Published Feb 01, 2000In a recent British interview, Welsh band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci laid it all on the line: They were sick of the Welsh thing, sick of the gnomes thing, and sick of the psychedelic thing. While it's not surprising they'd want to head off the more clichéd journalistic approaches - like L7 talking about gender or Blur about Oasis - many Canadians have only their reputation to go on. The band's first five albums have only been available as expensive imports, first on Welsh indie label Ankst, then on Mercury, who declined to release them here and then promptly dropped the band in the aftermath of their merger with Universal.
Presented with the content of their first domestically available album, Spanish Dance Troupe on Mantra/Beggars Banquet, music fans who've followed the band's reputation might wonder what's up - the album contains no songs in Welsh, is more musically awash in English folk mellow than mushroom madness, and there's nary a lyrical gnome underfoot.
On the line from Spain, where they've just finished an opening set for Stereolab, violinist Megan Childs says the first thing on people's minds now is telling them that the trumpet on "Spanish Dance Troupe" is, in fact, Mexican. "Oh dear," she says rather sheepishly. "We didn't know that."
Childs claims innocence on a number of other fronts as well. Despite the lack of Welsh lyrics on the new album, the band still speaks their native tongue to each other, and performs older Welsh hits in their live set. The simple process of choosing material - and having it all be English - was coincidental. Ironically, with the success of countrymen Catatonia, French pop bands like Air, and dance music, "a language in itself" according to Childs, the band has lost the Welsh just as the music market opens up to foreign words and sounds. "I don't think people expect traditional rock'n'roll with an American accent," Childs correctly assesses. Yet they might expect some Welsh from a band that's been tagged as nationalists.
They also might expect more, for want of a better word, weirdness from a band that, on the artwork of their 1995 albumBywd Time , look like role players on their way to a medieval fair, and have stocked their lyrics with similarly fantastical imagery. No more, says Megan. "We always have these really silly ideas. We do it for a laugh, to make things a bit more interesting, but you tend to be taken very seriously. We did this photo shoot, and suddenly we're all wizards, and deadly serious about our Celtic history. People didn't get the irony, and that's a danger. It can come across as a bit pompous.
"When we first started, the press was 'Well, if we're from Wales and our music is a bit strange, we must all be living in the middle of nowhere.' People would ask us how we would hear music. They decided our parents were all hippies and we'd grown up on communes taking magic mushrooms."
One thing that remains onSpanish Dance Troupe , in addition to a keen ear for beautifully melodic turn of phrase, is an abiding interest in animal subject matter, which starts with the band's name. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci in Welsh means dimwit reproductive monkey - sort of. In the early '90s, founding members Euros Childs (Megan's younger brother) and John Lawrence were invited to a Welsh radio session before they'd thought of a band name, so the high school students grabbed a few random words from a dictionary and the biology (or chemistry) lesson they were working on. Except they got it wrong: monkey in Welsh is actually spelled mwnci.
"We're prone to making stupid animal noises when we've got a bit of cabin fever," explains Childs. A few of these noises appear onTroupe , in addition to songs like "Hair Like Monkey Teeth Like Dog," and a tribute to longtime producer/friend Gorwel Owen's pup in "Poodle Rockin'." "I don't know why animals feature quite heavily in our humour," Childs says, "but that's the most important thing - to not take yourself so seriously."