2. Play What You Want
Welsh band, Toy Horses, seem destined to break into the mainstream with their inventive, exciting and instant indie gems.
The Toy Horses story is a fantastical whirlwind indie-tale quite literally based on chance happenings, lucky coincidences and internet 'word-of-mouth'.
Their melody-fuelled, radio-ready songs are what made them an accidental success after they posted demo versions of songs on Myspace last year. Tracks were picked up by Radio 1, 6 Music and gained repeated "Demo of the Week" accolades on BBC Wales as well as becoming a "Featured Band" on Myspace and XFM. Within a very short space of time they were flying out to America to record their debut album with Wilco's Ken Coomer (who stumbled across their myspace page and fell in love with the songs) as well as being US radio guru Nic Harcourt’s pick of SXSW.
If you take in to consideration that all of this has happened without any active self-promotion on their part, you start to see a genuine viral phenomenon.
The rather unconventional pairing of Adam D. Franklin and Tom Williams are, for all intents and purposes, step-son and step-father but certainly not in the traditional sense. The indie-duo blur the assumed family generation gap and jigsaw perfectly together to create an inspired musical partnership. They forged an unusual bond through their shared passion for songwriting, which flourished as they spent time perfecting their lyrics and harmonies. Their affinity for 60s sounds is evident in their melodic, playful tunes, which hide the melancholy of Adam’s often tragic, poetic lyrics. Having written music together for their own pleasure, the two decided to put some of their songs up on the internet for friends and family to hear. When these started getting radio play out of the blue, they began to play gigs in Cardiff and quickly built up a loyal local following.
At this point Toy Horses were playing as a duo and didn’t have a backing band despite the full sound of their home demos.
As multi-instrumentalists, part of their charm is Tom’s use of the rather extraordinary looking electric ukulele, as they switch between a variety of guitars and keyboards, with duelling vocals and gorgeous harmonies. Yet it is the strength of the songwriting that draws people in - usually a total collaboration between Adam and Tom. The sound recalls hints of the British bands from the 60s but updated with a stunning modern edge to become very accessible, hugely enjoyable and highly memorable. From heart-rending ballads such as ‘Last Chance’ to the indie rock of ‘No One’s Ever Gonna Leave You’, they mix quirkiness with a keen pop sensibility.It was the strength of the songs that caused Wilco's Ken Coomer (subject of the fascinating documentary I’m Not Trying to Break Your Heart and now a record producer in Nashville) to contact them with an offer to record the album. They flew to the States and, oddly, the home of country music, to be joined in the studio by Ken and Jim Bogois (Counting Crows, Sheryl Crow) on drums and Tim Marks on bass (who has played with Taylor Swift and just about every major country artist you can name), thus taking their very British sound to another level entirely.
On the fast track to breaking the States before their first single had been recorded, the band went on to play SXSW and were booked at the showcase by one of the most influential figures in American music, Nic Harcourt (credited with launching the US careers of the likes of Coldplay & Dido). They went on to be his pick of the festival and were invited to do a live session in LA on his own KCRW radio show (the ultimate ‘tastemaker’ show in America). They've also been approached by J. R. Rotem's Beluga Heights in L.A. who were so impressed that they have invited Toy Horses to write for some of the worlds biggest selling artists including Jason Derulo, Sean Kingston etc.
For a Welsh duo about to release their début album and embark on their first UK tour, the fact that they've already played the legendary LA venue Spaceland with Wilco's drummer and Frank Black’s bass player is no mean feat. They’ve leapfrogged several stages in a band’s metamorphosis to become one of the most hotly-tipped bands of the next decade.
2011 catapults this incredible band from cyber-space success into full blown reality as the band launch their breathtaking debut album (released on their own label, Albino Sparrow Records) alongside a full UK & European tour.
This is a band that must be given a listen – again and again and again!