J A R C R E W
"The point ... good question ... to explain too much, to dissect rock and roll, to question everything ... this is not good! We gotta keep it a secret that everybody can have ... the only point is what it means to you ... or how it makes u feel ... make it your own manifesto ..." [Jarcrew Mission Statement].
Kelson Mathias Lead vocals and keyboards
Rod Thomas Drums and vocals
Rich Williams Guitar
Tom Clark Guitar
Ben Milner Bass and vocals
This web site has been fairly respectable so far, even stuffy, with its cast-list of poets, preachers, opera singers, politicians, sportsmen, journalists and the like. To date we've managed to find only one 'bad boy' from the decidedly un-chapel world of rock and roll John Cale and even he is now an elder statesman of the music scene who can't be far away from an entry in the honours list, and certainly qualifies for a Welsh Assembly bus-pass in the over 60 category.
So we'll breath a little fresh air into our website as we report on a recent rock export from the Amman valley, a band called Jarcew, all former pupils of Amman Valley Comprehensive School. The band played together from 1999 to 2005, a fairly long career in the rock music world, where some sub-atomic particles have a longer life than most bands. A multitude of reasons contributes to the breakup of rock bands. Musical differences, personality clashes, money, are just the most common causes, but becoming a Jehovah's Witness isn't normally one of them. So when Jarcrew's drummer Rhodri Thomas joined this religious organisation in 2005, a new reason was added to a fairly long list of breakup causes in the rock world. Drummer Rod had already become infamous for launching himself from the drum kit on to the shoulders of lead vocalist Kelson invariably while wearing his flamed print thong, emblazoned with the words 'Hot Rod', so this is a major change of lifestyle by anyone's standards.
In the days when the band was still in action, a press statement issued by their publicity organisation described Ammanford as a backwater. This is somewhat quaint, not to say belittling Blackwood, where the Manic Street preachers come from, is about the same size as Ammanford but never seems to be described in the same demeaning manner. But then everywhere in the provinces is probably a backwater to the suits who run the music publicity machine from their loft conversions and bijou mews dwellings. Still, if the views of Jarcrew themselves are anything to go by, they certainly endorse this somewhat jaundiced view of their home town, but at least they're speaking from their own experience.
We'll start with the band's entry in the internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, fame of a minor sort, but fame nonetheless. Their official press release provided by their publicity organisation comes next, then a couple of reviews, followed by an interview with band drummer Rod Thomas to finish off (we'll assume his choice of vocabulary is going to be less profane now that he's a Jehovah's Witness). Some of the claims for the band's bright future don't look too clever now that the band is no more, but at least they had a six-year run together. (The dialect of English used by rock journalists is unfamiliar to the elderly gentleman who writes this website, so readers will have to provide their own translations wherever meaning appears to be absent.)
(1) Jarcrew (From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia).
Jarcrew was a five-piece progressive rock band from Ammanford, Wales. They were a relatively well-known underground band (Jarcrew never received tremendous critical acclaim) for approximately five years between 2000 and 2005. They played a bizarre mixture of electronica/house and prog-rock/punk/funk that baffled audiences up and down the UK (despite their somewhat unapproachable commercial nature they were offered some very lucrative support slots, including an elusive support for Scots rockers Biffy Clyro).
.....Starting in a Welsh mining town, Jarcrew qualified for assistance under the Community Music Wales scheme (a system established to assist bands coming out of the Welsh valleys, be it with monetary support or the release of a record to start a band off on the right track). In 2001 they released their first single, "Paris and The New Math" on Complete Control Music (Community Music Wales' record label, the same label that was responsible for the very first People In Planes release back when they were known as Robots In The Sky) soon followed by the band's debut album Breakdance Euphoria Kids (a line from track 8 of Breakdance Euphoria Kids, "Money Shot") and the single "Capobaby". The album wound up in the hands of Gut Records who offered to re-master the recording (as it was deemed too acerbic and not radio friendly enough for general release). Only half the album was eventually re-mixed with the original recordings being used for the rest of the album and single. The band agreed to this and with that, they were signed to a major label and were touring up and down the country, as well as providing radio sessions to the likes of BBC and XFM in London.
.....19th December 2004 saw the band's final show (with support from long-time friends People In Planes in a small venue in Cardiff) and early 2005 saw the promise of a new album, which the band assured the world was completely written and ready to be recorded (which was evident from the amount of unfamiliar material the band threw into their set from as early as 2003, shortly after their first and last album was re-released by Gut Records, the label that took Jarcrew on board in 2002). Hot on the heels of this news came the news that Jarcrew had disbanded. No official reason was cited but it is now common knowledge amongst Jarcrew aficionados that the band split due to Rhod Thomas becoming a full-fledged Jehovah's Witness. The band have no plans to reform, but Kelson and final Jarcrew bassist "Ricardo" have been collaborating with surviving McLusky members Falco and Jack Egglestone. The project, officially named The Future Of The Left, is expected to launch before the end of 2006.
.....However, in 2004 the band saw fit to part ways with Milner not long before an impending tour (Williams and Clark split the bass duties and sometimes left the bass out completely). In the few shows the band did towards the end of their career, session musicians and bassists from other bands were employed (a man known only as "Ricardo" who, according to Kelson, did not speak a word of English but was "fluent in the language of rock" was the band's bassist for their appearance at the 2004 Compass Point Festival in Cardiff). The band claim the split was amicable, but this is thought to be a press-friendly explanation, as Milner claims he was ejected against his will (he did so publicly via the medium of several well-read e-zines, such as Jarcrew champions Drowned In Sound.com).
Paris and The New Math (single, 13 May 2002, Complete Control Music)
Breakdance Euphoria Kids (album, 27 June 2002, Complete Control Music)
Capobaby (single, 16 September 2002, Complete Control Music)
Paris and The New Math (single, 20 October 2003, Gut Records)
Jarcrew (album, 3 November 2003, Gut Records)
The band also featured on a number of compilations, including the Fierce Panda Records compilation "The Squirrel EP", which was released on CD and a set of 7" vinyl records. Also featured were fellow Welshmen Funeral For A Friend, politically-fuelled (and, now, also defunct) punk-rockers Million Dead, The Copperpot Journals, Engerica and thisGIRL.
(2) "The next big thing to come out of Wales"
Jarcrew are being hotly tipped to be the next big thing to come out of Wales or should that be Ammanford? The Welsh backwater where Jarcrew have grown up together used to be home to Underworld's Rick Smith and The Velvet Underground's John Cale, the latter being the village church organist for a while. But whatever the musical history of Jarcrew's hometown they've been busy establishing themselves as a band to be reckoned with.
..... Since the release of their debut single last year 'Paris And The New Math', followed by the release of their debut album, 'Breakdance Euphoria Kids', and second single, 'Capobaby', (accurately described as a musical cross section of 'Breakdance Euphoria Kids' crammed into four-and-a-half minutes) the media recognised that Jarcrew are a band overflowing with ideas and energy. Musically, Jarcrew can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, both sonically wired yet utterly chilled. It all makes sense; regardless that the bands sound is completely twisted.
..... Lyrically the band have a pretty straightforward approach as Jarcrew lead vocalist Kelson Mathias explains, "The lyrics don't mean anything whatsoever. We've never sat down and said, 'let's write a song about such-and-such'. It's just free association: no overall goal or point. It's just the atmosphere rather than the message."
..... Now, with a collection of exceptional live reviews under their belt from the likes of NME, Kerrang! Rock Sound and Playlouder.com, Jarcrew are set to make 2003 the most important to date. At the start of the year Rock Sound magazine announced Jarcrew as one of the bands to watch in 2003, while Kerrang! magazine devoted over a full page to Jarcrew on their 'Rising' section in March 2003. This was swiftly followed by an XFM Xposure night at The Barfly in Camden, complete with full global web-cast.
..... Supporting bands such as Alec Empire, Electric Six & thisGIRL, female fans of Jarcrew are becoming used to the fact that they may well be faced with having Jarcrew's singer Kelson Mathais dance and scream like a psychopathic Mick Jagger no less than an inch from their faces. Meanwhile drummer Rod has already become infamous for launching himself from the drum kit on to the shoulders of Kelson invariably whilst wearing his flamed print thong, emblazoned with the words 'Hot Rod'! One thing is for sure. There is never a dull moment.
"Jarcrew sound light years ahead of the one-trick pony noisemongers currently cluttering up the scene" Kerrang!
"You wait ages for a decent band from Wales ... and then Jarcrew come along and answer all your prayers" NME
"This headfuck-cum-work of genius travels into refreshingly uncharted territory that will either lead to wacky self-destruction or universal adoration." Rock Sound
"The future is theirs for the taking" Playlouder.com
The band has its own web site on: http://www.jarcrew.com
(3) "Stars in the making, Ammanford's Jarcrew are a clash of stylish and leftfield punk-pop eclectica"
With Lostprophets successfully flying the flag abroad for Welsh nu-metal, Jarcrew are picking up the unwieldy post-rock-avant-hardcore-alternative flag and running with it.
..... The group's origins lie in the rather un-sexy backdrop of Ammanford, in Carmarthenshire, where they were at school together. According to drummer Rod, "Ammanford doesn't influence us at all except in a negative way". Still they got together and started making music.
..... Being unable to play any instruments didn't stand in their way for too long, with their punk pop sound reportedly a result of "too much MTV and radio, and the fact that we hardly agree on anything". But with time came assurance, and they found themselves getting props around the South Wales venues where they played.
..... Their debut single Squadron No. 9 was released in June 2001 on Complete Control a signing made on the strength of a 1999 demo. A protracted period of writing and recording followed, and Jarcrew returned the following year with some compelling live appearances (including a Lostprophets support slot) and the storming Paris and the New Math single.
..... After a couple of years jamming and writing, Jarcrew began making waves in South Wales. Their debut album, Breakdance Euphoria Kids (liner notes: "This record is dedicated 2 your girlfriend"), was released in June 2002. In spite of their floundering, chaotic origins, it's a remarkably self-assured debut, and the result of Jarcrew's many diverse influences among them The Ramones, Fugazi and At The Drive In.
..... But the record ultimately failed to convey their incredible live energy: it's live that Jarcrew really come into their own. Indeed, we'll gladly go on the record and herald them as the best live band in Wales at the moment.
(from the BBC web site at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/music/profiles/pages/jarcrew.shtml)
(4) "The location: Ammanford, Wales; the genres: punk, rock"
'Spiky and full of righteously raw hardcore ire and art-school pretensions ... would sound at home on Fugazi's Dischord label' (KERRANG!)
Rod: the drum kit and crooning
Kelson: the keyboard & the screams
Tom: the geetar
Ben: the bass and shouting
Following in the footsteps of Lost Prophets, Welsh punk popsters Jarcrew are here to liven up proceedings in their own, unique way.
..... Formed 2 years ago in the Welsh middle-of-nowhere that is Ammanford, (look on your map of Wales for enlightenment) Jarcrew are set to release their excellent debut album 'Breakdance Euphoria Kids', on July 1st through the Complete Control Music label (cat#: compcontlp001). Jarcrew's debut single 'Paris & The New Math' came out to a barrage of national critical acclaim on 27th May. The band will be shortly announcing UK tour dates to support the releases.
..... Jarcrew will tell you that fate took a hand in them forming the band. Whilst all five members were at school together they arrived at school one morning to discover they had all shared the same dream. It wasn't the kind of dream you might expect, like being onstage together, rocking out in front of 20,000 adoring fans. No, this was much weirder.
..... In their dream Jarcrew meet up in a jungle. It's hot and wet. Then the lads witnessed a scene between Axl Rose and Michael Jackson. Axl Rose has a machine gun & is trying to kill Michael Jackson. In something resembling a scene from Predator, Axl Rose is jumping through the trees with Michael Jackson running for his life. Michael falls down a hole & is in a room with Marlon Brando where they have a philosophical conversation. Finally Axl Rose butchers Marlon Brando & is then himself slain by Michael Jackson thus turning him white with fear.
..... Whatever this dream was about Jarcrew read in to it that they should form a band. However, there was a minor problem none of them could play an instrument! So, they set about remedying the situation and one by one got the tools of their trade and learnt to play together.
..... Now that the band have all left school and are all at the ripe old age of 20 years old the future is bright if not a little twisted.
..... Jarcrew's sound is a joyous blend of contradictions. For every insanity infused power chord there is a always a mood swing, a change of sound-scape that is nearly always as evocative as the band is different to what is already out there doing the business on the club circuit.
..... In the spring of 2003, they signed to Gut Records, toured with Mclusky, and are well on the way to super stardom.
(From the website http://www.drownedinsound.com/bands.php?id=4510)
(5) Interview with band member Roddy
Tell us your name, what you do and interesting fact about yourself
My name is Roddy ... I am 21 and play the drumkit in the Jarcrew ... I also work in a charity shop and am a observatory port cleansing technician ... I got monkey toes ...
Where do you hail from and what's it like there?
We are from a town called Ammanford in the valleys of Wales ... what's it like? ... well picture Deliverance mixed with the ewoks and you're halfway there ... everyone is on smack and there is no ambition but apart from that it's ok.
What made you want to be in a band?
The thing that made me, and I'm speaking the other four here as well, want to be in a band ... having all that ... power! At first it was just to be complete show offs even though we had no guitars ... it was Wu Tang Clan obsession ... oh god ask us when we are all jaded 40 year olds ...
How long has the band been going and what have you done so far?
Jarcrew have going for three years this summer. The summer of '99 we played our first show on the last day of school. We made posters with nothing but a photo from a martial arts guide and above it read Jarcrew ... master the power! ... and where the venue was, that's it. When we arrived we noticed about 40 kids in full martial arts gear walking to the venue. Some huge guy with a black belt asked us when the demo started and whether we had enough crash mats. We told him we were a band and never did a day of PE in our lives. We played to no one. That's probably the best band thing that's happened to us as well. Our next show was with the Make Up in Newport TJs. Ian was cool ... even though we played REALLY stupid covers of Creedance songs. We just went from there ... recorded a demo which you guys got then we got the chance to make a single and album by a label called Complete Control music. It's a part of Community Music Wales ... which basically gets kids in deprived areas into making noise and music. We played with the Icarus Line, Lost Prophets, an amazing band from New York City called J Majesty and Wolf Colonel ... all lovely bastards!!
What bands have you been compared to?
The band we always get compared to is Fugazi ... which is lovely but we are into sooo much other stuff ... we will never get compared to the Neptunes or Parliament but you can call us anything ... except those cunts Nickleback.
How famous do you want to be?
We want to walk the fine line between playing a house party with the Dismemberment Plan and doing obscene amounts of coke with Britney in a flashy club ... We can do both without feeling bad?
What's the best band-related thing that's happened to you so far?
The kung fu story ... no contest We savour the experiences ... the moments more than any "career" highlight ...
What were the last 3 gigs you went to?
Trail of Dead in Bristol ... Electric Wizard, Warhorse and the Mighty Sons of Thunder in Swansea ... and Weezer ... all lovely!
What are your unique talents?
I can eat bananas with my toes? Our main giant singer Kelson can drink a pint of top shelf ... (all the spirits in the pub) in about two seconds ... Ben the bass can sit down for long periods of time ... The band talents ... We are all totally free of any cynicism ... And see beauty in the world ...
What are your upcoming plans?
Release our first album BREAKDANCE EUPHORIA KIDS in July ...  just play and play loads of shows ... live!! Experience anything we can ... No career plans ... ever. Make friends and rock ...
What was the best thing about the 1980s?
mmmmmmmmm. Too much to mention but I'd say speakin as a cute chubby toddler of the era ... feeling like your summers would never end ... apart from that, Public Enemy and Minor Threat ...
What was the first ever record you bought?
The song from the Ninja Turtles movie by a really rubbish rapper ... vague I know but the second was MC Hammer ... U Can't Touch This ... ace!
What have you been doing today?
Today I have been at work ... and thinking of witty answers ...
What good second-rate celebrities have you met?
Liberty X, I told them they were taller then Blue.
What have you got in your pockets?
With the demise of Jarcrew people will no doubt return to calling Ammanford a backwater, but then they probably never stopped in the first place. To give an idea of the mental world Jarcrew inhabited while they were still together, we'll leave them the final word from their web site at: http://www.jarcrew.com
"When is a band a band?
.....I just dont know ... is it when the first noises are made by people together ... if this is it then jarcrew have been around forever.
.....We were born making noise ... the first glimpses of the jarcrew was a 11 strong garagepunkhiphop crew called septic eyeballs ... they had t shirts but only one album.
.....They split up but you gotta hear the tape ... strictly hardcore anyway the town we are from is called ammanford.
.....The location has no importance, it might as well be on the moon ... but theres a lot of of grass and trees ... cowboys were everywhere!! We are cowboys too ...
.....Being cowboys is tough ... the jarcrew werent friendly ... we tried to gouge each others eyeballs out several times ... then on a hot summers night ... The five of us met for a duel ... a duel to the death ... a fight to end all fights ... there was blood everywhere!!
.....By the railway track in ammanford is where it occurred if you go there on a certain night you might just see our ghosts.
..... ... that is the jarcrew."
A final question what, if anything, does the name Jarcrew mean? The crew who like a jar? Something mystical that threatens the very fabric of the universe if its meaning is revealed? Or nothing at all? Perhaps someone out there in the deeps of cyberspace knows; if they do, the world is waiting for enlightenment.
Date this page last updated: October 1, 2010