Been a while plop fans, here's an interview with Welsh language punks The Stilletoes I did for Ploppy Pants issue 10 i think. Long time split up but a cool band with an excellent message, check out their myspace for the tunes
hello Stilletoes! since I'm guessing you'll be new faces to most of my readers lets start with the usual bullshit, who are ya, waddya play, how'd the band get together, who your fave character in coronation street is (past or present)etc etc ;)
I’m Efa, I’m 18 and I play guitar, sing, write the songs and loose my mind on stage, my little bro Iago plays drums, he’s 15 and he is the cool one in the band, and James is 20, he plays bass and he has the most hair. James is our third bassist, me and Iago started the band when we were 15 & 11, although neither of us could play our instruments very well at all, we had plenty to say and plenty of energy, so although we sounded like shit, some people could see something in us even then. I don’t think the band really came together until the end of 2007 when James joined us, he was the glue that brought us together properly, and the songs began sounding more like songs!
You guys are all pretty young (the drummer is just 15 right?) and yet you've already been on tour round the UK, jet setting up to Inverness, released a 7" and now a cd as well, how has it all come together for yas as surely most bands your age are still struggling to get their shit together to play a high school dance? You seem like a driven bunch of kids but have you come up against much prejudice within the scene because of your age?
I suppose we just really wanted to do it, and we swear way too much to ever play anything in a school dance, so we had to find a stage else where! We’ve never been reluctant to travel anywhere, and we don’t care if we don’t make money from gigs cause we have so much playing! The worst thing about being so young starting the band was that we didn’t have driver’s license so we had to ask parents, friends, anybody for lifts to all our gigs! Some people still write reviews suggesting I shouldn’t be singing about what I’m singing because I’m only 18 and therefore probably don’t know everything there is to know about the world, but who gives a fuck? What I do know about, if I feel strongly about it, I’m going to scream and shout about it because I’ve got as much right to an opinion as a 60 year old politician does. Age is just another discrimination, like sex or race. Who has the right to say someone doesn’t deserve a voice?
Ok as I've already told ya's it was your use of the Welsh language in your songs that really grabbed me, and especially your out spoken support for the language as something relevant to everyday life. Is this use of Welsh a statement in itself or just something that came naturally to you when you were writing your songs?
It came naturally, a lot of welsh bands seem to come from very middle class families, where they speak welsh really well, which can be a bit patronising and intimidating. I don’t know a lot of big fancy words, and I don’t worry whether I’m using the right words or not, I’m just an everyday welsh person, I’ve got no hope of winning anything at the Eisteddfod, that’s not the type of family I’ve been brought up with! I think a lot of welsh people are scared of welsh music and welsh gigs because there is this uptight vibe in Wales, they take the language way too seriously, you need to remember that we’re all people, and whether someone can speak the language well, casually or are learning, they are speaking the language all the same, and the more people that speak it, the more chances there are of it surviving. I sing in welsh in the way I speak it everyday, because that’s just a part of me. It might not be perfect but neither is the Arctic Monkey’s Yorkshire English.
The Welsh language, like Gaelic, is more commonly associated with traditional music so what have been the reactions from the Welsh language community to the band? Have you considered interpreting any traditional tunes into your punk style?
I think there is a good variation of modern music happening using welsh language – you’ve got people like Mr .Phormula, Pen-Ta-Gram and Hoax Emcee making amazing hip hop, there’s Yucatan, who sound a bit like Sigur Ros, magnificent and beautiful, Cate Le Bon writes really great, quirky songs, Threatmantics, Race Horses, etc… Most of the bands I’ve named here (bands who aren’t Super Furry wannabes or doing what was in NME four years ago but in Welsh or are just bands to dance to and nothing else) are the ones that actually fail to get respect from the Welsh language community, my problem with welsh music is the lack of anything original happening, the lack of characters, and the lack of ambition to be yourself rather than someone who is already famous and successful! I think the welsh language community likes music they don’t have to think about to be honest, which is why I’ve managed to offend them so much! They don’t want a bratty punk telling them what they’re doing is wrong! I think it is important to remember the traditional songs because they’re part of our heritage, but I also think it’s important not to hold on too tight to the past because it holds you back. The present is more important because what we do now affects the future! I wouldn’t do punk covers of traditional songs I don’t think, though I wouldn’t be against it, because I bet there are great words to those old songs, things we could learn from!
I guess that most of your audience is made up of young punks so how does the Welsh language go down with them, do you get mush negative reaction or do you think the band has a positive impact on how they view their native language?
When we play shows in Coventry, Bristol, Birmingham etc, or even welsh cities like Newport or Swansea where welsh isn’t commonly spoken, and sing in welsh I think it surprises people, and I hope it shows them that there is some good/interesting music being made through the welsh language! Someone in a online magazine called The Absurd said I’m probably doing more for the welsh language than anybody gives me credit for, because we take welsh language music out of the welsh language scene. It felt really good reading that, and if there is truth in it, I think that’s amazing. I bet some of the people we’ve played in front of didn’t even know there was a welsh language! I remember some punk in Swansea thinking I was Dutch – I’m guessing we were the first welsh language band to play on their scene! I think it’s great we’re educating people in our own weird way about our language and the problems we have within it!
I think I'm correct in assuming your native speakers of Welsh, so what is your opinion on learners that come to the language, damaging or supporting?
Yup, we’re all native speakers! I love anyone who tries to take up our language, my dad learnt welsh when he met my mum, and sometimes people take the piss out of him when he pronounces something wrongly, or uses words incorrectly and it puts him off speaking it. I think that’s fucking horrible, a person puts months and months into learning your language and that’s how you repay them? If we don’t encourage people to learn our language is going to die, so thanks to all the brave people who have the guts to attempt our, lets be fair, hard language. Ignore the cunts who don’t know anything outside of our borders! ok lets talk a little about the songs themselves, the topics seem to cover a lot of socio-political stuff (at least the English ones I can under stand!) is it important for your songs to contain a message, what do ya get out of writing these type of songs? I suppose I just felt I had to say some of this stuff because I couldn’t find anyone else saying it! I write a lot about the welsh nationalists that are about, they don’t call themselves that but they go around parading ‘twll tin pob sais’ which doesn’t really translate but basically means fuck the English, and it’s not just jokes you know. People get beaten up around here just because they’re from England. It’s not right. I mean I know the English have done a lot of damage to our country, such as drowning the Tryweryn village in the 60’s so that English towns could have water, but the people in England don’t know about this. They have no idea, everyone seems opposed to taking the eisteddfod to England but I think we should so that we could tell them what happened to us in our country, because I have no doubt they would feel ashamed of it, just like I feel ashamed that white people used black people as slaves! We need to stop being so ignorant and start being productive in what we do!
I saw in another interview you talking about being influenced by x-ray spex so I got to wondering how it is you came to discover a band that probably split up 10 years before you were born? What other bands inspire the Stilletoes?
A mate borrowed me Never Mind The Bollocks when I was thirteen and it just seemed to strike me straight away, I think it changed me. I started reading loads of books about the 70’s punk scene and buying all the music! By now it’s started to become a bit samey, but I think starting off with three chords and a fuck you attitude is the best way to do it! My favourite band is still The Clash, but what I like more about them is that they moved away from punk and experimented, something I definitely intend to do. You seem to play a lot of gigs in Wales and its a scene I very little knowledge of, so can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on at the moment, where's it happening for gigs, who are the bands to watch etc etc any other punk bands singing in Welsh? I think we’re the only welsh punk band really, the only one saying anything anyway. I named a lot of the bands to watch out for before – Pen-Ta-Gram, Race Horses, Cate Le Bon, Hoax Emcee, Threatmantics, Son Capson, Endaf Presley, Ectogram are still going strong too… Most of these bands are ones that have stepped out of the welsh music scene though, as I said before, the welsh language audience doesn’t seem to appreciate anything original, that isn’t lalalala or a tribute to the super furries!
As mentioned earlier you've released a 7" and cd album already, how dya feel these releases have turned out? what have you got planned next recording wise?
We’re really happy with both the releases, not only with the way they sound, but also the way they are presented, which I think is equally important – people don’t buy bad looking records, and people don’t like boring looking bands! We pushed and pushed to get the single out on pink vinyl rather than a CD or boring black vinyl and I did all the artwork on the album my self, to make sure it was bright and just how I wanted it! It was amazing working with John Lawrence from the gorkies, and especially in such an amazing studio – Bryn Derwen in Bethesda, it’s an amazing space! We recorded it all live to catch our energy and what we’re about and had a great time doing so! The Stilletoes are on a break for a while now, from gigging and recording! I’m off travelling until the end of the year, whilst Iago does his GCSEs and James, well James will always be James, looking for a better job and thinking of going on the dole! Haha… We think it’s healthy to have a break for a while now, whilst we all freshen up… I’ll be taking a guitar with me, new ideas, new sound, but just as much attitude, energy and message! Our records are available from www.ankst.net, album also available on play.com and iTunes! Or check out our myspace if you want a free listen! www.myspace.com/thestilletoes