Every time and place needs its own song: Junior Bill documents growing up in Cardiff

Following the release of his band's recent EP, Off Broadway, AYLY chatted to 20 year old Rob Nichols about the political and personal inspiration behind the tracks, and why rooting his music in 'Kiardiff' references and slang is so important.

"Junior Bill is a reference to my dad's band, Railroad Bill, who took the name from the Lonnie Donegan song about the late 19th century outlaw of the same name.

The new EP comprises of varied songs that aim to move you physically, emotionally and intellectually in equal measures. It's eclectic stylistically, in that we nod to Reggae, Latin, Punk and Folk, but the common thread through the tracks is the social realist observational lyrics with anti-austerity subtext. That all sounds a bit fancy though so we're better off just telling people we're a Ska band. It fits on the business cards a bit easier.

All three songs are the best part of two years old now, so I'm glad the same global issues are still going on in order for us to stay relevant. No, just kidding, I wrote the melody, structure and lyrics for each song ages ago, mostly in my bedroom, then we arranged it as a band in rehearsals, starting about a year ago with the first song, Respectable Man. We recorded it over three days in Brighton Electric studios, in the first week of 2016. It was our first experience in a professional studio. It was a huge step up from all our previous recordings which have been self-produced and taken place in Cathays Youth & Community Centre, where we rehearse in Cardiff.

Rob (the one with the flat cap) and the band

I was lucky enough to start writing songs before I became too self-aware, and I naturally wrote what I saw in the world around me. My early songs referenced a lot of Cardiff street names and used local 'Kiardiff' dialect which people warmed to. The artists that inspired me did the same thing but in their own contexts e.g The Specials in 1970s Coventry, The Streets in Birmingham at the turn of the century, so I started off writing about the city without thinking about it. In the last couple of years, during Junior Bill's existence as a band, I started to realise that the Cardiff references gave us something unique in that there haven't really been any bands or songwriters chronicling life in modern urban South Wales and exporting it to a wider audience in the way that The Arctic Monkeys did with Sheffield or many others have done in Manchester, Liverpool and London. So, I thought I'd make the link to our home town more overt in our music and aesthetic. Every time and place needs its song to be heard.

I find it hard to be angry about the state of the world but find myself more saddened and disheartened by things. In terms of writing music though, I prefer that state. Most of my favourite political music is born out of sadness, melancholy or even hope; but rarely anger. The thing that gets to me most right now is the lack of opportunities for young people in this country, as its something that is very evident in daily life. The government's disregard for the value of libraries, youth centres and leisure centres will surely haunt future generations. "

 

To hear more from Junior Bill, check out their bandcamp