YNYS (‘un-iss’ meaning island) is the solo project of Dylan Hughes who, while he was playing in Cardiff psychedelic band Race Horses, was keeping hundreds of voice memos and notes on his phone. This cornucopia of lyrical and melodic ideas was partly coalesced at weekend recording session at Tŷ Drwg studios. The songs that came out of that weekend made their way to the ears of the amazing Libertino Records and with their support, plus a pandemic to focus the mind, allowed the YNYS album to be born.
From dark and brooding to light as merengue, the tracks on YNYS can float on swirling strings, channel 60s pop or include ballads that could make even the most immovable objects sway with a dreamy smile on their face. One of the recurring themes is about moving; from ”Aberystwyth from Cardiff”, “Home from home, city to rural” and contains “the idea of thriving urban activity, and the stillness of a rural seaside hometown”. It definitely has the feeling of being caught between things and trying to work out your place in the world and this creates a wistful air that brings thoughtfulness and poetry to both music and lyrics.
We were lucky to have Dylan Hughes answer our ‘10 questions’ so we could get insight into his musical life and its influences. There is also a playlist of the songs that have inspired and entertained him over the years.
1) What is your earliest music-related memory? What do you remember being played at home when you were a child?
I think my earliest ever memory is music related. I must have been around 4 and I was running around the kitchen listening to my dad play (what I now know to be…) ‘The Four Brothers’. My Dad was quite into various world music artists at the time, and the Four Brothers were an upbeat Zimbabwean band; and I’ve got a recollection of just running and dancing around the kitchen to that music. I found the album in my parent’s house a couple of years ago and listening to the first couple of songs, it seemed to re-confirm what I thought was my first memory.
There was a lot of music in the house growing up. My Dad got into re-buying classic albums on CDs in the early 1990s so there were plenty of Beatles. I remember being about 6 and figuring out how to turn the hi-fi on and I would just play the opening track from Sgt Pepper over and over. It wasn’t until several years later that I ventured to let it run into track 2 and the rest of the album. I remember Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Dr John being on heavy rotation at home as a child.
2) What was the first record that you ever bought? Where did you get it and do you have any recollection of the experience?
I’m not entirely sure, I think it was a compilation called ‘Fresh Hits 98’. You had your Bewitched – Ce la Vie etc on side one, but side two was a bit more alternative/indie – I’m sure a Super furry Animals track (Ice Hockey Hair) was on that album, but I brought the compilation a few years before getting into the Furries. Where did I buy it? I think it was Woolworths in Aberystwyth. Albums were all about £15 at the time so not something that I could buy all that regularly.
Around that time, I got Catatonia (International Velvet) and the Manics (This in my truth tell me yours) as birthday presents from my parents, and listened to those albums a lot aged 12/13.
3) When did you really start to develop a passion for listening to music? How did that come about and what were you into at the time?
I think it was around the time I went to secondary school. Starting a band, going to see live bands, buying music (or illegally downloading from Napster) all happened around the same time. Going to see live bands was so exciting even though our parents would have to drive us 3hrs to see touring bands. First it was Catatonia, and Gorky’s, and a bit later we all got into Super Furry Animals.
4) What was the first gig that you went to? Where was it and what was it like?
My first gig was Catatonia in Llangollen International Pavillion (May 1999). I was 12 and it was with my friend Meilyr (and his parents). It was Catatonia at their commercial height, and we saw Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci supporting which was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Their set felt exciting, like something could go wrong at any moment – I still remember the dog barking in Poodle Rockin’ and thinking that was amazing. Catatonia were great, and the first band I got into. It was quite a big gig – probably a bit overwhelming at that age.
We came back from that gig and started to seek out Gorky’s albums and EPs from Andy’s Records in Aberystwyth over the next few years.
5) What are your memories of starting out making music? What was the first song that you learned to play?
I was playing keyboards, and most of the bands around in the late 90s/early 00s were very guitar based. I didn’t know what I should be playing and didn’t understand chords or how songs were written. Once I learnt the whole chords thing, being in a band became much more enjoyable for me. A gang of us in the same year at school started a band – I think the first song we tried to play was Blink 182 (which I really wasn’t into, even at the time), Nirvana soon followed and them Jimi Hendrix Foxy Lady.
6) What was your first band? What music was influencing you at that time? What are your the memories of playing your first gig and are there any recordings out there?
We were called The Morris Experience, shortened later to Mozz, which we started in year 9, and ended in year 12. We were influenced by a lot of 60s stuff, The Kinks, The Beatles but we were also massively into Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – we’d mainly just do covers but had a handful of our own songs. We saw Gorky’s when we were 13 in Aberystwyth Students Union just after we started the band. I just remember walking into the venue, the lights, the smell of booze and cigarettes, and Zabrinski (support) were onstage playing a song with just one chord with blaring feedback everywhere (I think the song was ‘3968’). I was hooked on live music after that gig.
Mozz played a lot in the Cwps pub in Aberystwyth but also towards the end got the chance to play in Cardiff which was very exciting. We won a battle of the bands competition on a Welsh Language Youth TV show (Uned 5) and got the opportunity to record an EP in Fflach Studios (Aberteifi). We didn’t really know what we were doing, but being in the studio was exciting – doing overdubs for the first time, putting mad sound effects on everything. I don’t have a copy of the EP but it does exist somewhere.
7) What are your memories of starting YNYS? What was the first song that you wrote for this project and what do you think now when you listen back to it?
After my previous band Race Horses ended (2013) I didn’t really do any music for a few years. In terms of making music, I felt a bit lost and thought that might be it. I was still writing songs but didn’t have any intention to release them but I’m glad a few friends talked me into recording a single initially which kick started everything. A lot of the songs were written over a 6-year period, so I can’t remember the first song. I think I had ‘Mae’n Hawdd’ (It’s easy) the second single around the time Race Horses ended. What do I think of it? I’ve got very fond memories of recording that song – it’s got a harp and a Juno Synth on it, what more do you really need. I was quite self-conscious of my vocals so my friend Mali (Race Horses) also sang all the main vocal lines all the way through. It’s a bit of a duet in that regard.
8) Which band/artist do you think has had the biggest influence on your music over the years? What is it about them that inspires you?
The influences are varied but those of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Super Furry Animals, The Velvet Underground, The Beatles and Beach Boys run pretty deep. Notable mentions also to ELO, Dexys and The Coral. With all of them, the songwriting is top drawer, and there’s always some weirdness in terms of melody, instrumentation or lyrics that complement the great tunes.
I remember in university, there was a Fopp record store on Queen St in Cardiff with most of the albums £5, and around that time the Velvet Underground took a big hold. The Velvets were a big influence especially writing quieter more vulnerable songs.
There are some artists where you remember exactly where you were when you first heard them. When we were recording Race Horses’ first album I remember David Wrench, our producer playing us the song “This is what she’s like’s like” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. We were instantly hooked by the energy, the melody and that upbeat melancholy which I find so addictive. I remember that being quite a big moment in terms of influence and subsequent musical direction.
9) Who are some of your favourite current artists? Who do you think the Joyzine listeners should check out?
10) You have ‘Newid / Caneuon’ out now, both taken from the forthcoming self-titled album (released 4th November). Why did you choose these tracks as the lead tracks and what can listeners expect from the album release?
To be completely honest, I didn’t really have a strong opinion on which tracks should be the singles and was happy for the label to take the lead. Gruff (Libertino Records) suggested that these should be the first singles and I was happy to go with that. I like the guitar solo and driving saxophones in Newid – it’s probably a bit darker than the rest of the album. The album hopefully is quite varied in terms of sound – a collection of psychedelic pop songs with a lot of harmonies, fuzz guitars, and analog synths.
11) Libertino Records are one of Joyzine’s favourite labels. What makes them so special from an artist’s point of view?
There is so much variety in terms of the artists on the label. They’re very ambitious in terms of giving Welsh language artists a platform outside Wales which I think was missing until Libertino came along. As an artist they’re great to work with and very supportive and it’s amazing to be on the label.
- The Four Brothers – Makorokoto
- The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s lonely hearts club band
- Catatonia – My Selfish Gene
- Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Patio Song
- Zabrinski – 3968
- Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World
- Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
- Dexys Midnight Runners – This is what she’s like
- Beach House – Zebra
- Arctic Monkeys & Newell Octet – Baby I’m yours
Nov 17: Y Cwps / Coopers Arms, Aberystwyth, UK
Dec 03: The Bunkhouse, Swansea, UK
Jan 14: The Victoria, Dalston, London, UK
Introduction by Paul F Cook