It may have been a long time coming, but Cardiff quartet Columbia are well and truly making their presence felt with an infectiously uplifting rock’n‘roll sound they describe as “energetic, moody, anthemic.”
The band began with Craig (vocals) and Ben (lead guitar), who’d been in the same school class for six years but only became friends when the former joined the latter’s band for a Children In Need concert. As Craig tells us: “They needed a singer, and I’d been practicing my Liam Gallagher routine for long enough to know I could sing pretty well. After that, we just kept on meeting up and singing Oasis songs. We’d sit in Ben’s freezing cold garage and he would play the guitar and I’d sing.”
That concert was obviously a success as the duo began writing their own songs and have been in a handful of bands together and separately since. But it wasn’t until they found Chris (drums) that things fell into place and they began to move things forward with Columbia. However, Chris then joined the army, so the band went on the backburner for six years as they continued writing songs and playing occasional gigs. But the pandemic saw everything finally fall into place and the final piece of the puzzle arrive in Aron aka Sten (bass).
As Craig explains: “When Chris left the army, we decided to get back into the practice rooms. In no time at all the sound came back and the new songs were sounding great. During the summer of 2020 and some easing of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, we were booked into the recording studio, to finally begin work on our debut album. We managed to record 4 songs during these sessions but just like the rest of the world, things were put on hold.”
Things are very much not on hold any longer, with Columbia releasing a string of singles that are getting people excited about the promise of this band.
On the sound they’ve honed, Craig tells us: “It’s loud, fast and in your face. It’s pretty direct at times. But like I’ve mentioned above, there are softer parts too. I think it will impress people when they hear it. Most of the songs were written on an acoustic guitar, so think Oasis/Kasabian vibe with our own unique twist.”
Our latest taste of this is the stunning new single Glory People, which was released on Friday. It opens up with drums then a floaty, echoey guitar lick that continues under a cool rolling riff. Craig’s engaging vocals take over and explode into a lively chorus “‘Cause we are the glory people, We shine.” A shimmering guitar lick takes over and drops into a laid-back verse that feeds straight into another big chorus.
Another guitar lick jumps in as Craig’s vocals are joined by guest female vocals – from fellow South Wales songwriter Asha Jane – for a more intense rendition of the chorus. And powerful vocals are supported by a big guitar solo, which feeds into big repeats of “We are the glory people” as the track comes to a huge ending.
On the track, Craig told us: “It’s a big anthem. A song about making the best of life when it’s not going to plan. It’s got big drums and great guitars. We’ve even got some female backing vocals, in the form of the unbelievably talented Asha Jane, on the final chorus, which is something we’ve never done before. It absolutely transforms the song into something even more amazing. It’s great to play live too.” Check it out for yourself in the video here:
That track follows a series of superb singles, including a personal favourite in the deliciously croony Waiting For You To Believe that sees Craig well and truly embrace his inner Liam Gallagher. His engaging vocals are supported by light piercing guitar licks that eventually develop into a delicious solo. Check it out here:
It also includes the excellent Keys To The Kingdom, the release prior to Glory People. It opens up with light guitars and rolling drums then a little bassline ushers in a cool guitar lick before a moody opening verse. The intensity increases with a big cry of “The world’s spinning faster and I can’t breathe,” which feeds into a big atmospheric chorus that ends on another guitar lick that segues into another moody verse.
These singles build up to Columbia’s debut album Embrace The Chaos, which will be released next year. On it, Craig tells us: “It’s got most of the singles we’ve released so far, so if you’ve listened to them then you’ll know what they’re about. Plenty of rockers with big drums and guitars. There’s also a few surprises on there too. We wanted to make sure we made an album that wasn’t just about playing fast and direct rock’n’roll. So we spent a lot of time in the studio really developing the sound of the songs. Some of which were completely transformed by the time we’d completed them.
“Our producer, Andrew Sanders, was brilliant. He really stretched us and gave us the space and time to be able to create something great. ‘I’ve got an idea’ was a frequent phrase used in the studio. And more often than not, that idea made the song even better than we’d hoped for: There are a couple of acoustic tracks too, which I’m really proud of. They’re some of the most personal songs I’ve written and I think they break up the album and show that we’ve got a sensitive side too.”
This may shock you, but Craig says Oasis are his biggest musical inspiration, telling us: “They were the reason I always wanted to be in a band and learn the guitar as a kid.” Aside from them, influences include The Verve, Rolling Stones, The Enemy, Kasabian and Exit Calm, who Craig calls out for having “brilliant lyrics and outrageous sounds, they’ve definitely been my most recent influence.”
And on what inspires them to write music, Craig adds: “It varies. It could be a song or a lyric that I’ve heard. Or sometimes I’ll just have a play, messing about on the guitar and a chord structure I’ve played a million times will suddenly feel different and before you know it, you’ve got the start of a new song. It really just depends on the mood and how much time I’ve got.
“I try to keep my writing as positive and uplifting as possible. Love, life and hope are definite themes throughout my songs. We’ve got one song on the album that’s about a friend and their struggles with addiction. It’s definitely the most personal song on the album, along with Something More. But unlike the latter, it’s more of a heartfelt acoustic moment. I think people are really going to like it.”
There’s a lot to get excited about from Columbia, with a solid string of engaging singles to be followed by their debut album launching early next year. As Craig tells us: “It’s been a while since we finished the recording so we just want it out so people can hear it. We’re hoping to get an album tour organised around the same time as the release also. We basically just want to get out and play as many shows as possible.”
The band also just signed a management deal with Moon Man PR and they’ll be heading back into the studio in February, so expect much more from this exciting new band.