What is crucial to the formation of an artist? Influence may take many shapes and forms, both conscious and unconscious, but its role in the creation of great work is undeniable if also – at times – elusive. Wales Arts Review takes a deep dive into the role of influence in conversations with artists of many ilks. From musicians to writers to directors to painters, and much more in between, we hear more about the influences that have shaped some of Wales’ most important and upcoming artists.
Here, we hear from Owain Roberts speaking on behalf of Band Pres Llareggub, tracking their influences which span from Wales to New Orleans.
My earliest memory of music was when my older brother came home from school with a tenor horn and nobody in our house could get a sound out of it until the 5-year-old me tooted a few notes. I soon wanted to play the trumpet but there were no trumpets available in the school, so I received a Euphonium… Not as cool as a trumpet but I stuck at it.
The lads in the band have all been shaped by having a musical education in the traditional brass bands of North Wales. We all count ourselves very privileged to have had access to free quality music education on our doorstep. Furthermore, we do not take this for granted and try to support and publicise the importance of music in our communities as a way of bringing people together.
As a teenager in North Wales seeing Super Furry Animals release their Welsh language album Mwng back in 2000 was huge. The band were at the height of their popularity in many ways and it was so powerful to see Welsh being used on the international stage (I don’t believe they even played in Wales with that album tour!). It made me see my language and culture in a more outwardly positive and confident way. We love the album so much that we created our own brass band version of it and released it back in 2015 on vinyl.
Our most direct influences are the New Orleans marching bands like Rebirth and Hot 8 brass band. We went out to New Orleans in 2019 and got to play in some big parades as part of the French Quarter Festival and it was a game-changer! Music is a way of life in that city and it was inspiring to see the raw power and passion in the music. I believe we have got just as much passion for our music here in Wales, but we often don’t make a big deal of it – something that I believe needs to change.
We’re a 9-piece brass band so there’s a limit to what can change in terms of our ‘sound’. However, stylistically we have experimented with traditional jazz, marching bands, Welsh folk, hymns, hip hop, drum’n’bass, pop and blues funk. Our four studio albums have seen us collaborating with a broad range of Welsh artists and we always look to create something fresh.
Band Pres Llareggub