Interview - Gintis
“We make silly songs for sentimental people”, is how Carl Roberts sums up the output of his band Gintis. Self-effacing but with a quiet determination, Roberts’ band of Welsh brothers have been through a lot in their near-15 year history.
To learn all about the Abergele six-piece (now based in various places across the North West), one need look no further than the first verse of their beautiful anthem Now I Know. The song charts the story of a group of friends who have stuck together, willed each other to succeed, drank, danced and looked out for one another. ‘In just two more years we’ll be out of here / even if this is a pipe dream I don’t care just please humour me’ Roberts sings before ending with a bittersweet a’cappella group refrain which provides the big-hearted close to the traditional Gintis set and their 2011 album Idiot Guides And Plans.
After a hiatus, that set has graced stages at Focus Wales, Green Man festival and Liverpool Music in 2017 leading up to their latest single, their first release in over five years. Dennis / Oh My Little Malcontent sees the band arrive at a sound which perfectly encapsulates their oddball pop sensibilities, irresistible hooks and Roberts’ lyrical dexterity.
Channeling the spirit of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and displaying Grandaddy’s flair for producing discordant country- fried melody, the tracks were recorded with Bill Ryder-Jones at his West Kirby studio. The band’s unique brand of ‘melanchodelia’ benefitting from Ryder-Jones’ sensitive touch. The double a-side is out on boutique label Popty Ping, with a limited pressing of 500 cherry vinyls. Radio play from Huw Stephens, Gideon Coe and Steve Lamacq is giving Gintis exposure to an audience beyond the North Wales riviera and may well lead to them fulfilling the metaphysical promises made in that song.
Here singer Carl Roberts tells us a bit more about the new songs, the band’s growth over the years and future plans.
Q. Please tell us the story of ‘Dennis’.
Well...to be honest, I'd be lying to you if I told you that this was a cohesive story. It’s more of a mish-mash of words that I find appealing.
The choruses are kind of a little joke really, just those little silly thoughts you have to yourself when you see things - documentaries where a reptile sheds it’s skin and you think to yourself ‘does it hurt? I don't think it hurts, but maybe it does’. My favourite bit is ‘if the hook and the malady align/ then give me all your money I'm not asking you twice’, this is a tongue in cheek reference to singing about things that pain you to a catchy tune to try and make a living.
The end of the song is a bit more sincere, and is actually lifted from another song that i wrote for [drummer/keboardist] Joe when he was having a bit of a hard time. ‘I know there'll come a day / when all the rain in manchester won't keep your smile away / I know that thing will be plastered across your stupid face / I told you so, I told you Joe / and everyone will sing / I told you so, I told you Joe’. That is basically just completely face value to my dear friend, who I love and has a stupid shit-eating grin, and lives in Manchester.
Q. How did ‘Oh My Little Malcontent’ come to being?
Another difficult question. I guess it is basically a pop song about loving someone who is deeply unhappy. I really like the turn of phrase ‘I love your bones’ a band called The Loungs also used this phrase in a song of theirs called Radiate. It kinda feels like you can't express love for someone more than saying you love the bones of them, I think that’s what I was trying to get at.
I'm proud of the second verse lyrics in that song: ‘he rewrites seven drafts as well / each iteration brings a greater heart swell / it works for all the greats as far as i can tell’. I guess it’s trying to say in an earnest way that as a writer would be to try and produce something moving that can make your heart swell, but ultimately understanding that that is what the greats are capable of in many far more accomplished ways.
The reference to ‘I've seen him cry at pictures of his old dog’ came from meeting Bill [Ryder-Jones] for a pint in West Kirby to discuss recording with him, and we talked for hours about songs and words, and it was a mishearing of a lyric in a really, really old song of his called Someone That You Know, where I thought he sang a lyric ‘I like early pictures of your old dog’ - I said it’s one of my favourite lyrics, but he looked completely bemused. We put [the song] on and I pointed it out and he claims he was just mumbling non-words, but really liked my misheard lyric, and he set us both to task to put it in a song. Which we both have subsequently. I should also point out that the man in the lighthouse in the song who ‘hangs the stars out’ is a reference to a song called Starhanger by my good friend Steve Swindon [State Sponsored Jukebox].
Q. How do the Gintis’s origins influence the band’s sound?
Well I guess being from North Wales, around the Abergele area there is always the seaside and the mountains that inevitably influence the music you are making and you are always going to have a little bit of that Welsh vibe of being tucked away in a shed making music in the rolling hills of Abergele. We demo most of our songs at Joe's parents house in Boddelwyddan still, and we grew up listening to a lot of weird Welsh psych music. I don't think that stuff ever leaves you. Plus we were taken in by a part of the welsh music scene at an early age by Slacyr records and we recorded our first EP and two LPs at Steve Swindon's TAPE studio in Old Colwyn, so that dusty country vibe and bonkers Welsh pop thing is in our veins.
I think its very important for any artist to live by the sea. I don't think I could ever live anywhere that was too far away. Also spending much of our youth in Rhyl as well, a seaside town that was full of arcades etc. probably influences a lot of the child-like wonder that goes into our songs, as well as the nostalgia for a sadly neglected town.
Q. What are your reasons for making music?
Nostalgia. I think we are quite sentimental guys really. I've always thought we make silly songs for sentimental people. I think all of us in our gang are just so obsessed with songs that we can't really help it. We are all best friends from school-age as well and it’s a good excuse to
continue hanging out and meeting up for drinks, but with a bit of a purpose.
I think if you get too bogged down in actually trying to answer why you make music then you'd probably go a bit crackers. Sometimes it feels like strange thing for grown men to be doing. But ultimately we are just such big music fans, that it kinda just happens you know? you hear a great song, you want to punch the air and shout get the fuck in. I guess it’s a compulsion.
Q. What bearing has your new home of Merseyside had on your musical stylings?
Well oddly enough, I decided to come to university in Liverpool (or the Big City, as my nephew calls it) in the mid-00’s because of music, I really loved The Coral, Shack, The Zutons, Tramp Attack, The Bandits etc. It’s not far from North Wales and has it’s own musical thing that is unique to the city.
When we used to come to Liverpool to gigs when we were 18 we used to get this real buzz from the city with it’s musical heritage and imagining all the amazing bands that have played here etc. I still feel it now. It’s a special place, and it just feels like home, but with stuff to do! There is Psychedelia in the water here I would say to some extent and that suits me just fine!
Q. How has the band changed between then and now?
We got old. Still idiots, still can't play, still making weird bittersweet pop songs, still got shit gear. Over the years though you grow up with each other and you all get on the same page and all pull in the same direction for the good of a song. I think there is probably a lot to be said for living and growing as song writers together that is difficult to define, and difficult to notice how it changes, but there is a sense of ease in the creation process that only comes with having that true and utter understanding between friends that finds what is needed without
necessarily being able to articulate it.
Q. What are you plans following the release of Dennis / Oh My Little Malcontent?
We don't really know truth be told. We are in the process of recording another couple of songs with Bill. We need to try and find someone willing to put them out in some format, or release it ourselves. Popty-ping only release one single per band, in their quest to release their version of
Nine Modern Poets. Then get the cash together to finish making a full length I guess. Taking each day as it comes.
I'd like to get another couple of songs out there early next year though.
Gintis play the Shipping Forecast on Thursday 23 November with support from Seazoo.
Dennis / Oh My Little Malcontent is out now on Popty Ping.