Newport's Darling Buds Join Gigantic All-Dayer Festival Line-Up
Ahead of the appearance of legendary Newport Indie pop band The Darling Buds at Manchester’s Gigantic All-Dayer later this month, Andy Howells chats to Andrea Lewis of the band.
The Darling Buds in 2016, Photograph: Mute Elephant/Mark Blundell
Second chances don’t come around very often, but for fans of Newport’s 80’s indie-poppers The Darling Buds, that is exactly what will happen at the Gigantic All-Dayer Volume 3 which takes place at Manchester Academy on Saturday May 28, as there will be an opportunity to catch the band live in a festival environment.
“It’s an all day event featuring bands from back in the day when the Buds were around” says Darling Buds lead vocalist Andrea Lewis.
The Darling Buds will feature alongside other indie favourites Jesus Jones, The Wonder Stuff, BMX Bandits and The House of Love at the all-day Bank Holiday event.
Catching The Darling Buds at such an event is quite a rarity, as they didn't do many festival appearances in the UK back in the late 80s. “We did places like Germany and Spain, with bands like The Pogues, and The Stray Cats,” says Andrea,” it was quite a big thing abroad.” The Darling Buds however are looking forward to the atmosphere of The All-Dayer, fueled by their appearance at last years Indie Tracks Festival. “It poured down the whole time we were on stage,” laughs Andrea, “it had a lovely atmosphere, there were some old indie pop bands on and we could take our children so we had a really good time.”
Andrea along with Chris McDonagh, Geraint Farr and Richard Gray formed The Darling Buds in Newport during 1986 “Newport is where we hailed from, with TJ’s and all that going on,” recalls Andrea “We were a tiny bit before the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Stereophonics but I think we were one of the first with the indie sound. Recently I saw an old fanzine that someone gave me at a gig; we did something like 220 gigs in one year, we were just gigging all the time. There wasn’t a lot of interest back in Wales in the very early days, although there was a scene going on in Newport around TJ’s. Promoters were getting in a lot of the Seattle and American bands and we supported the Butt Hole Surfers at Newport Leisure Centre once but we just got in a van and went wherever people wanted us to play.”
The Darling Buds in the 1990s
Following the release of The Darling Buds debut single If I Said, Radio 1 Disc Jockey John Peel gave the record exposure on his late night show. “The media in Cardiff showed a bit more of an interest but we were at this very embryonic stage releasing one little single which John Peel played straight away. We were hardly a formed band, he played us and we just started going out doing gigs”.
Success for The Darling Buds followed in 1988 following their signing to Sony Records. They released the singles Burst and Hit The Ground which both entered the charts and their debut album Pop Said... went Top Thirty. “We did write our own stuff,” says Andrea,“it was heavily influenced by what we were listening to. When I grew up, all we had in our house was Beatles, Byrds and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. All very sixties sounding stuff and obviously that played a massive part in forming my own sense of melodies and song writing. The boys were always into the heavier guitar music which I would listen to and it all kind of merged.”
The Darling Buds had also gained success in the US in Billboard’s Modern Rock chart with their singles Lets Go Round There, Crystal Clear and Please Yourself.
Back in the UK they released two further albums Crawdaddy and Erotica before finally disbanding in 1993.
“Looking back, it feels like a previous life,” continues Andrea, “I was 18 when the band started and 25 when we split up. It was a massive part of growing up; we did three albums, loads of gigs and lots of touring. We loved it. It was a bit of a shock to all of us when it did end but it felt it was time to wrap things up.” In the years that followed Andrea turned her talents to acting and radio presenting as well as starting a family with her husband, the actor Jamie Jarvis.
The Darling Buds reformed briefly for Newport’s TJ’s In the Square event in 2010 which paid tribute to legendary TJ’s owner John Sicolo. “We really wanted to do that,” recalls Andrea, “we thought we were only going to do that one show but afterwards we thought it'd be nice to do a few more. Then, a few years ago the promoter Grant Holby of Mute Elephant called me of the blue and asked would we do another one-off thing which always amazes me because I think who’d want to come and see us?”
The 30th anniversary of The Darling Buds formation has seen the band back out on the road with Andrea and Chris McDonagh now joined by Matt Gray, Chaz Watkins & Erik Stams. Among their recent shows have been a sell out anniversary show at London’s 100 Club, Newport’s Le Pub and a fabulous acoustic set for World Record Store Day at Diverse Music.
The Darling Buds in 2016, Photograph: Mute Elephant/ Mark Blundell
Visitors to the forthcoming Gigantic All-Dayer later this month can expect to hear all the classic Darling Buds hits once again, “Its good playing the old Buds stuff,” says Andrea, “I thought I’d be embarrassed by singing those old songs but actually I’m fine with it. They are funny little pop tunes and I quite enjoy singing them so I’m happy to do it”
With The Darling Buds return to live performing, have Andrea and her band mates been inspired to get back into song writing as well as performing.
“We’ve written some stuff,” Andrea confirms, “We played a few songs last year which have already had the thumbs up from all those who followed us around back in the day. We had a really good response from that so we’ll definitely get in the studio and record some new material just to get it out there and see what people think.”
The Gigantic Indie All Dayer Vol.3 takes place on Bank Holiday Saturday May 28 at Manchester Academy. Doors will open at 1.30 pm. All ages are welcome but under 14s must be accompanied by an adult aged over 18. For further details on the event visit facebook.com/giganticindiealldayer and to stay in touch with the latest news from The Darling Buds visit their Facebook page.
- A version of this interview appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 13, 2016.