Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals
Throughout the early to mid-1990s, in the wake of the popular success of Oasis, a slew of English bands emerged to revive and/or reinterpret the classic melodies of the Beatles, the Kinks, and other precedent-setting groups from the United Kingdom. Towards the end of the decade, however, one of the most innovative scenes in Great Britain centered around a handful of bands from Wales—including Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, 60 Ft. Dolls, and Catatonia, as well as the Super Furry Animals—dubbed by the rock press as the imminent “Welsh invasion.” But while the music press often categorizes bands based on their members’ country of origin, the Super Furry Animals, said frontman Gruff Rhys, would rather earn recognition for their music. “Music isn’t a sport, you know,” Rhys said in a 1999 interview with Magnet magazine’s Corey Dubrowa. “We don’t ‘play our country.’ The power of music is that it brings people together, whereas sports divide people. Some fans come to our gigs and start waving Welsh flags around, which is ludicrous. When I go to see Neil Young, the last thing that crosses my mind is to break out the Maple Leaf.” Focusing on Wales was “obviously media-driven,” Rhys continued. “There’s always been good bands about and loads of crap bands around too. It’s probably just coincidental that a lot of great young Welsh bands were signed at the same time by well-known companies and then exposed to the media… Even now (in Wales), there’s still a really strong underground scene.”
And although all of the above-mentioned groups rising from the Welsh club scene received considerable coverage in the United States, most failed to resonate with American audiences with exception of the Super Furry Animals. Apprenticing by playing clubs in the small yet vibrant Welsh club circuit, occasionally gigging in England, appearing in cultural festivals across Celtic Europe, and eventually becoming fixtures on the alternative scene in Germany, the Super Furry Animals, by the time they reached the legal voting age, were regulars on British television, making music videos, and releasing their own records. According to the band’s record company website, the Super Furry Animals’ appeal is simple: “they cover all the bases from the cathartic three-minute guitar thrash, to the headspinning techno anthem and all points in between. They make you jump about and they make you think.” And as Daniel Booth explained in the October 25, 1997, issue of Melody Maker, the Super Furry Animals “sculpt the most arresting melodies the same innocuous way we, mere talentless mortals, may comb our hair.”
Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Rhys, keyboardist Clan Ciaran, bassist Guto Pryce, guitarist Huw “Bunf” Bunford, and drummer Dafydd “Daf” leuan, the Super Furry
Members include Huw “Bunf” Bunford, guitar; Clan Ciaran, keyboards; Dafydd “Daf” leuan, drums; Guto Pryce, bass; Gruff Rhys, vocals, guitar.
Formed Super Furry Animals as a techno quartet around 1993; released debut album Fuzzy Logic, 1996; moved away from Britpop with Radiator, 1997; released gold-selling Guerrilla, 1998.
Awards: NME Brat Award for best new band, 1997.
Addresses: Record company —Creation Records, 109X Regents Park Rd., London, England NW1 8UR, phone: 44-171-722-8866, fax: 44-171-722-3443, website: http://www.creation.co.uk. Website —The Official Super Furry Animals website: http://www.superfurry.com.
Animals began as a techno quartet around 1993, and all of the members had already played in proper bands since their teens. Prior to forming the Super Furry Animals, Rhys and leuan played with a group called Ffa Coffi, Cian for the band WWZZ, and Pryce and Bunford with the band U Thant. Joining forces, according to the band, was not a hasty decision, as they had considered getting together for nearly two years and had already recorded a few singles together with the band Ankst. Leuan, for one, felt certain that the Super Furry Animals would sign a contract within no time, and his confidence helped fuel the determination of the other members.
Billed as the Super “Fury” Animals for their first show in March of 1994, the band made an instant impression. After only their fourth appearance on stage together, the British weekly New Musical Express (NME) featured the Super Furry Animals on its cover with an accompanying review, a statement that made the band a hot prospect for record labels. Soon thereafter, an executive from Creation Records, Alan McGee, attended a show at the Camden Monarch club in England. Afterwards, he told the band they could become stars if they would simply include more English language songs in their set, obviously unaware that the Super Furry Animals, unlike most of their usual gigs, had not sung a word of Welsh all night. “Welsh is our first language—what we grew up speaking—and it’s what we speak around each other, so it’s natural for us to sing in it as well,” explained Rhys to Dubrowa.
After sparking Creation’s interest, in spite of their heavy accents, the Super Furry Animals showed the label a list of 45 songs they had already written, requested a decent recording studio and their own producer (Gorwel Owen), and asked for a horn and strings section. Creation immediately obliged, and by early-1995, the Super Furry Animals had signed a contract. Their first album, Fuzzy Logic, arrived in May of 1996 (distributed by Epic in the United States) and marked the first time that Rhys recorded entirely in English. “It sounds like I’m singing in about 10 different accents,” he admitted, as quoted by the band’s record label. Nonetheless, the group’s debut won rave reviews, with the Independent running a frontpage story that named Fuzzy Logic one of the ten best British albums of all times. Two singles from the album, “Something 4 the Weekend” and “If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You,” reached the British top 20.
However, the lumping of the Super Furry Animals in with the Britpop phenomenon by the rock press, to a certain extent, rubbed the group the wrong way. “We’ve definitely been exposed to [British pop] music, but we don’t listen exclusively to it. You can hear a lot of our influences in the records, and we fully acknowledge anyone you might care to name,” Rhys said to Dubrowa, responding to comparisons to British acts like XTC, the Jam, and Small Faces, among others. “But we also used to listen to (American bands like) the Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, Beach Boys—these are pretty obvious names, sure, but things like Love… we’re huge Love fans.”
Feeling somewhat disillusioned after “speeding on this pop conveyer belt, playing the game without knowing what the rules were,” Rhys said, as quoted by Creation Records, the Super Furry Animals retired to North Wales in January of 1997 to record their follow-up to Fuzzy Logic. Although leuan suffered a broken ankle soon after sessions commenced, the band’s spirits were nonetheless elevated after they received an NME Brat Award for best new band.
In August of 1997, the Super Furry Animals released their second full-length record entitled Radiator, which hit the American market later in March of 1999 on the Flydaddy label. A more fully-rounded album with greater emotional potency than their debut, Radiator stimulated critics and fans with cuts such as the ornate horn piece “Demons,” the folk-rock “Down a Different River,” and the surreal “Chupacabras.” Victoria Segal concluded in the December 20-27, 1997, issue of Melody Maker that Radiator “is a thing of great beauty, a shaken-and-stirring cocktail of Stevie Wonder and Pavement, ELO and Supergrass, Aerosmith and Nick Drake, ranging in subject matter from goat-eating bats to Einstein, class war to astroturf.” Four singles were released from the album, including “Hermann Loves Pauline,” “lnternational Language of Screaming,” and “Play It Cool,” and “Demons.”
After releasing an album of rarities and b-sides entitled Out Spaced in November of 1998, the Super Furry Animals continued to determine their own musical direction, releasing their third studio album entitled Guerrilla in June of 1998 (issued on Flydaddy in the United States the following year). The highly anticipated release, recorded at Real World Studios, was the group’s first self-produced album and contained some of the Super Furry Animals’ most sophisticated songs to date. According to Dubrowa, Rhys described Guerrilla to his native country’s press as “a declaration of war against mainstream music,” a statement backed up by songs like the engaging “Something Comes From Nothing,” the psychedelic “Night Vision,” and the Brian Wilson-inspired “Fire In My Heart.” The album went on to reach gold-level sales in the United Kingdom and sold well across Europe and America as well.
Pushing the envelope even further, the band recorded their first entirely Welsh language album, Mwng, early in 2000. Set for release in Britain in May 2000 on the Super Furry Animals own Placid Casual label, Rhys called the effort “the simplest record we’ve made,” as quoted for the group’s official website. An almost entirely live recording, Mwng saw the Super Furry Animals extending their sound to include saxophones and more complex harmonies, with lyrics visiting subjects such as the death of rural communities and friction among people. Most assuredly, the Super Furry Animals were poised once again to mesmerize critics and fans alike through their ever-evolving inventiveness.
Fuzzy Logic, Creation (U.K.), 1996; Epic, 1996.
Radiator, Creation (U.K.), 1997; Flydaddy, 1999.
Out Spaced, Creation (U.K.), 1998.
Guerrilla, Creation (U.K.), 1998; Flydaddy, 1999.
Mwng, Placid Casual (U.K.), 2000.
Billboard, November 2, 1996.
Magnet, August/September 1999, pp. 41-43.
Melody Maker, October 25, 1997; November 29, 1997; December 20-27, 1997; May 1, 1999; July 3, 1999; October 9, 1999; October 27-November 2, 1999; November 10-16, 1999.
Rolling Stone, October 17, 1996.
Washington Post, March 28, 1999; April 2, 1999.
Creation Records, http://www.creation.co.uk (March 30, 2000).
Flydaddy Records, http://www.flydaddy.com (March 30, 2000).
The Official Super Furry Animals website, http://www.superfurry.com (March 30, 2000).
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