Current Musical Obsession, by an Old Favorite: Gruff Rhys' "American Interior"
I've already posted a couple of times about Super Furry Animals, one of my very favorite bands, and about Neon Neon. Both groups feature the vocals (and genius) of Gruff Rhys, who also has a handful of solo albums. This year he released an ambitious project called "American Interior," which involves an album, a movie, a book, and an app, all inspired by his ancestor John Evans, who left Wales in 1792 to investigate a common belief at the time that a Native American tribe had descended from Welsh settlers who travelled to America before Columbus. Neon Neon has made two biographical albums, and their live shows included actors recreating important moments from the subjects' lives, so Gruff making an album about Evans is not a radical departure. I had the pleasure of seeing his live show last week at the Doug Fir in Portland, and, unlike Neon Neon, the show was only Gruff with his guitar, a turntable, and a looper, as well as what appeared to be his personal laptop, with which he presented a slideshow of the life of John Evans. Of course, Evans was a poor orphan (which is why he was willing to go on such an intense journey), so there were no portraits made of his image, so Rhys commissioned artist Pete Fowler, who created most of the Super Furry Animals' album artwork, to draw Evans, and "The Felt Mistress" Louise Evans created a felt doll from his design. Rhys then headed to America to retrace the path of Evans, all the while photographing the felt doll in various locales and situations. The live show was very different from most- involving a lot of storytelling between songs, making for a very long set that some drunk hipsters were clearly not expecting. But I found it to be wonderful, he was very funny and the subject matter was interesting, and of course, I was very excited to hear him play stripped down versions of his songs, including a few from his award-winning album "Hotel Shampoo." Basically, I was already a fan, but now I am absolutely smitten. Memorable quotes (paraphrased) include "It was likely below freezing... I don't know, I still don't understand Fahrenheit," and "It seems like you set out to do one thing with your life and end up doing something completely different... I wanted to grow up to be a rock drummer, and now I'm doing slideshows." "American Interior" and the rest of Rhys' catalogue are available on Spotify.