Gruff Rhys


American Interior is the name of the new album by former Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys. It is also the name of his new book, his new film and his new app – he has, in essence, made a multimedia art project. It details his quest to track down his ancestor John Evans, who in the 18th Century set out to America in search of a fabled, semi-mythic Welsh Prince known as Madog, who according to the legend established a Welsh tribe in what we now describe as the American Deep South; a fanciful tale with just enough allure that it inspired Rhys to dedicate two years of his life to its further investigation.

Now, to compliment the four other manifestations, there is a live show of American Interior, in which Rhys playfully and creatively interweaves the stories and half-truths of John Evans with the beautifully melodic, instantly accessible songs from the album. The pieces of video, the slide-shows, the puppet of John Evans himself (which makes a brief cameo appearance and no more), and the travellers’ tales are an enjoyable backdrop to the gig – and make no mistake, Rhys is a skilled and very funny story-teller, to the extent that it would be no surprise if American Interior’s sixth incarnation is as a stand-up set – but they are ultimately just the backdrop. When it comes down to it, Rhys has made one of the sleeper albums of the year, and the RNCM is as good a theatre as you could hope for in which to show it off.

He sits on stage alone throughout, acoustic guitar and harmonica never far from reach. He makes use of some 60’s-style sound effect records and a couple of retro turntable decks, presumably to evoke the distant world of pre-industrial America, and there is a hand-held battery-driven synthesiser which lets him down at the crucial moment – a potentially awkward setback that he handles with the same good humour as when his laptop shows a “5% battery power” warning sign midway through ‘The Last Conquistador’.

The set skips along as a pace – new tracks ‘Year of the Dog’, ‘Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be)’, and ‘Iolo’ standing out particularly. And even within the confines of the narrative that spins these tracks together, he somehow manages to make old songs like ‘Shark Ridden Waters’ and ‘The Court of King Arthur’ feel like they belong. By the time the brilliant ‘100 Unread Messages’ concludes the main set, we have been entertained and educated in equal measure. An encore of older favourites – ‘Take a Sentence’, ‘Sensations in the Dark’, ‘Candylion’ and the song that Britney allegedly rejected, ‘Honey All Over’ are rapturously received, and with that, Rhys collects his belongings, and heads off down the road to the next town, just like the 1700s troubadour that the night has emulated.

Gruff Rhys  Official | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube


Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.