When we were asked to be the water provider of the Cardiff music festival, Sŵn, how could we say no?
Held in various bar venues across the city, Sŵn is well known for fostering great new talent in the music industry across many genres. At Brecon Carreg, we’re passionate about homegrown talent and while Sŵn invites bands from around the UK, there is definitely a focus on up-and-coming Welsh artists.
Of course, we had to take a whistle-stop tour around Sŵn, check out some amazing bands and conduct a few quick interviews, which can be found here.
Before we headed to the event, we took some time out to chat to John Rostron, the man behind the concept.
WalesOnline named both you and Sŵn Festival in its list of the 200 most influential Welsh Twitter accounts. Do you feel a sense of responsibility for the Welsh music scene?
I was the only music person or company on that list that not only operated in Wales, but was owned in Wales too. It is, I think, healthier to have multi-nationals, UK-owned and Wales-owned companies filling the music portfolio. That way we hear different voices and produce greater things, thinking internationally but acting locally.
I particularly champion the independent sector, the grassroots sector, and the Welsh perspective – these are things I care passionately about.
For those who haven’t been to Sŵn before, what sets this festival apart from the others?
Sŵn won NME’s Best Small Festival award in 2014, against festivals that had much bigger acts, larger capacities and lots more resource.
That was a standout moment for us, because I then came to realise how we stood apart from everyone else. There are very few bands on our lineup that people really know – we keep the focus on new music, discovery and high quality. What we find from the wonderful reviews we get is that there’s a real buzz that happens during Sŵn – so many people from the music scene in Wales descend to Cardiff for the weekend – and that energy and excitement rubs off on everyone else who has come to the festival. It leaves people feeling excited about music and the city.
Sŵn has a good track record of giving Welsh acts a chance to show off what they can do. Were there any acts from the festival this year that you were particularly looking forward to?
There’s a brand new singer, Kaycee, who only has ten minutes of music but she performed at Sŵn. I love being able to showcase someone like this so early on.
Dingus Khan are brilliant on record, but I’ve not seen them yet. Dan Bettridge, Tender Prey, Oh Peas!, Toby Hay, White Noise Sound and Cotton Wolf are all brilliant. Plus, of course, I’m delighted Pretty Vicious are playing again – so much has happened and it’s not even been a year since their first gig!
If you had to choose who would be your all time favourite band or artist from Wales?
I couldn’t pick just one. Super Furry Animals are so, so brilliant, for so many reasons. But I also adore Cate Le Bon. Every record of hers is superb, and I can’t get enough of watching her play live.
You’ve said in the past that your taste dictates 99 per cent of the bands selected forSŵn. Is there anything new bands tend to do which switches you off?
It’s important for a band to have something of an entrepreneurial spirit – and be able to not only have wonderful songs but also a sense of how to help those songs reach people. But when bands overthink it, and the planning and strategy becomes more than the music, that’s when things go wrong. There have been a few acts who spent so long holding back and planning what they were going to do that they split up before they actually managed to release an album. That seems like such a waste.
Is there anything unique about the music venues and people who run them in Cardiff that suits a festival like Sŵn?
All the venues in Cardiff (apart from the Motorpoint Arena) are independently owned. That’s unique for a capital city. It means all the decisions they’re making are rooted in the local scene, the local economy and the local culture, which means they really ‘get’ Sŵn. There’s so much enthusiasm from them about the festival, which we might not get with nationally owned chain venues where decisions are being made elsewhere with different priorities. It definitely makes it more enjoyable for us.
With so many fresh names on every Sŵn line-up, what do you think it is that keeps so many people coming back every year?
Sŵn is the flagship music event for Cardiff – that’s what I get told by others – and I’m happy to believe that they’re right! Sŵn is championed by many who believe it puts Cardiff on the musical map.
It’s full of zest and zip and fun and smiles and always delivers a memorable weekend. Ultimately though, it’s about the bands. So long as there’s great bands, with great songs, and so long as we keep choosing well, then people will discover new music and want to come back to find more.