This year the band from Caernarfon, ‘Y Cyffro’, celebrates 40 years by releasing the album ‘Yn y Gorllewin’ (In the West). It’s an opportunity to ask Derek Hughes (rhythm guitar) and Dave Roberts (lead guitar) about the group’s interesting history.
Shortly after establishing in 1978 the band had the opportunity to have a gig at the National Eisteddfod, which was held in Cardiff that year. “We were supporting the ‘Trwynau Coch’ at the Arms Park Club” says Derek, “and that started a close relationship where we often supported them, in places like Corwen and at Talybont in Caernarfon, of course” .
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Derek was raised at the The Alex, Caernarfon, as he is the son of Tommy and Iris who kept the pub for many years. “That’s where the band practiced, as no other house was big enough, and pubs closed on Sunday at that time. That was an opportunity for us to use the place. “
The band had their first record by contributing to a 12″ EP Trwynau Coch label. John Peel played “Pam does neb yn dawnsio?” (“Why does nobody dance?”) on his show in 1979. “It’s still possible to hear that broadcast,” said Dave. “Someone has uploaded it on YouTube!” There is no doubt when listening to the strong, energetic track, that this is is a ‘punk’ song; a fashion and music style at it’s peak at that time.
There have been several other recordings across the years, for Awen Recordings and Sain Records. So is ‘Y Cyffro’ the Welsh Rolling Stones? More like “Spinal Tap” according to Dave.
The one aspect that has lasted over the years is the strong connection with Caernarfon, where the band’s following is still strong. “The band is as busy now and it has ever been” according to Derek, “and much of that success is through word of mouth. There is an invitation to come back wherever we play “.
There have been changes in the personnel over the years, but the band agrees that the introduction of Frances Smith’s accordion and sax was a turning point, as Dave explains; “The band plays a mix of original songs, and other Welsh songs. There are not so many songs that are known to all in Welsh, so we often turn to the traditional material, and organize it in a way that reflects our nature. “” Frances has helped us to develop the folk side, “says Derek,” but the band’s roots are still to be heard in the nature of the arrangements. “So the arrangement for ‘I’r Gad’ based on ‘London’s Calling’ by ‘The Clash’, and’ Lleucu Llwyd’ is based on ‘Mustang Sally’. There has been a performance recently in the Market Hall in Caernarfon that lasted for three hours. “Once the music and the beer reach a certain point, they won’t let us stop!”
‘Yn y Gorllewn’ (‘In the West’) is the title of one of the songs and the title of the album. It is a prominent reference to the location of the band but also a reference to the origin of many of the folk songs on the collection, such as ‘Sosban Fach’.
Have the band become ‘folkies’ now? “Well ‘fogeys’ certainly!” Is the response straight away. But there is also pride to hear on the new record. The subject of the song ‘Gwna be’ ti’n ‘wneud’ is how we measure everything against the iconic, benchmark items of the past. Whether that’s a car or music.
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