Gwenifer, who now lives in Brighton, began playing guitar at the age of eight shortly after having been first exposed to punk and grunge.
After years of playing around the Welsh valleys in various punk outfits she began listening more to pre-war blues musicians as well as Appalachian folk players, eventually leading into the guitar players of the American Primitive genre.
She released her second LP Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain at the end of 2020 to rapturous response. Her debut You Never Were Much Of A Dancer came out on Tompkins Square to the same response in 2018.
Gwenifer is delighted to be back: “I have played a couple of shows already and a couple of festivals. I did a run of shows in the north.
“When my album came out I did a streaming for the album release, but it just wasn’t the same to me. It just cannot be a replacement. It is quite telling, I think, the fact that there was quite a run of livestream shows early on (in the pandemic) and then they just kind of piddled out. They cannot be a replacement. There just isn’t the atmosphere of a live gig.
“The album came out late last year. We just decided to carry on with it because it was on a schedule anyway. No one was really sure what was going to happen, and for an album things already have to start happening a long way out. Things had started so we decided to carry on.
“We recorded the album just at the start of lockdown. I was going back into the studios. I recorded my first album in my flat and so I thought that the second album should be a bit more professional, but I didn’t get into the studio (because of the pandemic).
“But to be honest, I don’t think I missed out on too much. You can take your time a bit more. There is less stress because there is no one looking over your shoulder. You can just do it the way you want to. Coronavirus may have dictated the circumstance under which the album was recorded but it did not otherwise inform any of the compositions that run through it; like I said, we didn’t see it coming.
“Growing up in Wales was not a theme strongly present in my first record, but I feel as though my memories of that time have started to insinuate themselves in the tunes here. In my opinion, landscape does a lot to shape a community’s folk music; from my childhood I recall tall, spooky trees, black against the grey sky, breath misting in cold air, and I have tried to take something of Welsh folk horror to make my own Welsh Primitive.
“Whilst this isn’t the only theme present in the album, childhood memories do form the background for a couple of tracks: coal trains steaming along the foot of our garden, rattling the glasses on the kitchen table and the Strange Lights (of the title) dancing above the peak of the mountain which loomed over the house where I grew up. Dead men also feature prominently, as well as personal tragedies and the madness of touring.
“It’s possible this album is leaning more into the left-field than the first – the songs are longer and more compositional, for lack of a better word, rather than deriving so heavily from the folk and blues traditions, though they’re still there. All of those dead men are hard to shake. Some parts go fast and others go slow. Sometimes I play more aggressively than I intend to and other times I play exactly as aggressively as I intend to. I still say it’s punk music and I have no idea what key the last tune is in.
“The record rack would call the music American primitive which is contentious, but it is that style of solo instrument, of guitar, with that actual technique. It is around a blues style of playing but it is also turns from more psychedelic avant-garde music.”