Los Blancos released debut album Sbwriel Gwyn (White Trash) in 2019, the record’s engaging and melodic slacker rock earning them a place on the Welsh Music Prize shortlist.

New album Llond Llaw is out today, and akin to its predecessor is produced by Kris Jenkins (Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys, Cate La Bon, H Hawkline).

Los Blancos comprise of Cian Owen – guitar,/vocals, Dewi Jones – bass guitar/vocals, Emyr Taylor – drums/percussion/vocals, Gwyn Rosser – guitar/pedal steel/vocals, Osian Owen – guitar/vocals.

Dewi agreed to subject himself to our probing questions.

‘Llond Llaw’ is ‘Handful’ in English. Why choose that as a title?

They call it the “difficult second album” anyway, but we’ve also had to deal with an international pandemic, broken bones, as well as just being really busy made the process a bit longer than anticipated. On top of the usual worries about which direction the sound is going in, and trying to live up to the first record etc.

It also works as in meaning a real handful of songs, and to a soundcheck we had before a gig once, where the sound engineer told someone that we were a real handful to work with, without understanding that she was a partner to someone in the band. Which we just found pretty funny, so it’s kind of taking the piss out of ourselves; he probably had a point.

There’s a nice bit of alliteration in Welsh as well so i think that covers a lot of bases in one title. 

There was talk of making a double album, you’ve been so prolific since the Sbwriel Gwyn.

We’ve released an EP, a double A side and did the S4C World Cup song since the last album so yes, I’d agree that we’ve been keeping busy.  We almost decided on a double album, we had about 50 minutes worth of songs  ( including the double A side ‘Chwaraewr Gora’/’KareemAbdul Jabbar’) that were initially going to be on the album.

The deciding factor really was that we wanted to release a vinyl and the limit was about 44 minutes so we just ended up cutting a few to get it all to fit on one record.

Llond Llaw feels it has more angst on it than your debut.

I think we’ve always had a duality in our sound, the laid back, lethargic and vulnerable side and then the rougher and more energetic side. We’ve leant more into the latter on this record and more of our punk rock influences are on show.

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There are really sweet aspects and moments on the record as well, like ‘Y Dewin’ and ‘Pancws Euros’.

Having the contrast helps get a message across sometimes and emphasise certain ideas that we’re trying to portray, they say sometimes it’s the shot you didn’t see coming that hits you hardest. If you pile in too much sweetness I think it can come across as insincere, I think we have a nice balance on this record.

The pedal steel on ‘Sgerbwd Eliffant’ brings a country romanticism to the record.

Gwyn invested in the pedal steel a while back and has picked it up really quickly, it makes a show on Papur Wal and Mellt‘s most recent albums, but somehow it’s only made it onto 1 song on our album. Sgerbwd Eliffant is a song about nostalgia, thinking of Carmarthen and the Tywi valley and the local quirks and urban legends from the area (the title is a reference to a local legend that there’s an elephant buried beneath the old Bro Myrddin grounds in Carmarthen). I think the pedal steel is perfect for portraying a feeling of longing, a kind of haunting yet romantic sound.

Listening to both of your albums, it comes across that ultimately you’re enthusiasts of the three minute pop song.

For sure, although i’m not sure its something we consciously set out to do, I like proggier and more expansive stuff as well but its just naturally the kind of music we’ve written together. As we mentioned earlier the album is slightly edgier and punkier than the previous record but i think there’s catchy hooks hiding in there as well.

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‘Ffuglen Wyddonol’ is very uplifting.

This was written about someone dear to a band member about his experience of writing a sci fi novel as a creative release and to benefit his mental wellbeing. We’re kind of a band of nerds as well, so I think everyone loved the theme and vibe of the song immediately 

There’s a real ‘lighters in the air’ vibe to ‘Ymhelaethu’.

It’s one of my favourites off the album, Gwyn wrote this and when he showed it to me he was in two minds about it. I’ve had to convince him a few times how great it is which i just think that shows his natural ability as a songwriter.

Personally, I think the middle eighth /ending sequence is the part off the album that encapsulates our sound best.

The final song ‘Uncle Bunky’ on the record ends with a firm bang.

I didn’t initially think of it as a finisher but once i listened to it there it made sense. It’s not quite what you expect at the end, but I love the burst of energy which you get to finish of the album. It’s quite typical of all of Osian’s songs. Its a loose translation of this amazing obituary which i remember Osian sent me during lockdown.

You’re big football fans, and recorded ‘Bricsen Arall’ the S4C Wales World Cup song. Do you not find following football stressful?

 Of course, sometimes, but everything worth being involved in has its ups and downs. Following Wales can be stressful but then again the last ten years or so have been something of a golden age and lead to so many amazing memories so being asked to do the S4C World Cup song was a real honour for us. On a club level there’s a lot of stress because Cian supports Cardiff, Gwyn supports Swansea, and then Osian and Dewi support Everton and Liverpool so we have 2 rivalries within the band which sometimes causes division. 

Emyr supports Man City so its everybody against him.

Explain the contribution that reading Matthew Baker’s ‘Why Visit America’ made to the record.

To be honest it wasn’t massive in the making of the record, it’s something i thought of afterwards so maybe some sort of post-rationalisation. The book is a collection of dystopian short stories about quite normal, regular people from “middle America”. I read it during lockdown and really enjoyed, well worth a read.

There’s a quote on the back, ‘welcome, dear visitor, to a proud and storied nation. When you put down this guidebook, look around you. A nation isn’t land. A nation is people.’

After i read that back i realised that it was somewhat similar to what we had done on the album without really planning. Our first record sees us discuss our anxieties and heartbreak and our feelings, but thematically this album is totally different. Most of the songs are about people we know (from school, family members, people who we only know from online memes), real characters (some artistic license has been used also), and i suppose were showing people the world according to Los Blancos through our descriptions and stories of these characters. I hope that makes some sort of sense.

The album is a ‘rejection of narcissistic bullshit’. Explain!

Looking back that seems like a pretty narcissistic thing to say haha. I think we meant that we’ve just written about exactly what we want to and expressed what we wanted to without too much thought of if it’s going to be popular, which is kind of our ethos and one we find quite liberating. As a band we don’t really enjoy much of the modern pressure to keep up an image on social media etc, we just enjoy making music. 

You’re working with Kris Jenkins again.

Yes, Kris is a long time friend and producer to Los Blancos by now, i think we started working with him back in 2017, and to be honest he is an integral part of the recording process. He’s always happy to experiment and try new things, and he’s someone who’s opinion we really value when it comes to the end product,  but more importantly i think is we have such a laugh with him, eat nice food, and he makes the recording experience so fun.

That sounds cheesy and a bit of a side point to the music, but its actually really important factor in making sure we enjoy the whole process of being in a band and making music together.

‘Llond Llaw’ is released via Libertino Records.

Los Blancos play:

3 November – album launch at Cwrw, Carmarthen

25 November – Bunkhouse, Swansea

2 December – Galeri, Caernarfon (supporting Mellt)

Photo Credit: Trigger Happy Creative

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