Resound caught up with Welsh trio The Bug Club last week before they downed some pizza and performed the Dundee leg of their Scottish Tour at the city’s Beat Generator Live, talking us through how they keep it fun with their laid-back attitude, plans for 2023 and the right wee boost Marc Riley’s given them.

Guitarist/vocalist Sam Willmett, bassist/vocalist Tilly Harris and drummer Dan Matthews have been touring relentlessly for the last year, with support slots, festival appearances and more often than not now, their own sell-out shows. But they reassure me they’ve still got homes to go and are simply keen beans who love nothing better than performing their contagious blast of cheeky, lo-fi garage rock live, which gives them “a genuine picture of their fans” according to Sam, which is something they care more about that any listening figures. 

The band have been championed by Radio Wales’ Adam Walton and BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley, who jumped on their first single, 2021’s We Don’t Need Room For Lovin’, saying “It’s ACE…. It’s bloody brilliant”. Well, only a fool would argue with that, but then again, even a fool can sing along to their alphabet of lyrics which feature in the two minute track. He’s continued to fling an array of similar compliments at their music, including 2021’s mini-album Pure Particles and last year’s Green Dream In F# as well as having them in for sessions on his evening show.

But they honestly didn’t expect any of their music to be played on the radio, with Tilly confessing that Sam initially kept track of their radio plays in a little book which is no doubt now pretty full. Ah, Sam brushes that comment off quickly with a blush but he didn’t deny it, and I’m sure he’s not alone! He tells us that he didn’t even know playlists were a thing until they were included in one, adding

what’s nice is that you can’t bribe Marc Riley either, he just won’t play it if he doesn’t like it, he’s genuine and for so many people, he’s been their entry point to The Bug Club.” 

As for taking any credit for the growing interest in their music and live shows, Marc has in the past shrugged it off, telling them “if you were rubbish nobody would go and that’s the bottom line.” Spot on!

There’s an old soul to their sound, harking back to the likes of Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers and The Kinks. But is this a conscious effort? Sam says they don’t like to overthink it, 

I suppose we do rocky, catchy songs, you know, the bare minimum…with just three of us it can get boring quite quickly if you hang onto stuff for too long so we keep them as short, simple sounding songs which end up being quite stripped back. People might say we’re lo-fi, garage and all that but it’s not a conscious thing, it’s just what we like the sound of and there’s no real effort to sound a certain way.” 

This stripped back sound lends itself well to vinyl, their first pressings selling out as soon as they’re up on Bandcamp. With second pressings now available and of course digital and CD offerings also up for grabs, Tilly says they’ve really got back into CDs recently and discusses how a particular format can determine the flow of an album and how they’re a bit old school and didn’t use Spotify until their material was on there. Sam elaborates on this “I love it that you can’t skip stuff on records – when we did the Intelectuals recording, it ended up being around ten minutes long, but the artsy-fartsy way was going to be more like half an hour, a one take thing… though we decided that was all a bit self-indulgent. But really, it’s five songs in one which you can’t skip so it feels more like a record.”

There’s something truly refreshing about their laid-back attitude and far from being the stereo-typical rock band fighting through the crowd to become stadium superstars, they’d rather enjoy the moment than worry about how many records they’ve sold. Their music’s a sweet but never sickly tonic, their light-hearted performances punctuated by fuzzy hooks and Tilly’s deadpan banter. But is this ‘fun band’ image a misconception, masking a depth and at times darkness which can be found some of their lyrics? Nope, it doesn’t appear so, Sam quick to say that it’s essential to keep things “fun and fresh for the gigs…you can have your lyrics meaning something with a bit of depth but still keep things fun. That’s the mood, really.” Tilly agrees,

we’re not really interested in that whole serious thing – why are you doing it if you’re not having fun? I don’t think there’s any seriousness in it, but if there’s any at all, it ends at the song-writing door.”

This outlook has lent itself well to their foray into matinée gigs earlier last year which were child-friendly, allowing parents and those working evenings the chance to catch them in action. Sam laughs, recalling the little kids knee-sliding around the venue, Tilly adding that there were a few cartwheels and efforts to do the splits too. Thankfully the considerably older audience of the Dundee gig don’t engage in such activities later on…the ambulance service is stretched enough as it is. In a set up reminiscent of school discos, Sam tells us that the boys hung about on his side while the girls watched from Tilly’s end. Ah, some things never change and matinée gigs are a great idea which more bands should consider, even with language barriers such as those prevalent throughout The Bug Club’s one minute track A Love Song. So how did they deal with that nippy wee blast of the F word as they sung “how many times can you say f**k in a love song?” They reply “crud” in unison.  Ok I was just asking… but into the bargain, the song also works on an educational level, encouraging counting to nine. And of course another benefit to the child-friendly matinée is that a whole gang of kids are now naming The Bug Club as the first band they went to see…result!

The Bug Club live in Dundee 26.01.23 | Pic: Calum Mackintsoh

The trio clearly gel, Tilly commenting that “it definitely feels like Dan’s my little brother”, Dan grinning as he says of their tight-knit friendship “the better we know each other, the quicker and easier it makes everything we do.” This as also reflective of the amazing relationship they have with record label Bingo Records and manager Dave from Trust Management. Bingo Records is a small independent run in part by Mr Ben from Mr Ben and The Bens, who also creates the wonderful artwork for The Bug Club’s record sleeves and t-shirts. Tilly explains 

we’ve alway made sure we’ve got a bit of a friendship with them (Bingo Records and Trust Management) and it’s not just business. I think that’s why we’ve gone a bit DIY really, and having such a great relationship with them makes everything we do a lot easier.” 

Sam agrees, adding that when it comes to small labels there are inevitably blurred lines and although there’s “not a lot of money to splash at us, the benefit is that you have the freedom to do what you want to a larger degree.” So, if a big label did come along with an offer, who would they choose? “Bingo” cries Sam without a second thought, the others nodding enthusiastically in agreement. I think that’s the correct answer guys!

So what does 2023 hold for The Bug Club? Well the bad news is they’re unable to take up their slot at March’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas but the good news is, they’ve signed a deal with We Are Busy Bodies who’ll be releasing Pure Particles and Green Dreams in F# in North America in April. On the back of all this it looks like there’s a possibility that they’ll be hitting the States later in the year to spread the word of their pretty music. But whatever happens, it sounds like those lurking across the big pond are in for a bit of a treat. 

Meanwhile, over here the band have plenty more gigs lined up to keep their heating bills down, with festival appearances being firmed up, an appearance at Brecon Beacons’ Green Man already confirmed. The busy buggies are also about to go back into the studio to start recording and it sounds like an new album is in the pipeline, and perhaps something else they won’t quite disclose…ah they’re a right bunch of teases this lot, though Sam did say “surprises” and I’ve got my suspicions after witnessing the evening’s funny business later on…

With that, pizza’s up (and down, and up according to Tilly who later confesses to the queasy crowd that she may very well puke on them). It’s art, I guess… 

Check out our live review of The Bug Club at Beat Generator Live, with quirky support from Bikini Body and mysterious bug-like imposters, Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits >>

Green Dreams in F# and a whole load of other little beauties are available here:

Words: Shirley Mack @musingsbymarie
Pictures: Calum Mackintosh @ayecandyphotography