It’s that time again, when our man on the ground Desh Kapur Editor/Photographer All Music Magazine UK/Europe spotlights a bands or artists he thinks are going to have a big 2023 ; bands and artists we think you should check out to stay ahead of the curve
So welcome to PIGEON WIGS
Newly sprung from the fertile soil of Cardiff’s blossoming music scene, Pigeon Wigs are a five-piece alt-rock band whose riff-laden fuzzy tones and melodic harmonies come crashing together to form a wild beast like no other. Tackling everything from social commentary to dysfunctional relationships and alien abductions, the band was born out of a writing partnership between Harry Franklin-Williams and Louis Jugessur and came to life when the pair “corralled some of Cardiff’s finest to record a new project”.
Having already attracted glowing praise from the likes of BBC Introducing and BBC Radio Wales, Pigeon Wigs have gained glowing reviews from a range of alt-rock contemporaries such as Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and Panic Shack who enthused: “all of Jagger’s love-children couldn’t write a better banger than this
1/ What first got you into music? or Who inspired you to make music?
Harry: I grew up in a very musical family, I used to sleep behind the drum kit of my dad’s band as a child and later as a teen I roadied for his and my brother’s band Toy Horses across America, Germany and the UK. Songwriting was a normal practice in my house growing up and it seemed like the natural thing to do when I started playing guitar in my early teens. The real indoctrination was at age 11 when my brother started buying me and album a month, I’d listen to it and we’d talk about it. Also at age 11 my dad bought a Karaoke machine for the family at Christmas which got me into singing for the first time. Singing Sinatra in your dressing gown at 7am is normal at 11 right?
Louis: I first started playing simply because my brother started, I thought ‘Well if he’s doing it I wanna do it too!’ like the little shit I was. I got a cheap £30 nylon string from Argos and was obsessed with it, the smell of it and the pattern around the hole where you drop your pick seemed so mysterious. I played guitar for years but it was only until I turned about 14 that I had the idea of playing in a band. The Strokes were the first band I listened to where I thought ‘Holy shit I want to sound like that!’ I bought their guitar tab book for their album ‘Is This It’ and literally learnt it from cover to cover, I loved the interplay between the guitars and would loop the album playing along. For years it was a solitary thing for me, no one in my family was massively into music it was just something I did for a bit of escapism. Playing in a band just seemed so unrealistic because every musician I saw was either white or black, there wasn’t any brown people in guitar bands. 16 was the time I got truly obsessed with The Rolling Stones or more specifically Keith Richards, he inspired me to get out there and play. Their sound isn’t particularly complicated, I just love the raw rock and roll energy.
2/ tell me about your music journey
Harry: I hounded Louis for us to start a band and write an album in the same vein as Exile on Main St by The Stones and he eventually gave in and so began Pigeon Wigs (even if the name wouldn’t come for some time). We ended up writing a collection of songs we really loved and we had the idea of recording the whole lot with a full band before we ever did a gig thinking it would be great to show up on the scene fully formed like a baby with a moustache or furniture not from IKEA. We corralled some of Cardiff’s finest (CVC,Rainbow Maniac) to help us record and Tom Rees (of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) produced the sessions. They were split into three lots and by the end we’d found the foundations of what the Pigeon Wigs “sound” would be. After that we got a band together and planned our arrival on the scene. We were due to kick off April 2020 but covid had other ideas. That set us back in terms of being able to spread the word but made us focus more on our online presence which has really been great for us in finding our audience who have been a continuous source of support and encouragement. Since our arrival on the scene we’ve gone from strength to strength, our debut offering ‘Rock by Numbers’ finally out there for all to see and with some massive festivals this summer (Green Man, Kendal Calling, Shambala) we are intent on having the most fun we can.
Louis: I cut my teeth playing in workmen clubs and pubs across the Rhondda Valleys, it was a time I remember fondly. I played in a cover band called The Cherry Rebels and we would play mainly rock and roll. I got asked to join the band by my mate Gavin who I met in college who played drums, funnily enough he played drums on the EP too. It was terrifying to play in front of people at first because I’d only played in my bedroom for years, I also stood out like a sore thumb which didn’t help my nerves. I learnt a lot of things, mainly how to not get your head kicked in by drunk nutters. I learnt how to put a set together to get the crowd to do what you want, we were like a living breathing jukebox.
4/ How would you describe the music that you typically create?.
Harry: Full of fuzz and boundless energy! Chuck the DNA of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Libertines, White Denim and The Rolling Stones in a mixer Jurassic Park style and we’re what pops out.
Louis: Hopefully not shit.
5/ What is your creative process like?
Harry: Usually either Louis or myself will bring an idea to the band with them needing to add their bits but with the main bulk of the song written. More recently though there have been songs that get primarily written in the practice room with only a lil nugget of an idea to build from. A mix of these two is great and keeps you on your toes when you’re suddenly being asked to write a catchy melody in the next 2 minutes. For songs that start with me I’ll usually write it on piano first to get all the melody and structure down and then transfer that over to guitar, usually speed it up, and then it’s ready for the band.
Louis: It happens in many ways, I rarely sit down and say to myself ‘Write something now!’ Sometimes I’ll get obsessed with a song, learn it and then try and re create it without taking the piss too much and then it morphs into its own thing. Other times I’ll have a riff in my head and I’ll just develop it when I finally get to sit down with a guitar. Harry would have a bunch of songs about getting dumped (sorry mate) so I would think ‘let’s have some rockers!’ and write some rockers. My favourite ideas happen when I’m watching telly and I’ll just be farting about on the guitar not really consciously playing and then something pops out and I think ‘there’s a song there’ Other times I have an idea for a title and then write the riff to fit the vibe of the title, that happened with ‘Radiation Blues’ where I’d watched Chernobyl where that poor bugger gets radiation poisoning.
6/ If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
Harry: I’d love to play a show with Paul McCartney, The Lemon Twigs or Willie J Healey if we’re just focussing on people who’re still alive. Dead people included maybe the Grandmother of rock & roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe herself. I’m sure she’d have some words to say about our bastardisation of what she started.
Louis: The Rolling Stones circa 72, I agree they are bit shit now yeah.
7/ What is one message you would give to your fans?
Harry: Hi Mum!
Louis: Please buy merch. I’m literally begging you. Nah in all seriousness I would like to say thanks!
8/ What is the most useless talent you have?
Harry: I’m pretty good at flipping beer mats and catching them in one move. Still trying to figure out how to monetise that one.
Louis: Probably playing guitar.
9/ Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
Harry: Yes, always. Usually whatever I’m playing the most at the time but Baby I love Your Way by Big Mountain always rears its head eventually.
Louis: I do a beautiful rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love Of All’ *sings* I DECIDED LONG AGO, NEVER TO STAND IN ANYONE’S SHADOW
10 What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
Harry: I really need some kind of creative outlet so maybe writing or painting. Lyrics are just poems in the end so maybe I’d be a suffering poet. Failing that I like the idea of revolution, Freddos (and life) are getting insanely expensive.
Louis: I have a career?! Holy shit. If it wasn’t for playing music I’d probably be doing some other useless pursuit like rock climbing, always fancied that.
11 Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Harry: We’ve played all over South Wales and a lot of Bristol, as well as shows in London and up north. Favourite venue as it stands might be Tramshed in Cardiff, such a great sound on stage which makes all the difference and to top if off it was packed when we played there. Least favourite would have to be our first London show in a place by Finsbury Park Station, there was literally nobody there for half the set, we had the staff out front dancing. Our upcoming shows are a big EP release show on the 22nd in Clwb Ifor Bach, Crofters Rights in Bristol on the 26th and Le Pub in Newport on the 5th of Aug. We’re also playing Kendal Calling, Green Man, and Shambala which is so crazy, I can’t wait.
Louis: My favourite venues are the real sweaty ones where you can see the whites in peoples eyes, if the crowd is far away it seems too disconnected. Least favourite gig ever has to be Finsbury Park, London in general is a pain in the arse but this took the biscuit. There wasn’t anywhere there! What is the point? we should’ve just left and got home at a reasonable hour. We have some pretty sweet shoes lined up. Green Man is a biggy, I’ve been there a few times now and have always dreamed of playing it.
12 What is your favourite song to perform?
Harry: Heavy Low is always a lot of fun. Get to put my guitar down for a sec and croon like there’s no tomorrow. Top that off with the frankly beautiful solo from Louis and it makes for a great intimate moment in what is usually a chaotic mix of up tempo bangers.
Louis: I love our new tune ‘Plumpy’ which is a real rocker, hella fat riffs and catchy vocals. What more do you need? It’s not on the EP so if you want to listen you’ll have to come to a show!
13 Which famous musicians do you admire?
Harry: Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell, The Libertines, Jack White, The Beatles, The Band, etc. There’s really too many to name but those are some of the heavy hitters.
Louis: Keith Richards is a favourite of mine, I love that he’s basically a wreck head who happens to be amazing at writing tunes. I also love Johnny Marr, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. It’s not just the tunes that grab me I also love artists who have a fearless attitude.
14 What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
Harry: Not wanting to incriminate myself I’m gonna say ditching school when I was a kid. There were months where I’d barely step foot through the doors before jumping the fence and skipping the rest of the day.
Louis: I got banned from Pontypridd town centre for 24 hours for reasons I cannot fully disclose because my mother may be reading.
15 What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Harry: Nobody is an adult, we’re all just kids pretending.
Louis: Live. Laugh. Love. Not sure it’s advice but its a mantra I repeat daily.
16 What’s next for you?
Harry: After the festival appearances this summer we’re getting straight back in the studio to record our next offering. We’ve got such a massive backlog of songs that I want to get out. If you’ve got a taste for pigeon there’s buckets more where that came from.
Louis: I honestly don’t know. Hopefully get some more gigs and play some good shows, make millions and then go down in a ball of flames. The dream.
My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i’m blessed and get to combine both.
Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.