Waldo’s Gift is the Bristol based project of Alun Elliot-Williams on guitar, Harry Stoneham on bass and James Vine on drums, who have developed their sound in live sessions, allowing them to create a unique and vibrant fresh sound. Before they had even all met, the trio were drawn together by the offer of a weekly residency at The Gallimaufry, a local venue that’s instrumental in the city’s music scene.
Clash caught up with the band recently over email, who explained “James Koch who runs the venue got in touch asking if Jim had a project that would be up for starting a weekly residency. James had real faith in us from the start! Jim & Alun had just met and bonded over their love of metal and Alun had a friend moving to Bristol a week before our test run show in December 2016. Jim and Harry met in that first rehearsal, early December and it just clicked. I think we wrote 90 minutes of music in a few hours… The show was a vibe and we started playing every Wednesday at The Galli from Feb 2017.”
In 2019 they released their debut EP ‘Improvisations’, which, as the title suggests, was a live recorded EP that saw them start to get noticed by the likes of Gilles Peterson on his BBC 6 Music show. For their new single and EP of the same name, ‘The Hut’, they have literally taken their live creations as the base of their compositions, “using bootleg improvised gig recordings to build songs”.
Given the state of the world at the moment, you could reasonably assume it might be tough for a group who rely so heavily on the live experience. But, rather impressively, this upbringing as a group has actually prepared them very well: “adapting to change has never been an issue. Whether it’s having another musician in the mix, a broken guitar or not being able to play in the same room for 5 months.” They continue: “We’re still Waldo’s and still creating! We had some real fun doing isolated, improvised live streams over lockdown. Improvising back and forth to each other’s playing was fun, but it did feel good to get back and play together live.”
During their few years of existence, Waldo’s Gift have not just drawn on their influences indirectly, but have also taken to adapting music as varied as Floating Points and Aphex Twin to Rihanna and ABBA. This sensibility promises to keep them moving into interesting territories, and their recording process of self-sampling is an idiosyncratic way of ensuring there will be an energy and explosiveness to their future recordings, which they’re already thinking about as they work on their next release for Black Acre, the Bristol based label and management company that works with the likes of Alfa Mist, Connie Constance and Lunch Money Life.
So whilst the future might be uncertain for many on the eve of future restrictions, there is a sense that Waldo’s Gift, with their inclusiveness and emphasis on collaboration, might be exactly the tonic we need to move forward. And that The Gallimaufry, which has provided the platform for so much good, could become the blueprint for rebuilding. Waldo’s Gift are at pains to explain that it’s “one big family” and they aren’t the only band taking this route, as Snazzback “grew out of their Thursday night shows” alongside other bands “Run Logan Run, Hippo, Madly, Nuala Honan, Stanlaey, Lewis Creaven, fellow Black Acre family Sydney and tonnes more. This venue is important!”
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Words: Nicolas Graves
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