Interview – Gwenifer Raymond

Musician and singer-songwriter Gwenifer Raymond will be going on tour soon, with a date at The Crescent in York on September 21st. I decided it would be a good chance to find out more about Gwenifer and the tour – check out how I got on below!

By Jane Howkins

You’ve recently announced a UK tour. Are you excited?

Yeah definitely, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to tour properly and the combination of travelling and playing guitar for people is probably my favourite pastime. It’s great to be getting back to it.

You’re playing a date at The Crescent in York. Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
The Crescent in York, obviously. Seriously though, I just like playing and I like finding new places and getting the vibes from spots I’ve not been to before and revisiting those I have. Beyond thatI try not to play favourites; it’s exciting to never really know what you’re walking into when you enter a show, and it’s a lot more fun to just see what happens.

What can people expect from a Gwenifer Raymond gig and why do you thinkpeople should come and see you perform live?

I think all music is best live, but solo instrumental music especially is just so intimate that recordings are simply unable to reproduce the vital experience of being in the same room as someone pumping as much expression as possible through their instrument with a minimum of obstacles between them and the audience. That’s what I try to do at my own shows: I don’t chat very much onstage, instead I try to let the mood be simply maintained by the music and allow the audience to sit and stew in their own internalised experience. I think that sort of personal and intense atmosphere is the true strength of solo instrumental music and so I try to not get in the way of it.

You’ve performed at a few festivals recently. How do festival shows compareto a normal gig and which do you prefer?

Festivals are great in that it’s a huge, shared experience in which you take in a great variety of music, hopefully in nice or at least communally endurable bad weather. It can also, as a musician, have your music exposed to a lot more people than may otherwise be reasonably achievable. That said, as might be gathered from my previous answer, I’m a great fan of intimacy in gigs, so I’m personally more inclined to moody, enclosed venues – both a sa performer and an audience member.

You released an album titled Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain at the endof 2020. What can you tell us about the album?

Strange Lights… is my second album and whereas like my first album it’s a collection of guitar instrumentals in the ‘primitive’ style, I feel as though this album is leaning more into the left-field than the first. The songs are longer and more ‘compositional’ for lack of a better word, rather than deriving so heavily from the folk and blues traditions. In many ways I think it’s perhaps a more personal album, more reflective of my own upbringing, rather than of the records on my shelves – turning it into something more like ‘Welsh Primitive’.

Have you started writing for a new album/EP yet? What is your writing andrecording process like?

I’m always writing, but I’m also a very slow writer. I tend to come up with a hook upon which I believe there is potential for a song to hang, and it’s a drawn-out discovery process from there. I think my method is less like I’m writing a song and more that I’m figuring out what it’s meant to be. It’s a lot of sitting in front of the window and playing guitar.

Recording wise, the last album I recorded myself – and it was a pretty straightforward affair of simply recording finished pieces (generally in a single take) over the course of a week’s worth of evenings. I do occasionally experiment a little more with the recording process, and one day I hope I might be happy enough with one of these experiments to put it out into the wild.

Do you have any singles planned for release anytime soon?

Nothing’s in the pipeline for a single right now. I think I’m generally more interested in albums, as they provide more scope for complex explorations of mood and theme. Although there is a big place in my heart for a one-shot banger, I always prefer to sit it in place with other tracks to provide additional context and contrast. I think it’s just more musically rewarding that way.

Who/what influences your music the most? Have your influences changed much over the years?

The first album I ever owned was Nirvana’s Nevermind album, which my mum gave to me on cassette when I was around eight or nine years old. Throughout my teenage years I grew up on a steady diet of punk, post-punk and grunge – bands like Pixies, Joy Division, Butthole Surfers, X-Ray Spex, The Fall, etc. However, I was at the same time being exposed by my parents to stuff like Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground – at some point I made the discovery that a common influence on pretty much anyone I though was any good were the early American blues and folk players; Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, Mississippi John Hurt, Roscoe Holcomb, DocBoggs, Clarence Ashley etc. It was from there I moved into the American Primitive guitar player scene. Basically – my musical life and influences are a total hodgepodge of bits and pieces and miscellaneous obsessions, from avant-garde composers to melodramatic girl groups, outsider space folk to polish doom metal, blues-trash and garage-rock. I am always most excited at new or new to me sounds.

What have you been listening to recently that you can recommend to our readers?

The most recent album I heard that I thought was really great was A Courteous Invitation to An Uninhabited Anabatic Prism, by Decolonize Your Mind Society. The first track off that album, Mike the Headless Chicken, is an absolute corker.

Any last words for the fans?

Err… I guess, get vaxed and let’s go see some shows.