We’ve got something very different for you this week in the form of Welsh rockers Breichiau Hir, the first rock band I’ve personally heard that sing in Welsh.
The six-piece from Cardiff, whose name translates to Long Arms, first started out in their school days, honed an intense, loud rock sound and set about bringing some representation to their Welsh heritage. They told us: “We didn’t feel like there was anything in the Welsh language that represented our music tastes or represented what we were seeing happening in South Wales through the English language.”
We’ve recently spoken to Italian and French bands that sing in English, so we were interested in the band’s thoughts on their use of Welsh language and its reception from non-Welsh speakers. They told us: “It varies, but people are always supportive. Reception is usually better from non-Welsh speakers as they tend to get our references a bit better and at gigs they speak less and move more. A lot of Welsh speakers tend to compare artists to other Welsh-language artists too, which can be frustrating.
“But people are always supportive and intrigued either way. We’ve never used the language as a gimmick or a selling point, it’s just the way we naturally write. We sometimes forget that to anyone that doesn’t understand the words, it’s actually a very significant part of the music.”
Regardless of whether or not you can understand the words, Breichiau Hir are awesome fun to listen to, fusing energetic punky post-hardcore supercharged by the power of three guitars with more laid-back moments of melody. In their words: “A loud as fuck emo and punk band, with heavy post-rock and post-hardcore influences.”
They released double single Mewn Darnau / Halen at the start of the month, which gives us a great taster of this.
Mewn Darnau (In Pieces) kicks off with a cool descending riff with heavy bass and rolling drums that feed into a laid-back verse that suddenly jumps into more intense vocals over heavier guitars. That repeats, then drops into a mellow guitar bridge, then short bursts of guitar build into building guitar riffs and feed into a last blast of the chorus.
Halen (Salt) also begins with a slow, laid-back riff and bass then low vocals, with more intense backing vocals and a lingering riff creeping in. It suddenly bursts into life with heavier vocals and big layered guitars, then drops back down into a slightly more energetic second verse. A second chorus drops into the opening low riff with almost storytelling lyrics over the top, then a big burst of guitars brings in the return of the heavier chorus then a cool high-pitched, extended solo cuts in leading an energetic outro.
And to get an insight into the rockier side of the band, check out the video to the excellent Toddi below:
The latest single release is the first of several expected throughout the year, and the band tell us it marks an evolution in the sound of Breichiau Hir. In their words: “We’ve gone through a few stages in terms of the style of our music. But at the moment, a lot of the sounds we’re making stem from the emo-revival bands of the past couple of years. That mix of melody, aggression and fragility. We’re also fans of the late 90’s post-hardcore and emo artists, like Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral, which I think have influenced how we prioritise the feeling of a song before anything else.
“There’s a quote that Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) says in the film Where You’re Meant To Be about singing with feeling is more important than singing the right notes. I can’t remember or find the quote now… But I really liked it. It also works as a great excuse for fucking up a song or anything like that.
“Ashokan (post-hardcore meets metal band with a keytar) were also a Welsh-language band that have sadly stopped a few years ago, but I think I have to drop their name in here. I remember playing with them in a school when we were teenagers, and we loved that they actually sounded like bands that we listened to outside of Wales, which was really rare. They definitely sparked the confidence in us to write and perform whatever we wanted, regardless if it was trendy or fitted into what everyone else was doing.”
And when it comes to what inspires their music, the band tell us: “Being in a band and being able to write music with other people is incredibly therapeutic and is one of the best outlets we’ve found for expression. Themes vary, but they tend to be laced with morbidity, sadness, anger, self-deprecating humour and coming-of-age story-telling. Shouting down a microphone is also very fun.”
The band also tell us that the Welsh music festivals that played an important part in their musical education have sadly dropped off the scene in favour of ‘family-friendly events’. As they explain: “They tend to promote a lot of indie, psyche pop and middle of the road artists, and definitely don’t suit having an aggressive six-piece shout-singing songs about hate, fear, death and other jolly things, which I understand.
“But I do think there’s a point to be made that this is a hugely over-looked factor to why there is so much of these family-friendly, middle of the road, one-size-fits-all bands in the Welsh language music scene today. It’s a huge percentage of the gigging circuit for Welsh language bands. We no longer have many of the music festivals that promoted left-field, weird or loud stuff with Nyth, Gwyl Gwydir and Gwyl Gardd Goll calling it quits and Maes B sticking to a near identical line up for the past five years. So to get those bigger gigs, the louder, more aggressive bands or the weirder, eccentric artists either have to tone it down or we have to awkwardly play at 2pm on the stage between the kids’ face-painting stall and the token traditional Welsh gifts stall or something.
“Starting out in our teenage years, Welsh festivals were hugely important to us because we got to meet a tonne of like-minded bands from around the country which led to us organising a lot of our own gigs to support each other and we built some sort of network from it.
“Maes B acts as a bit of a highlight for the Welsh language rock and pop scene because it’s tied in with the Eisteddfod, which is a festival that travels across the country and it’s a huge event for not just music but Welsh language culture as a whole. You get to see some amazing and unique things throughout the week that make you incredibly proud to be a part of the culture, but you’re also exposed to all the elements of Welsh culture that you’d much rather forget and disassociate yourself with entirely. This feeds into Maes B, with artists and elements of the festival that truly stand out in a great way, only to be followed by something that totally contradicts it. But in such a small scene, this is natural, and it means a lot more when you do find something that connects with you, which is nice.”
There’s plenty more coming from Breichiau Hir this year as they’re currently writing and recording their debut album and have a string of releases lined up ahead of it. They also have a couple of gigs in their hometown of Cardiff coming up next month, at Gwdihw Cafe Bar on 9 May then Twrw on 26 May. More info on their gigs is here.