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‘I’m really excited about St Andrews’, says Super Furry Animals maverick Gruff Rhys ahead of Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer

Gruff Rhys: Picture by Mark James
Gruff Rhys: Picture by Mark James

Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon maverick Gruff Rhys is no stranger to the Kingdom of Fife.

Having recorded at Sub Station in Rosyth and having played Glenrothes with the Super Furries a few years back, the Welshman also played Tae Sup Wi’A Fifer’s multi-genre club night at Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre back in 2019.

Now, as he prepares to go on a Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer  whistle stop tour around some lesser-visited parts of Scotland in July and September, he’s looking forward to visiting St Andrews on July 21 ahead of trips to Shetland, Inverness and Peebles that same week.

Never played St Andrews before

“I’ve been to St Andrews as a tourist and to see friends and I’ve played in Fife but I’ve never played in St Andrews,” he tells The Courier.

“I enjoyed coming up for the first one (Tae Sup).

“It was really enjoyable – just playing on my own with a guitar.

“It was an almost identical line up that time to this time.

“This time it’s quite an incredible journey we are going on!

“I’m honoured to be asked to do it actually.

“On every level, and on a tourist level as well, I’m really excited about visiting all these beautiful places.”

Who else is on the Tae Sup bill?

The eclectic Tae Sup tour will see Gruff, Salena Godden and Brighde Chaimbeul join Tae Sup supremo James Yorkston at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on July 21, Mareel in Shetland on July 22, Eden Court in Inverness on July 23 and Eastgate, Peebles on July 24.

After the disruption of Covid-19 restrictions, Gruff has kept busy putting an album out last year, working on a soundtrack and has started playing live again.

Since signing with Rough Trade Records in 2018, he’s put out several solo records and has been touring with them.

What he’s looking forward to most about Tae Sup, however, is playing solo with his guitar and also having the opportunity to watch the “amazing” other artists.

“It’s going to be an amazing night of music because all the acts are incredible,” he says.

“I’m in awe of the skills that they have.

“But personally I’ll be playing songs from my solo albums in the Welsh language and in English.

“I’m excited for the tour and to be with such exceptional musicians.

“I enjoy doing nights like these. It’s less of an industrial process. More a night of celebrating music and enjoying playing and listening.

“I suppose what I’ve missed the most (during Covid-19) is getting the chance to play.”

Gruff Rhys and Super Furry Animals

Gruff has been based in Cardiff for many years, but he grew up in the mountains of North Wales and retains an affinity for rural areas and the countryside.

He’s a fan of James Yorkston, who recorded quite a lot of records in North Wales and who has played Gruff’s hometown,

Best known for 1990s Super Furry Animals tracks like God! Show Me Magic and If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You, Gruff was nominated for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Music Prize with his electro-pop collaboration Neon Neon, and won the 2011 Welsh Music Prize for his third solo album Hotel Shampoo.

His solo sets see him play stripped down material in intimate venues which is in stark contrast to large scale venues like Glastonbury and T in the Park he’s experienced in the past.

However, he’s also been known to “improvise” on the night in terms of what he plays.

Culturally, being Welsh is very much part of his identity and Welsh is his first language.

But as a musician, he wants to be defined by his music, and he enjoys the experimental side of music.

For a man who had “no ambition” to be a guitarist, he also continues to play the guitar in an unusual style.

Although he is right-handed, he learned to play left-handed on his brother’s left-handed guitar. Once his brother left home, Rhys only had access to a right-handed guitar.

As he had already learned to play left-handed, and rather than invert the nut and re-string it, he taught himself to play the right-handed guitar upside down so the bass strings are on the bottom.

Today, Rhys still plays left-handed on an upside down right-handed guitar.

James Yorkston’s Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer, Byre Theatre, St Andrews, July 21

James Yorkston: How the ‘freedom’ of Fife’s East Neuk helped forge a musical and cultural phenomenon

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