“There’s a difference between a Welsh band and a Wales-based band,” says Draw Me Stories singer, Carl Hodgetts. “Wales can be a bit insular and much of the music that comes out of here is pigeonholed. People are often surprised that we’re not Welsh.”
Indeed, the three men sat around me in Cardiff’s Buffalo Bar are decidedly un-Welsh. One of them, Mat, is French, for a start. The other two, Carl and Sam, hail from Birmingham and Cambridge respectively, and none of them have even the faintest Welsh twang to their accents, despite having lived, worked and studied here for years.
Draw Me Stories (named so by Sam following an afternoon of boredom induced scribbling in a GAP storeroom) formed in January 2008. Their music, Carl says, is “Really tricky to define. We’ve got a lot of clean guitars and driving beats and it’s got a lot of an Americana sound. But we’ve also been described as ‘quirky’.” Certainly, this almost rockabilly tone is apparent in ‘Comes & Smiles & Leaves’ but contrasts with tracks like the more sombre ‘Secret War’ and funky jazz inspired ‘The Windows in the Hearts of the Guilty’. This fusion of genres under their umbrella of a prevailing folk sound can only really be described as ‘quirky’, yes. However, asked to describe their music in one word, the band chooses ‘organic’.
“We never sat down and said, ‘Let’s start an indie band’ or whatever,” says Carl. “Every time we go to the practice room what we do just comes out.”
“We never run out of songs to work on,” agrees Sam, described on their MySpace pages as ‘The Vibration Maker’. “We’ve got about four or five songs that we’re working on.”
“We’re already sitting on 16 or 17 songs and we’ve still got more to come,” Carl adds, enthusiastically. “It’s possible that in the next two or three months we could have enough songs for two or three full albums.”
Given the sheer variety of songs the band already has under its collective belt and in light of the many more yet to blossom forth in an organic burst of creativity, Draw Me Stories are clearly unafraid of playing with their music. Influenced by a rainbow of artists ranging from Chemical Brothers to Sons of Noel and Adrian (“They blew me away,” says Carl. “I haven’t heard anything like them in a while.”), they are, as Mat says “open to a lot of different music.” (Mat even lists Slipknot on his current playlist, “The others hate it though”).
It’s this liberal musical thinking that has enabled them to experiment freely with both acoustic and wired tracks and to create albums, ‘The Plugged Sessions’ and ‘The Unplugged Sessions’ (both available on www.rawrip.com).
“I do enjoy the plugged sessions,” says Carl. “I enjoy standing up and dancing around. If you sit down and play an unplugged set and everyone’s listening it can be amazing, but sometimes you find that people think that you’re a lounge band and they forget that you’re there.”
But it’s because of their decision to actively pursue an unplugged sound that the band has been able to, as they say, “explore their own music.”
“At the beginning we just used to play the usual bass, guitar and drums,” says Mat. “But when we started with the unplugged stuff we started to use other instruments. I started with the glockenspiel and Sam started with the spoons.” (Sam interjects here to confirm his spoon-playing status as ‘expert’). Mat continues, “Because it’s acoustic we were able to record it ourselves. If you go into a recording studio you only have like, a weekend to record your sound and it has to be done, unless you want to pay more, of course. This wasn’t an issue for us and so we had the chance to spend a lot of time on the music and be really happy with it. There was no rush and we could play around with harmonies and different sounds.”
Draw Me Stories will be going into the studio in a couple of weeks to record their “big, as yet un-named EP,” which they hope will be out around June or July, “ready for the summer and sitting in parks and chilling out,” says Carl. No doubt the title will eventually present itself to them as naturally and organically as their wonderful unique brand of folk music already has.
Words: Rachel England