A multi-instrumental and vocal sextet, Allan Yn Y Fan has been recording and touring internationally since 2003. Their latest album NEWiD, the Welsh word for change, whilst in English the title could be represented as new identity – apt for an album reflecting the band’s new six piece line-up and, coincidentally Allan Yn Y Fan’s sixth record.
The band are currently undertaking a tour which includes a date at Blackwood Miners Institute on November 10. Andy Howells recently put questions to band founder member Geoff Cripps.
The band have undergone a few changes since the last album, what’s been happening?
Well, if anything, the personnel changes within Allan Yn Y Fan have really been fairly minimal over our 20 year history – and not a lot of bands can say that! From the original quartet founded by Chris Jones, Kate Strudwick, Linda Simmonds and Geoff Cripps in 1996 we have been joined by fiddle player Emma Trend 2002 – 2007; singer and fiddle player Meriel Field between 2008 and 2014 and then were joined by Catrin O’Neill on lead vocals and Alan Cooper on fiddle in 2015. Meriel sadly had to leave us owing to personal health issues which prevented her from playing music live and we all regret but fully understand that position and it was an entirely amicable parting of the ways.
Is the bringing of new members into the mix changing the dynamics of the Allan Yn Y Fan sound at all?
Going from a quintet to a sextet but without essentially changing the fundamental mix of a lead female voice and a fiddle it might seem that that would not change the dynamics much. However, Catrin is a very different singer to Meriel and somebody whose connection to the tradition is deeply personal – learning her first folk songs direct from her Nain (grandmother). Alan is an exceptionally skilled and experienced fiddler and we knew as soon as we auditioned him that he would fit our sound whilst remaking it at the same time. The current Allan Yn Y Fan reflects an evolution rather than a revolution of our sound.
You’ve produced a new album can you give us some background on that?
Well one of the bonuses of having Alan in the band is that he has a home studio and so it was no brainer as to where we would record “NEWiD”. In some ways the recording process was not as smooth as we may have hoped as during it Catrin was expecting and gave birth to her first child; Kate our flautist and leader of Head4Arts based in Llanhilleth, moved house and was also involved in a major European project that took her away on business whilst Chris our accordionist also has to frequently travel overseas for his day job. However, we had had the benefit of “road-testing” some of the new material whilst on tour in Germany and Luxembourg last autumn and then we had the benefit of not entirely being tied to the clock for the recording sessions at Alan’s. If the process was at all “bumpy” then – given the reviews we have garnered to date – it isn’t apparent in the finished product!
There’s also some tour dates forthcoming, what can people expect from the shows?
Everyone in the band is excited that, in part thanks to our tour co-producers Aneurin Leisure supported by Blackwood Miner’s Institute and the Arts Council of Wales, we get the opportunity to perform for audiences in our home country. No matter how pleasing the responses to our performances in Europe, there is nothing quite like the chance to perform for the home crowd. The show is an accessible and entertaining event – which irrespective of whether you can speak Welsh or not – will put a smile on your lips and a spring in your step! The audience reaction so far to the first four shows of the Taith 6 & 20 Tour has been overwhelmingly positive. One audience member said “Really, really good, warm, entertaining, fun and interesting – even though we have no Welsh. Loved the group dynamics.” Whilst another said “Very enjoyable, engaging – lively!” The show features material from the new album plus some choice selections from the band’s back catalogue showcasing the band’s multi-instrumental and vocal capabilities.
Where’s the best place to get the latest news on the band?
The best place is undoubtedly online via our website ( http://www.ayyf.co.uk ) our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Allanynyfan ) and via Twitter ( @Allanynyfan or @GeoffCripps )