An interview with Cardiff’s math rock titans at Clwb Ifor Bach… plus video
Truckers of Husk are one of the brightest stars in the Cardiff music scene’s glimmering constellation of acts. Although only a part-time band, their nuanced math rock stylings have attracted considerable attention, particularly on debut album Accelerated Learning, released last month on Shape Records.
Indeed, Cardiff record store Spillers Records have been impressed with the album’s performance. “It’s been one of our biggest sellers over the last few weeks,” says Spillers co-owner Ashli Todd. “It stood up against the likes of Future of the Left and Amy Winehouse which have both been selling well.” Top that off with copies sold to Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, and Truckers of Husk aren’t doing too badly.
I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Hywel Evans, as well as the rest of the band (bassist Kelson Mathias, keyboardist Iwan Parris, drummer Rhodri Thomas and fellow guitarist Richard “Spud” Williams), ahead of their sold-out album launch party at the legendary Clwb Ifor Bach on 26 November.
The night proved to be truly memorable for all concerned, including Shape Records founder Mark Thomas. “It had everything we wanted from the gig,” he says. “There were loads of people there, the band played really well and it was a truly enjoyable night.”
That success was largely thanks to the support of the local music scene and that is something the band discuss below.
Truckers of Husk discuss the Cardiff music scene.
Hywel’s guitar playing is perhaps best described by his bandmate, bassist Kelson Mathias, who calls the guitarist’s lightning fast techniques “finger slamming gold”. Indeed, anyone who’s seen Truckers of Husk live will certainly testify to this being an accurate assessment, as Hywel’s fretboard acrobatics form the focus of the band’s melody-driven compositions, but without ever being overly flashy or technical just for the sake of it.
Truckers of Husk describe their sound.
With elaborate riffs and complex time signatures, you’d expect Hywel’s influences to reference math rock staples like Don Caballero or even Battles. However, Hywel insists that his influences were just like everyone else’s growing up: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Frank Zappa were his idols. It was only after performing for other people that the band got compared to their algebraic contemporaries and Hywel was encouraged to check them out.
Part of the reason why Hywel hadn’t heard of these more alternative guitarists, he claims, was because of the mainstream music press and their bias towards old favourites.
“You’ve got a list of guitarists which people think are the best,” Hywel explains. “They’re always on the front of Mojo and Q and they just loop the same five, like Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, but there are so many better guitarists out now who don’t get a mention because the stuff they play isn’t blues solos. The guitarist from Faraquet should be as revered as Jimmy Page. To me, he’s more of an influence than Peter Green ever was.”
View a shaky-cam gear tour of Truckers of Husk’s stage rig above.
Hywel has a difficult history when it comes to guitars. Normally, he would employ a Gibson Les Paul, but for the evening’s gig it was out of action, and not for the first time either; that guitar has been dropped, broken and fixed more times than Hywel cares to mention. Instead, he played an Epiphone Sheraton in soundcheck and borrowed a Rickenbacker 330 for the gig.
When looking for an amp, Hywel didn’t want anything fancy. As such, he is delighted with his back to basics Carlsbro 50 Top. “I was just after something with EL34 valves in it,” he says. “It’s got a nice clean tone which is all I wanted.”
The head is run through a mysterious black 2×12 cabinet which was given to Hywel by a friend. Still, whatever it is, it sounds damn good, as evidenced by the pristine clean tones that proliferate throughout Accelerated Learning.
While he mainly relies on a clean guitar tone, Hywel still utilises some interesting effects on the floor. His pedalboard consists of the following:
- Boss TU-2
- Boss OC-2
- Boss BD-2
- ProCo Rat
- Line 6 DL4
- Two Boss DD-3s
- Moog Moogerfooger
- Line 6 FM4
However, that’s not to say that Hywel uses or even owns all of these effects. The FM4 doesn’t see use in a live setting, while the Moogerfooger is borrowed from that friend everyone wants to have: the guy with loads of pedals. If Hywel asks very nicely, his generous pal will lend him anything from a storage room of effects. We’d all be lying if we said we weren’t jealous.
The mere fact that Hywel never has to worry about actually owning all his gear is testament to the generosity and collaborative energy that surrounds Cardiff’s music scene, and one that is channelled through Truckers of Husk’s enigmatically complex sound. With the same kind of community spirit, maybe we could all make an album as good as Accelerated Learning. Well, that and some finger slamming gold to back it up.