Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciaran has been working on his first, ever orchestral piece, which was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, coinciding with a TV documentary which goes out on S4C/iPlayer on 30 November.
Cian took some time out to speak to The Fountain about working outside of SFA, the album release and where the momentum came from with this project.
TF: You must be ecstatic about the release of your new album, coinciding with the TV documentary?
Of course, but it’s been a learning curve, to say the least. It’s been a long time coming, so I imagine I will be feeling a sense of relief for getting over the finish line. The documentary is the reason I’ve waited so long between the performances last year and releasing the music. Trying to weave all of the different stories into one cohesive thread has been challenging and we could have made several films in their own right with the material we had to play with. It covers the music’s journey, the history behind it and its setting, a little about my own back story and all whilst trying to introduce the viewer to the tragic love story, for which all of this wouldn’t exist without. I’m excited to see the reaction it gets and the prospect of introducing this old Welsh story to a new audience, as well as giving it a new take for those who are familiar.
TF: How would you sum it up in one sentence?
Wrong person to ask! Maybe: A plethora of music, heartache and storytelling in a short space of time. As I said, wrong person to ask.
TF: Where did the inspiration come from for this album?
I’ve drawn on various musical sketches made over a number of years to form the body of work, but it wasn’t until 2007, when I wrote a piece on the piano during an SFA recording session in Miroval, France, when it reminded me of this old fable, told to me by my father when I was a young boy. This is what gave me it’s context and a backbone for which to piece it all together. I didn’t just sit down one morning and decide to write a piece of music about two lovers with a tragic ending. If I’m honest it’s been that long I don’t really know how or when it all began. Like the story itself, it’s been a part of my life for a long time.
TF: What has it been like working separate to the band, on this separate project?
Since SFA’s hiatus back in ’09 I’ve worked consistently on my own, so it wasn’t a new experience. Working with an orchestra is similar to that of being in a band, it’s all melodies at the end of the day just that you’re working with ninety musicians instead of five. None of this project would have happened without the various contributors, just the same as making an album with any band. I’ve had help along the way. Peter Riley, who I worked with on the orchestration, and Daf (leuan, Furries drummer) was with me in the studio for large parts of working on the arrangements and instrumentation. I don’t think I’d last very long on my own in a studio working on any project, I need that soundboard or feedback, fresh ears or eyes. It’s all part of the process. I wouldn’t get anything finished otherwise, perhaps only driving myself insane instead.
TF: Is there a tour to follow to promote this album with the National Orchestra of Wales?
Unfortunately the cost of touring an orchestra is astronomical. It took four years just to fund the one performance last year in Cardiff, which is also the recording used for the album release. I’d like to think that one day it may take on a life of its own. All I can do in the meantime is to keep introducing people to the music and the story and I think the documentary is a perfect vehicle for doing that.