The colourful Cardiff six-piece on the joy of living in every moment of their rise
Church Village Collective are currently living out their dreams in real time. Boyhood friends from a quiet parish town on the outskirts of Cardiff, last year CVC put their years of gigging together to work as they huddled inside guitarist Elliot’s kitchen to record their debut album.
Get Real, released back in January, is a sparkling and smiley trip across the warm, vintage sounds of yacht-rock, psychedelia and chamber pop and has propelled the six-piece to one of the year’s biggest breakthroughs – a feat that perhaps seemed inevitable after their packed Great Escape performance in 2022.
In person, their Welsh charm is as free-flowing as it is on their record. As Elliot and singer Francesco and keyboardist Daniel join us from Newcastle during their UK headline tour, their euphoria feels fresh and flush on their faces. Though, as we later find out, that may just be the effects of a visit to a local sauna…
I’m catching you mid-tour. Has it felt different this time around now that your debut album is out?
Francesco: It’s been crazy. Having people singing back to us and have obviously bought the album and learnt the words.
Daniel: Yeah it’s a bit nuts going to places we’ve not been before and them being sold out, because we’ve usually had to work hard for it, you know?
Elliot: It’s getting to the point now where if I forget the words, I’m looking to the crowd to get the words to the rest of the song. Last night I forgot some words and there was a guy at the front row screaming them at me, so it’s a reliable back up.
Francesco: We’ve had someone up on stage before. I don’t think it went down that well. It didn’t go viral anyway.
Your debut LP pulls in influences from the likes of yacht-rock, folk-rock and psychedelia, chamber pop. What was your founding mantra?
Elliot: I think it just happened naturally, really. I don’t think there was any direct path that we followed, it was just a combination of all our influences. There’re six of us, and obviously we all listen to different kinds of music so it all just got funnelled into our own.
Francesco: Yeah, he’s right. We all have completely different tastes in music, and we all just came together over that summer and just went into it without thinking about it, and it just came out the way that it did. It shows off all of our interests at the time I think, and what we were trying replicate on our record.
Daniel: Naturally your own influences are going to seep through into the music you’re making, that goes without saying, but that’s why every song is so different and why we don’t know where the next song’s going.
You started out as a self-professed ‘jam band’. What was the process of finessing that into a recording and touring band?
Francesco: I think the thing is, we were just playing Cardiff so much without the aim of writing an album. We were just enjoying gigging and messing around. Then we just wanted to take it a bit more seriously, and the album was the step forward we wanted to make, so we created it and then I think we started to become a little bit more professional and think about things a lot more. We’ve just gone on from there and are trying to move as quickly as possible now.
Elliot: I think we’d all been gigging for so long in other bands that by the time we got together, we all had the same vision. We wanted to take it in the right direction and make it professional. This tour is really cool because it feels a bit like the fruits of our labour are starting to pay off a little bit, and you can see that in the crowd’s reaction and they way they’re speaking to us.
Daniel: It’s a good foundation for us too, I think, because the first album is like an introduction to us, like the best songs we had thrown together. I think on album two we’ll go up another level and think more strongly about the concept and how they all fit together.
Elliot: World domination by album three.
Daniel: Ha, yeah. But more storytelling, you know? Creating an actual piece of art is the goal.
You mentioned that you’ve been gigging a lot for a long time, talk to me a little bit about how the group came together and your previous involvement in the Cardiff music scene?
Francesco: We’re all from Church Village, and we were all just doing little covers gigs in local pubs when we were younger to earn some extra cash. It kinda just turned into something from that. We can all write our own music and we have some talented musicians in the band, so we just started practicing and playing as much as we could together. We’ve all been close friends from a young age, so it felt like a natural step trying to get a band going really. It all happened in a blink of an eye though, it feels like yesterday.
Elliot: I’m the latecomer to the band. I joined just before we started making the album. I saw Dave playing guitar for someone else on Facebook when I was 16, and I was like “f*cking hell, he can shred”. But I didn’t like the guy he was playing with, so I was like, “here’s my songs, come and play with me”. Eventually I joined this band, and I think we’ve got a really good line-up going on.
Francesco: Yeah, it’s the dream line-up.
You played a sold-out show at Clwb Ifor Bach before your first EP was released. That might sound like a big leap, but that’s far from the truth isn’t it? As you said, you were playing a lot in Cardiff…
Daniel: Yeah we’ve paid our dues. We’ve played some very sh*t gigs.
Francesco: Yeah some horrible ones, but that one was great, something that we just grew organically around Cardiff. It was basically just all of our friends and all the people we’ve ever gigged with coming together and having a big old party. Massive family vibe. But we’re happy we’re managing to attract people from outside Cardiff now.
Elliot: It’s a hard city to break out of. There’re so many talented bands that don’t get out of there, and I don’t know what that’s down to, maybe a lack of grassroots venues or other reasons, but I feel like we’re very lucky to be in the position we’re in. We don’t take it for granted.
That show must have felt like a turning point. Have there been any other significant moments like that?
Francesco: A lot of the festivals have been pretty surreal. We’re used to playing places like Clwb Ifor Bach, so it was pretty nuts that we were playing on main stages at festivals last year in big top tents and getting really decent crowds. Everything’s been a big stepping stone, almost, you keep getting more interest every week we have a gig.
Daniel: I just find it mad when we play a gig and I don’t know anybody in the crowd. Like, “who the f*ck are all these people and how did they find out about us?!”.
Francesco: I think at the moment we’re always expecting the least, because we’re used to that, and then we’re getting into these crowds and they’re absolute beasts.
Elliot: Last night was a big point for me, I think I looked up and saw everyone and just realised that they’d actually paid to come and see us. It’s what I’ve been working towards all my life, and I’m so happy in this moment. It was a pinch yourself moment, and it feels like every gig right now is a turning point.
The album itself seems to capture that enthusiasm too. Tell me about the process of making it. How did you bottle that genuine sense of fun in the confines of a kitchen?
Elliot: Very naturally! It was like, let’s just stick this mic there and see what it sounds like. It wasn’t very professional, we were just figuring it out as we went, and I think you can hear that on the record. I think it gives it character.
Francesco: Yeah, we were having a lot of fun making it and I think that comes across. There are lots of little parts, like in ‘Winston’ where we’ll leave in something someone’s saying in the background while someone’s doing a take, or me laughing at the end of a track.
Elliot: We were actually asked to take all that talking and chatter off the album, but we pushed to keep it on, and that’s kinda what makes the album what it is, to me anyway.
Daniel: We produced it, didn’t we, so having executive control over everything was good for that album because it let us show who we are.
You’ve got some huge shows coming this year such as Bonnaroo festival, and then you’re supporting Ian Brown. Are you taking these in your stride?
Francesco: Yeah, when you actually think about it, it’s f*cking nuts. But, for me anyway, I’m just taking it as it comes. I’m not trying to think about it too much, because I just like to enjoy it in the moment. Otherwise I’ll start building sh*t up in my head and I’ll start to get a bit nervous.
Elliot: It is still really surreal, like. I don’t think you really ever get used to it; every time you go on you’ll get butterflies. But it’s a fine line between being excited and nervous, it keeps you on your toes I suppose. Keeps the people wanting more.
Francesco: Yeah, also we’re just recording recording recording at the moment. Trying to get album two finished and see where we go from there.
What else is on the to-do list for the rest of the year?
Daniel: Gigs outside of the UK would be nice, I think that’s the aim. We’re going to Europe in the summer.
Elliot: And more saunas. We’ve just been to a sauna and had a fat steaming session.
Daniel: More saunas, more pints, more music.