OTW #526: Blaenavon

Rising indie-rockers barely past their GCSEs...
Blaenavon by Neil Bedford

When Clash catches up with Ben Gregory, Blaenavon’s lead singer and guitarist, he’s groggy having just got back from playing Blissfields.

“Do we have to do this?” complains the 17-year-old. “I asked someone if we could do it a bit later.”

Slowly waking up, he begins to explain the band’s beginnings. “We became Blaenavon properly two years ago,” he says. “That’s when songs became written that we still play today a little bit.”

The road to finding their current sound, however, began with them playing Muse covers in year seven. By year nine, their sound was “flirting around with catchy indie pop music,” which “didn’t really work for us” according to the singer.

Nevertheless, they won their school talent contest. Now heading into year 13, that band’s reworked sound encompasses soundscapes rather than “snappy, reverb-y guitar lines” and “big choruses”.

The result is an Interpol-meets-Foals sound with spacious guitars that build and work to elevate the melancholic vocals. The instrumentation and the lyrics feel like an integrated whole, one with a sincere emotional presence.

This new sound grew from them performing at monthly nights with London-based four-piece Famy. “Famy showed us how beautiful music could be,” Ben explains.

This change in direction was something that Mike Hallunos, owner of Transgressive’s cousin label ParadYse, noticed was working well for them. He signed them and they have since been booked to play an array of festivals, including Green Man and Leeds.

Also in the pipeline is an EP, ‘KOSO’ (Clash news), due on September 23rd. For it, they had the fortune to work with producer David Pye, whose previous credits include material by Wild Beasts and Egyptian Hip Hop, to name but two.

With this in mind, being in a band has become more of a serious career option for Gregory. “I’m quite afraid,” he admits. “It’s quite a big risk not going to university and trying to be a rock star, so bit of a worry, that one.”

But with Blaenavon, along with their friends MONEY, making some of the most moving guitar music of this year, university is likely going to have to wait a while.

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Where: Liphook, Hampshire

What: Inspiring and youthful indie rock

Get 3 Songs: ‘Into The Night’ (video above), ‘Denim Patches’, ‘Gods’

Fact: Ben one day wishes to do a German degree. His grandmother is German and he wants to keep the language in the family.

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Words: Cai Trefor

Photos: Neil Bedford

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