played Bristol solo and I think it’s about time you all heard me the way the records sound.

What else can we expect from you in 2016?
More touring, more videos, more fun. I’ve always got something up my sleeve.

  • Alison Weiss plays Bristol's Louisiana on February 22
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on February 19, 2016.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Meet The Band: Hinds

Spanish indie rock band Hinds are currently sending their UK fans in a spin with a sold out UK tour on the back of their debut album Leave Me Alone. Taking inspiration from contemporary American garage rockers Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall and The Black Lips, Leave Me Alone is an exciting introduction to the fun-loving quartet pioneering the burgeoning indie music scene in Madrid.

Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials, Ade Martin and Amber Grimbergen kick the album off with their new single Garden, before taking the listener on a rock & roll ride weaving sun-kissed, 60’s-inspired melodies, executed with a genius call-and-response between co-vocalists and band co-founders Perrote and Cosials. Andy Howells recently put questions to Carlotta from the band.

How did you come together?
Madrid boys put everyone's destiny together: HINDS.

Can you describe your style of music?
Crunchy and sweet. Like a new kind of weird delicious food that you haven't tried yet!

Where did the name Hinds come from?
From Deers!

Who are your music inspirations?
Paul, Lou, Mac and Kendrick.

Whats been your best live experience?
I once gave a whole show thinking that Lias (the fat white family singer) was in the crowd and I got super excited. When the show ended and that guy came to say congrats, he was just a guy with black crazy hair but no Lias. Ha ha ha ha #lame

What can audiences expect from your live shows?

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working in this interview at the moment Ha ha ha. I have five more after this. and also have to edit our documentary !

Finally, how can we hear more about the band?
We have all our tour dates, videos, video-game, and whatever you need on :) !
  • Hinds are currently touring the UK and play Bristol's Fleece on February 24.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on February 19, 2016.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Feelgood Musical Summer Holiday Comes To Newport's Dolman Theatre

Phoenix Productions are staging the hit musical Summer Holiday, based on the classic Cliff Richard film at Newport's Dolman Theatre from February 25.

Phoenix Productions are a newly named company, previously National Academy of Performing Arts, brought you award winning shows such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Footloose, Les Miserables and many more. Now under new management, the company are set to wow the audience with their interpretation of the feel good Cliff Richard musical. With their incredible cast, directors and set (including a full scale Red London bus) the group are all set to start their new theatrical journey.

Andy Howells recently put questions to four of the leading stars of Summer Holiday, Conor and Ben Donovan, Laura Honeybun and Geri McNamara.

Which role are you playing in Summer Holiday
Conor: I will be playing the part of Cyril, he always wants to have fun and is the more childish one out of the 4 boys!
Ben: I'm playing the role of Edwin in this production. He's the intelligent and more sensible character out of the three boys. He knows a lot about everything and is the love interest of Alma. He gets along well with all of the characters and is very fun to play.
Laura: The role I am playing in Summer Holiday is one of the trio called Angie who is in charge of the group and the girls look up to and also has a great and comical connection with Cyril.
Geri: I play the character Barbara Winters.

What do you enjoy most of all about musical theatre? 
Conor: I love how you can explore a characters life and emotions through musical theatre. Becoming a character that is the complete polar opposite to you is so much fun and allows you to get a bigger insight on how different people react to different situations. There are so many musicals that teach you about current problems and it makes you more aware of things that are happening in today's society; while having SO much fun!
Ben: I love the creativity behind it and as cliché as it sounds the way you can express yourself. I love becoming different characters and taking on different roles to make an audience believe that I am that character.
Laura: What I enjoy about musical theatre is performing to an audience and getting an amazing atmosphere in show week and putting smiles on people's faces.
Geri: I love that I can do what I enjoy in front of an audience. Being able to communicate through song and dance is just so amazing.

What is the most exciting aspect of Summer Holiday for you? 
Conor: I'm really excited about seeing the set, especially the bus and for the first time being in full costume and running the show! It's crazy how much costumes and set make your character stronger and make you feel like you ARE the character.
Ben: I love seeing a show coming together in general and this show hasn't been an exception. I love seeing songs and scenes coming together a whole and other cast members characters developing. I am also extremely excited about having a massive red London bus on stage too; it’s going to be so fun!
Laura: Performing Summer Holiday! I'm dedicating my performance to my auntie as she loved Cliff Richard and I love all his films so when I found out we was doing Summer Holiday I was thrilled to pieces.  I love all the songs with the cheesy dancing numbers, it would be nice to still have films like those today.
Geri: The most exciting aspect is being able to potentially play two characters in one. I find it exciting how my character has a secret lifestyle I also love all my characters songs and Barbara’s light-hearted personality.

Whats your favourite song from the show? 
Conor: Time Drags By because it's such a calming, lovely song and the harmonies are (normally) spot on! Or, Let Us Take You For A Ride because it's such a dynamic, fun number.
Ben: My favourite song from the show has to be Let Us Take You for a Ride. Its a comedy number where the boys help fix Do Re Mi's broken car. I love the harmonies in the number and the overlap. It’s so fun to sing and sounds so good when all seven of us sing it.
Laura: Dancing Shoes as it is an upbeat song sang by the trio and it makes me happy and want to dance. Also Big News because I love the song and how it incorporates the characters and the journalists.
Geri: My favourite song would have to be Living Doll. It's so fun, upbeat and quirky and being able to do it accapella with the other characters gives it that extra edge.

Where would your dream Summer Holiday be and why? 
Conor: New York! I'm so obsessed with the city after going there a couple of months ago, I'd love to go back!
Ben: I've recently travelled to New York in the USA, and absolutely loved it, so would love to go back again. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, the bright lights, huge buildings and Broadway!
Laura: Athens, like they do in Summer Holiday as I have never been there and that is the birth place of acting and musical theatre as well as exploring more parts of Italy as it is filled with many places to visit, packed with the finest food which I love to eat.
Geri: Florida, it's always somewhere I've wanted to go since I was little and it seems so enchanting and magical.
  • Summer Holiday takes to the stage of The Dolman Theatre, February 25th, 26th and 27th. Tickets available at The Dolman Theatre box office or online at
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on February 19, 2016.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Enter Shikari Back On Tour - Rou Reynolds Q&A

Almost twelve months from the release of their fourth UK Top 10 album, The Mindsweep, Rou Reynolds, Rory Clewlow, Chris Batten and Rob Rolfe AKA Enter Shikari have released a new single Redshift.

The release coincides with the band’s most ambitious UK tour which brings them to Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena  on February 23. Support comes from The Wonder Years and the freshly-reformed original line-up of The King Blues.

Following the UK run, Enter Shikari head to mainland Europe for a tour that includes the band’s biggest German shows ever, and see them joined by The Qemists for the first half of the tour, and Modestep for the remainder.  Andy Howells recently caught up with Rou Reynolds .

You released your fourth album almost a year ago - have you been happy with the response you've had?
Absolutely. To be honest i think it’s been the most positive reaction to any full length album we’ve ever had. It feels like people now expect us to push the direction and sound of our music. It no longer comes to a surprise to people when we do present a track or an album which has gone completely in a different direction; this gives us such a freedom to express ourselves in so many ways. We feel very confident in our writing and even more confident when it comes to pushing our boundaries musically.

What was your highlight during 2015?
Hard to say really. I think the live highlight of 2015 for us would have to be when we headlined the 2nd stage at download festival. It was amazing being able to take all our full production into a festival, something we’d jump at the chance to do again if we were offered.

In terms of musically obviously our 4th album The Mindsweep was released in January 2015. It’s always amazing to be able to release an album, let alone one which got such high praise from the people who listen to our music. Another amazingly special thing with this album for us, was that hospital records and their artists got involved with completely remixing the album and we released The Mindsweep Hospitalised. This was an amazing experience for us. We are all huge fans of hospital records and all their artists so it was a dream come true that they’d even consider doing it with us, let alone producing something that in our opinion is fantastic, and completely original.

Enter Shikari are back out on tour
How has the band developed over the past year? Do you find Enter Shikari is constantly evolving with each new release?
Absolutely! We are always trying to develop and move forward. We wouldn’t be happy with ourselves if we didn’t feel like we’d developed. I think we take this approach to every aspect of what we do. Not only in writing and recording music, but in our live show too.

This next tour we have been working endlessly to push our live show into places we’ve never been, and more importantly put on an experience for the audience that they have never experienced. For example this upcoming tour is going to be mixed in quadraphonic sound, which is effectively live surround sound. We’ve been working hard with our lighting designer to push the boundaries in the visual production along side the audio aspects.

Have you had time to relax at all, how do you all chill out when you're not working?
Yeh we have. This is definitely the longest amount of time off we’ve had. Rory had a baby in October 2015, so we’ve been home since then. The problem is though, we can’t sit still for long, we get restless. We’ve had to focus our attention on getting ready for the next tour and making it as huge and impressive as possible. Of course it’s been nice as we’ve been doing all the programming and creativity from home. :)

What music are you currently listening to yourselves? 
All kinds of stuff. Personally I’ve been listening to a bit more local music. There’s a new band from St Albans called Franklin who I’ve been listening to a lot. I’ve also been listening to The King Blues and The Wonder Years. They are both hitting the road with us in February and they are both such great bands. Listening to each of them has been getting me really excited for the tour.

You're back out on tour - what can fans expect from the forthcoming shows?
Well they can expect a sweaty, passionate, full throttle show. Only bigger and better in every aspect. We have gone to town on production and we have been planning this for months. It’s going to be such a special tour.

Have you any projects or new recordings planned for 2016? 
We just released a brand new single, Redshift, a couple of weeks ago, but we’re constantly writing and trying to be creative. So there’s always new music which is never too far away with us.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Meet The Band: Creeper

FOLLOWING the release of their new EP The Stranger on February 19, Southampton goth-punks Creeper head out on  a headline tour playing Newport's Le Pub on February 21.

Recently the bands guitarist Sina Nemati decided to leave the band in order to concentrate on his sound engineering career in London. Sina was replaced by guitarist Oliver Burdett, while band’s live keyboardist Hannah Greenwood has joined the ranks as Creeper's  sixth full-time member.

They join a band that vocalist Will Gould and guitarist Ian Miles formed from the fading embers of cult hardcore favourites Our Time Down Here. The line-up is completed by bassist Sean Scott and drummer Dan Bratton.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Will Gould about their forthcoming shows.

Where are you from and how did you all come together?
We’re all from Southampton and all met through playing bands in the music scene down here. Southampton has a thriving scene and so putting together this band was really organic.

The band line-up has recently changed to, how will this impact on the band’s sound?
I don’t think it will change the sound of the band very much, we still approach writing the songs in exactly the same way. We’ve been playing as a six piece un officially for around six months now anyway, the only new thing really is the addition of Ollie on guitar. As we’ve known him for so long though, it all feels very natural.

What’s been your best live experience?
I think playing Hevy Fest last year was a particular highlight for us, it was a really special day and the response was something we’d never planned for. Last year was a real whirlwind year of us.

You played Swansea in late 2015, and have two more Wales dates lined up in the next few months - do you enjoy your Wales visits?
I actually always particularly look forward to Wales when we’re on tour. We’ve ended up making some very good friends there and had a lot of fun. The scene seems very strong and we always have a great time.

The Stranger EP will be released in February , can you tell us more about that?
The new EP is a sequel to our last EP The Callous Heart. It is musically, a much sadder collection of songs and is structured a lot different to our previous releases. This is our favorite release yet and is something we really cannot wait for everyone to get to listen to.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Newport gig?
I think you can expect to see the next step in our story, we’re going to have new songs and new members too. It’s really exciting to be out on a headline run because it means we have more time to work with too. It will be the ultimate Creeper show.

You’ll also be playing Cardiff in March with Neck Deep – are you looking forward to that?
Very much so, those will be some of the biggest shows we’ve ever done! Neck Deep have been so lovely in taking us out for these shows, we’re crazy excited to be a part of it.

With an exciting start to the year – are there further plans for live dates and more music later in the year?
We’re always working on something, I would anticipate that there will certainly be both more shows and more music on the way soon.

Where can people hear your music?
You can check us out on YouTube, Spotify, ITunes and our first EP is still available on Bandcamp

  • Check out Creeper's official website 
  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment section, The Guide, on February 12, 2016. Andy Howells is a freelance writer.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Still Sensational and Meaning It - Steve Ellis Interview

SIXTIES pop legend, Steve Ellis, the front man of  The Love Affair, plays Swansea’s Grand Theatre on February 27 as part of this years Sensational 60s Line-up.

Dubbed The Original Mod by many of his contemporaries and fans, Steve and The Love Affair are remembered for a list of strong hit singles from the late 1960s which included the 1968 UK chat-topper Everlasting Love.

“It broke the mould a bit because Keith Mansfield scored it all up and it sounded like Phil Spector,” Steve tells Andy Howells.  Everlasting Love become a controversial hit, it was revealed the producers didn't use all the members of The Love Affair line-up on the actual recording, substituting them for session musicians. “They said “We want to put you in the studio,” and so I went in on my own which was kind of a bitter pill because we were a good band,” continues Steve, “ That’s the way it was, but a lot of people were doing it, it was no big secret. I was the only one who admitted it!”

Steve Ellis in the 1960s
The Love Affair continued their chart success with further hits including A Day Without Love and Rainbow Valley but eventually the mania that accompanied pop stardom took its toll on the band. “It just turned into chaos and pandemonium you couldn’t hear what you were playing,” says Steve, “That was the whole reason I left because I couldn’t hear anything. I just move on because I just want to make music, that’s the whole reason I got into it.”

Steve has continued to record and tour in the decades that followed his initial chart success and was thrilled to be invited to appear on The Sensational Sixties Experience a few years ago.

 “You can’t knock the heritage, there’s obviously an audience that want to hear that period. The promoters saw me at a gig and said “We want you to do a tour” and I didn't think much of it at the time as I’d just come off stage and was running out the door to get in the car and go home. I said “I haven’t done a tour of that magnitude in years. I’ll think about it but if you get Chris Farlowe on it, I’ll probably do it” because I’ve known him since I was 17.”

Steve got on board with The Sensational 60s Experience two years ago and his set went down so well, he’s been back on the current tour since last autumn alongside other 60s favourites, Herman’s Hermits, Union Gap UK, Chris Farlowe and Alan Mosca of The Dreamers. “Its good," continues Steve, “everybody gets on and there’s no egos about them. Of course you have to do the hits but that’s okay as long as you do them and mean them and don’t do them like a juke box which we never do.”

Steve has recently been working on a new album “I had a single out with a band called Cow that I’ve been working with and that got a little radio play. I hope this new album will surprise a few people it’s got some nice beats going on!”
  • The Sensational 60s Experience plays Swansea Grand Theatre on February 27. Check the official website for further details.
  • Andy Howells is a freelance writer. Extracts from this interview were published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during Autumn 2015.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

On Stage: Theatr Pena - The Glass Menagerie, Newport Riverfront

Tennessee Williams classic four-character memory play The Glass Menagerie is the latest drama to be given the Theatr Pena treatment.  A triumph in characterisation, light, pace and delivery, it began its tour across Wales for a three night stint at Newport Riverfront on Thursday evening, drawing  the audience in from the offset and raising the seemingly unsurpassable bar even further from last years production of The Royal Bed.

Eiry Thomas and Gareth Pierce in The Glass Menagerie
Photograph by Simon Gough
Director Erica Eirian and her team of actors and technicians, have a knack of picking strong character plays. The Riverfront studio has played host to these in recent years building a sense of intimacy for the audience. However, judging by the audience reaction on Friday evening, none of the dynamics were lost as The Glass Menagerie moved to The Riverfront’s larger main theatre. If anything, the extra space added more depth to the ongoing proceedings as we were transported to St Louis in 1937. An atmospherically lit set reflected the lives of a family caught up in the economic recession, struggling to cope with the harsh realities of their impoverished lives, giving a sense of a classic Hollywood movie brought to life on stage.

Rosamund Shelley and Rhys
Meredith in The Glass Menagerie
Photograph by Simon Gough
Rosamund Shelley is the doting mother of Tom and Laura who unsuccessfully tries to control her children’s destinies to compensate making a mess of her own. Shelley gives a splendid tragicomic characterisation which generates as much laughter in her characters circumstances as it does in gasps of disapproval of her behaviour.

Rhys Meredith is a dynamic presence as her son, Tom, who longs for the adventurous life that reflects the ones he witnesses each night on the cinema screen. Tom partly realises this dream by narrating the ongoing storyline in the style of a B Movie Detective, this is the hook that draws the audience into the story.

Eiry Thomas plays Tom’s sister, the beautiful but shy Laura, an almost social recluse but the custodian of a Glass Menagerie of ornamental animals and her departed fathers gramophone records. Thomas explores a multitude of emotions from fragility to renewed strength as the plot unfolds, particularly finding  empowerment as she is reunited with former school crush Jim O Connor played by Gareth Pierce. The pairs beautifully choreographed dance sequence is a unique piece of theatrical chemistry and beautiful to witness.

The Glass Menagerie will be touring Wales in the coming weeks; visit for venue details and be sure to catch this treat of a production.

  • Andy Howells is a freelance entertainment writer and arts reviewer.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Meet The Band: The Front Bottoms

FOLLOWING the release of their recent album Back On Top, The Front Bottoms are out on tour and play Cardiff’s Globe on this evening. The gig will reflect the album which is both full of departures and a continuation of the work The Front Bottoms have been building on for years.

Brian Sella (vocals/guitar) and Mat Uychich (drums) have put together a vibrant array of new material with band mates Tom Warren (bass) and Ciaran O’Donnell (guitar, horns, keyboards).

Formed in New Jersey, The Front Bottoms have garnered critical acclaim thanks in part to a never ending tour schedule and a prolific run of releases beginning with their acclaimed 2011 self-titled debut. Andy Howells recently put questions to the band.

How did you come together as a band?
Boredom, and writing songs together was always fun.

How would you describe your music? And how does the recent album differ from your previous records?
I’d say our music is for a good time. I suppose the most recent album differs from previous albums because we have grown older, experienced more and been inspired in new ways.

Who are your musical inspirations?
The Beastie Boys.

Can you tell us about your current release?
Sure. The album is called Back on Top. It was released in September 2015 and I really enjoy playing these songs live.

What’s been your live show highlight so far?
Our fans. They are the best.

What can we expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
A great great night. I can’t wait.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Hopefully more albums and that we keep being able to go on tour.

  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on February 5, 2016.
  • Andy Howells is a freelance entertainment writer.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Laughter Lines: Rob Beckett

After a sell out autumn tour, the star of BBC's Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week and Channel 4's 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Rob Beckett is back on the road this spring touring the UK with his brand new show Mouth Of The South and he's taking on the big issues like Kit Kats and flatbread!

Rob burst onto the comedy circuit only five years ago but within his first year he had won four new act competitions including Amused Moose Laugh Off, Outside The Box New Act of the Year, Leicester Square Theatre New Act of the Year  and Reading Comedy Festival New Act of the Year, as well as being nominated for the prestigious Adelaide Fringe Best Newcomer Award.

After quickly establishing himself on the circuit, Rob’s cheeky chappy persona saw him winning fans by starring on numerous TV shows including Sunday Night At The Palladium, Would I Lie To You and The Jonathan Ross Show. Andy Howells recently put questions to the stand-up performer.

What made you decide you wanted to become a comedian?
I was terrible at all my other jobs and I saw an open mic Comic who was rubbish and I thought I can't be as bad as that. So I gave it a go.

Who are your comedy heroes?
Billy Connolly, Peter Kay, Alan Davies and Richard Pryor.

Who makes you laugh? 
My mate Birch when he has a cold. He wears about 4 jumpers and rubs Vaseline all over his nose.

What can we expect from your Mouth Of The South show? 
Loads of silly fun. I’ll chat with the audience and make you laugh.

Whats the funniest thing that has happened to you at a gig?
An audience member admitted to pooing in a pint glass and putting it into the middle of the dance floor at a nightclub. That made me laugh.

Beyond the forthcoming tour what can we expect from you in 2016?
I will be doing loads of panel show stuff and I got a few more pilots that will hopefully get commissioned and i’ll be doing more radio shows and podcasts.

Where can fans find out more about you?
They can follow me on Twitter @robbeckettcomic or my website

Rob will be performing at Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion on 11th February (01656 815 995, ) and Monmouth’s Savoy Theatre on Friday 12th February (01600 772 467,

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Film Review: Dad's Army (2016)

The makers of the new Dad's Army film might have guessed they'd have a war on their hands when they got permission from the shows creators for a new big screen version commissioned for production. Even with a cast including Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon and Catherine Zeta Jones, was it really wise to pick up where the WWII adventures of Walmington on sea Home Guard ended on television back on Remembrance Sunday 1977?

The immortal jewel of the BBC's comedy crown, Dad's Army, still regularly shines with BBC 2 reruns on Saturday evenings, drawing in healthy viewing figures from anyone who prefers a good belly laugh as opposed to a straight on ear assault from TV talent shows The Voice or The X Factor.

I'm an original fan of the series and the magic of Jimmy Perry and David Croft's scripts have given me much joy, happiness, tears and comfort over my 47 years. Yet even I was worried when I heard a new film was in the making.

Hamish McColl's screenplay is set in 1944, towards the end of the War, beginning with a scene setter in war torn London with MI5 in pursuit of a Nazi Spy. The opener itself is almost in the same spirit as a James Bond film, and leads the pace neatly into a new Dad's Army story, gradually revealing the characters, lead on manoeuvres by Toby Jones’ Captain Mainwaring and Bill Nighy's Sergeant Wilson.

The title sequence introduces the characters by name, there are no acting credits here, and clearly it’s every man for himself as the actors have a job on their hands to convince you they are Mainwaring, Wilson, Jones, Frazer, Godfrey, Walker and Pike for the next 100 minutes.

Toby Jones as Mainwaring is immediately thrown into comedy action as he attempts to answer a telephone with bandaged spread eagled arms. There are shades of Arthur Lowe, the original Mainwaring, in the ridiculousness of the situation, Jones performance remains funny in its bumbling and authoritative presentation rather than Lowe’s pomposity  and clipped air.

Bill Nighy's Wilson is positively flirtier and a little colder than we know from John Le Mesurier, while Tom Courtenay's portrayal of Jones takes a while to bed in becoming more madcap and slapstick (as we would have expected from Clive Dunn), as the film progresses.

Michael Gambon and Bill Paterson place themselves into the roles respectively of the gentle Private Godfrey and dour Private Frazer with ease, emulating rather than imitating the templates created by Arnold Ridley and John Laurie, resulting in fine performances throughout.

Blake Harrison has some nicely scripted moments as Pike, getting more to do than Ian Lavender did in the early series. Daniel Mays takes on the role of Private Walker, and although looking slightly younger than James Beck was in the original carries the spiv persona well enough to have his performances enjoyed throughout the film.

Catherine Zeta Jones has all the qualities of a classic female Hollywood starlet as Rose Winters, a journalist apparently writing an article for The Lady magazine on The Home Guard and also a familiar face from Wilson's past. Her character though is not all as it seems and soon stirs things up within the platoon's key members.

The film also brings Walmington on Sea's lady folk to the forefront, Mrs Mainwaring (previously unseen in the TV series) is brought to life by Felicity Montagu, whose presence becomes more apparent as the film progresses. Mrs Mainwaring leads her own “Mum’s Army” consisting of  Mrs Fox (Alison Steadman), Mrs Pike (Sarah Lancashire), Vera (Holli Dempsey) and Daphne (Emily Atack). A believable fighting force alongside their male counterparts each role has a strong presence in the plot,

Original series stars Frank Williams and Ian Lavender get some worthy on-screen moments too while Mark Gatiss becomes a new thorn in Captain Mainwaring's side as Colonel Theakes.

Other familiar elements are the use of the original Jones butchers van, several comical appearances of Godfrey's sisters, portrayed by Annette Crosbie and Julia Foster, while the Yorkshire village of Bridlington doubles for Walmington on Sea and adds atmosphere to the films World war two backdrop.

The films plot has a beginning middle and end and serves its function for a 100 minute comedy feature film. There are some well paced comedy scenes and strong dialogue and climaxes with an explosive battle scene getting to grips with the Hun on the beaches of Walmington.

Dad's Army serves as a good indicator of how life for the series characters could have progressed towards the end of the war. Far from been a failure, the film should be appreciated as a homage to the original series. I will certainly look forward to watching it again.

Paul Carrack On Tour With Soul Shadows

One of the greatest blue-eyed soul voices, a distinguished front man and an ever in-demand musician's musician, Paul Carrack is striding into 2016 on a hot streak of creativity that shows no signs of slowing down. He plays Cardiff's St David's Hall next week as part of his current tour, performing classic hits The Living Years, How Long? and Over My Shoulder as well as material from his new album, Soul Shadows.

Soul Shadows follows directly from Carrack's starring role as a member of Eric Clapton's touring band, handpicked by the guitar legend just as he has been over the years by everyone from Elton John to B.B. King. Soul Shadows features no fewer than ten brand new Carrack compositions. Most of the albums instrumentation is by Paul himself, working in his newly-refurbished home studio, with his son Jack once again joining him on drums. It was the perfect setting for songs to burst spontaneously into life.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Paul.

I attended one of your shows a few years ago, it was a fabulous concert, but it must be hard for you to know what to leave out?
It is. We have a lot of songs to choose from but we try to keep a balance between the new songs from 'Soul Shadows', which we are all excited about, and the songs which the audience are more familiar with. Fortunately the new songs are all working great live and going down well but we would be hung drawn and quartered if we didn't play How Long, Over my Shoulder, Living Years and Eyes of Blue for instance.

Do you feel you’re in a good place with your music career these days?
Very much so. I am in an enviable position that many good artistes and musicians would love to be in . The main thing is I have a platform to continue making music, performing, writing and producing new music and earning a crust which is all an artiste really wants. It didn't come on a plate though. Takes a lot of work and attention to keep the show on the road. I've no desire to be famous, just the opportunity to keep doing what I love .

Are there any new recordings or projects you are working on at the moment?
I have a new album 'Soul Shadows' which seems to be doing well at radio. Our focus is on our 40 date tour which takes us into March. In April I will be back with the Eric Clapton band for a short tour of Japan.

Who do you like to listen to when you’re relaxing and do you have a particularly favourite recording you always return to for listening pleasure?
I tend to go for the tried and tested . as we speak I'm listening to a Bobby Bland compiulation from the 60's. I'm not really up to speed with the modern scene.

What do you remember about your first live performance In Wales?
Blimey! It's so long ago I can't remember when it was. I know it's always a pleasure to play St Davids, Cardiff because so many great artistes have played there. Same with The Grand, Swansea. I think the audiences try to outdo each other to be the most welcoming which is great.

What can fans expects from your forthcoming Wales dates?
Hopefully a great show, a six piece band and a cross section of the material from my career old and new. Some big old hits and some new material from Soul Shadows.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Balsamo Deighton Discuss Their Debut Release Unfolding

Americana duo Balsamo Deighton released their debut album Unfolding today.

Swansea’s Steve Balsamo is perhaps best remembered for his work as solo recording artist as well fronting the Welsh band The Storys and before that, having a successful run in London’s West End playing the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Rosalie Deighton grew up in the successful folk band The Deighton Family and is considered one of Britain’s finest female vocalists. Following supporting The Storys on tour, the band asked Rosalie to collaborate with them.

When The Storys called it a day, Steve and Rosalie took it as a sign that the time was right to make some music together. They called on friend and songwriter Julian Wilson with recordings eventually taking place under the supervision of John Reynolds in North London. Now, at last, Balsamo Deighton’s album debut is here and Andy Howells puts questions to the pair about the album.

How did you meet each other and what gave you the idea to collaborate?
Steve: Rosalie and I met in London at producer Martin Terefe's studio about 15 years ago. We both love the same music and talked back then of writing together. Rosalie supported our old band, The Storys, and joined a few years later, helping us write our third album, Luck. After the Storys ended, we both had ideas and started writing at Julian Wilson from Grand Drive's South London studio. Very quickly we thought we had some good songs, and then slowly began making our debut album, Unfolding.

You both participated in Wales at Number One at Wales Millennium Centre last year giving a memorable rendition of Nilsson’s Without You, which of course was written by Badfinger. Was that an enjoyable experience?
Rosalie: Amazing! Singing with the amazing orchestra, which I had never done live before brought out such emotion. I'll never forget it. I'd like us to record a few songs like that.

Steve: I've known Lucy Morgan and Matt Brind from The Welsh Pops Orchestra for years. The players they put together that night were sensational, and Matt was really sympathetic to us bringing our duet style to Without You. We had fantastic time.

You both have a mutual admiration for classic styles and musicians. Tom Petty and Ryan Adams have all been named as influences, has that helped you hone in on where you wanted to go musically?
Rosalie: I guess it has. We listen to other artists of the same genre and we live and breathe this style of music. It was bound to filter through into our sound.
Steve: We've just tried to write the best songs we can, taking country influences, some rock and folk. We love a big chorus too, so some of the album is very radio friendly, we think. We've made an album that we'd love to listen to.

What can you tell us about your new album?
Steve:  We started the album in London and finished it in Wales with producer Tim Hamill, in his Sonic One Studio in Llangennech. All the songs are based on experiences we've had in life and love! Since we started the project some friends have passed away, and in my case Frankie, a son has joined sister Issy. All this has filtered into the fabric of the songs. There are songs about falling in love with the right person at the wrong time (Run Back To Your Life), a song about taking chances that come your way (50 Foot Jesus), a song about the late founder and keyboard player of Deep Purple Jon Lord, who I toured with for 5 years until his death (The Dream Song).
The song I'm probably most proud of is the title track, Unfolding. When we toured with The Storys, a guy used to come and see us a lot with his son. He was a soldier and was unfortunately killed in action. We got the news, and before a show, his dad came with a member of his squadron to collect one of our songs to be played at his funeral. It was devastating and humbling to be part of his story, and his unfolding. We were inspired to build it into a song as a small way of honouring him.

Has the album been a different experience to putting together your previous releases?
Rosalie:  Absolutely. For a start, we had no time frame and no record label to influence us in any way. It was so organic, so natural so lovely. So US!

The song Light In The Dark was released in November, it’s a very positive, uplifting song, what inspired it?
Rosalie:  I have a very good friend who has done a few tours of Afghanistan. He was suffering from post traumatic stress I guess. I would lay next to him while he slept and listen to his breathing, sometimes I'd panic as he stopped breathing and then start up again, crying. I just wanted to help him.

Will you both be touring with the new album?
Rosalie:  Yes - I hope this album takes us round the world. I have my passport and guitar ready at all times

Will there be opportunities for you both to revisit older material in your live shows too, because naturally you both have followings from previous collaborations?
Steve: Maybe we will revisit some of our old material, as Andy Collins from The Storys has been writing with us for this album. He's one of my favourite writers and musicians I've worked with, and there's almost a psychic connection between the three of us. I'm really proud about nearly everything I've been involved with artistically over the years, and there have been some really good tunes I've been involved with. However, we've written nearly 30 songs for Unfolding, so there's no shortage of Balsamo Deighton material.
Rosalie: There could be, but as long as Steve doesn't put on his loin cloth and start singing Gethsemane! (a nod to Steve’s role in Jesus Christ Superstar).

How can fans keep up to date with your latest news and developments?
Rosalie: Through our social media, you can find us on our individual Facebook and Twitter pages, and our Balsamo Deighton ones.Come and say Hi!

  • Balsamo Deighton’s new album Unfolding is available now. Visit for details.
  • Andy Howells is a freelance entertainment writer. A version of this Q&A was published in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement the Guide on February 5, 2016.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Meet The Band: GoGo Penguin

Manchester based trio GoGo Penguin (drummer Rob Turner, double bassist Nick Blacka and pianist Chris Illingworth) bring their trademark mash-up of minimalist piano themes, deeply propulsive bass lines and electronica-inspired drums to Cardiff's The Gate Arts Centre on February 6.

The band have previously been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and fueled their exhilarating live shows from Manchester to Montreal and Paris to London. They’ve written and performed a new score for Godfrey Reggio’s cult film Koyaanisqatsi and collaborated with noted choreographer Lynn Page for a Gilles Peterson-curated night at the Barbican.

Ahead of the release of their new album Man Made Object on February 5, Chris Illingworth chats to Andy Howells.

How did you get into playing music?
We had one of those old electric organs in the house when I was a kid. No one in the family played a musical instrument so I'm not sure where it came from or why we had it, but I started messing about making tunes on it. My parents thought it would be good for me to try some lessons so when I was 8 I started studying piano and have been playing ever since. I studied classical piano right through to graduating from the RNCM and for ages I wanted to be a classical pianist, but there was always a part of me that wanted to do something different. I started my first band when I was 11, I was on bass guitar and we played covers of tunes by bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Not long after that I started a piano trio and that's when I knew what I really wanted to do.

How would you describe your music style? And what are the major influences on the band’s sound?
Describing our style is a tough one. We all have different musical backgrounds and bring different elements to the group and we draw influences from all over so it's hard to pin down. Our music has often been called 'Acoustic Electronica' and that's a pretty fair description. We're an acoustic trio - piano, bass, drums - but we draw a lot of influence from electronica, particularly in the way electronica itself draws influence from many styles and genres.

You are about to embark on a UK headline tour, how are you preparing for that and what can people expect from your shows?
We finished a tour of France just before Christmas so now that we've had a bit of a break over the holidays we're getting back into rehearsals and building up stamina ready for the UK shows. Our new album is out on the February 5 so we'll be playing the new tracks on these gigs along with some of our older material. If you want a bit of a taster you can find some live videos on our website.

Your new album will be released later this year, can you tell us a bit more about it? How will it differ from the previous albums?
As with the previous albums, our new album Man Made Object is just a snapshot of who we are right now. We're always pushing ourselves and the limits of what we can do with our instruments as a band and this is a continuation of that process. There are definitely similarities between this album and v2.0 - we haven't suddenly become a completely different band - but there are differences, sometimes in the way we approached the composition of the music, the way we improvise within the tracks and we played around more with effects, both electronic and acoustic. We've done a lot of gigging together since v2.0 and that has definitely played a role in shaping the form and sound of the new album.

Where can people hear your music?
If you head to our website you can find links to listen to our music and watch videos or have a look at our tour dates and come see us live.

Beyond the February tour, what else can we expect from you in 2016?
After the UK tour we're heading to France in March and then Japan, Germany and the US in April. It's going to be a hectic schedule of touring this year but I'm sure there'll be some surprises along the way. You can keep up to date with our latest news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Call Box Office (029) 2048 3344 for online booking of the bands Cardiff show.
  • Andy Howells is a freelance writer. A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide on January 29, 2015.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Meet The Artist: Fictonian

UK-based multi-instrumentalist/alternative folk-pop powerhouse Fictonian recently re-released his track Full Circle Influence asnd will play Crofters Rights, Bristol, on February 3.

Fictonian deliberately evades definition. With the music just one part of this bold, multi-faceted project encompassing music, sound recording, video, art, animation and photography. The man behind it, Glen Roberts, is determined to create a body of work which reflects a mind as visual as it is musical and describing Fictonian as "a specific state of mind within me" Andy Howells recently put questions to him.

How did you get into playing music?
My mum bought an upright piano for the house just before i was born, and as soon as i was old enough to climb up on the stall i was on there! She then arranged for me to have piano lessons from the age of 4, and i think it was about 8 or 9 when i started writing my own piano tunes rather than the ones in the books!

How would you describe your music style?
Desire Lines is very much just a choice of 'style' for that one album, with lots of conscious decisions of layering and shade etc made just to suit the concept of the record.  I don't ever intend on making the same album twice so the sound/style you hear now very much belongs to that specific record rather than representing me as a whole. I was brought up with a whole host of different types of music around me, and I know that i'll push myself to try lots of styles over the years to come.

You are about to embark on your debut headline tour, how are you preparing for that and what can people expect from your shows?
It's taken quite a bit of prep to work out how to play some of the songs live, as the record was intentionally made with zero thought of playing live. But, I think it's definitely worked, and in a way the songs have all grown and found an extra dimension. I'll have 5 musicians on stage with me, and a shed load of instruments!

Your single Full Circle Influence gets a re-release next month, can you tell us more about that?
That song is one that really showcases the whole lyrical concept of this record through just two characters in a kind of poem form, and that's the main reason why it was the first ever song i floated online.. but i'd always intended to come back to it to release properly once the album was out. It was fun making a shorter edit of the track as well, just to give the song a more direct feel than the album version.

Where can people hear your music?
It's on any of the usual streaming sites like Spotify and Apple music, there's a YouTube channel with lots of videos I've made, or the record can be bought through the usual places too!

Beyond the tour, what else can we expect from you in 2016?
Hopefully there will be a few festivals in the pipeline, and then some new music in the autumn which i'm working on as we speak, which i'm really excited to share.

  • Fictonian’s debut album Desire Lines is out now on Distiller Records. For further details visit
  • Andy Howells is a freelnace writer. A version of this Q&A was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on January 29, 2016