The esteemed British electronic duo of Tom Findlay and Andy Cato are set to bliss out Caerphilly Castle this July, for their first south Wales date in forever. Ryan Heeger plays catchup.
Given the sellout success of Pete Tong and The Heritage Orchestra in Cardiff Castle last July, it’s safe to assume that many of the same clientele will make this Sunday pilgrimage and pay their respects to one of the UK’s longest-standing electronic/live crossover acts. While Tong’s event employed the recent phenomenon of reinventing ‘Ibiza classics’ by adding the classical element of an orchestra, Groove Armada have been pioneering a similar sound since their beginnings, most notably channelled through Andy Cato’s iconic trombone on At The River and Superstylin’. Both of those tracks are pretty much guaranteed in a GA set, as are some fine guest/regular vocalists and MCs, such as dancehall/reggae artist Red Rat.
“Red Rat is sadly not with us at Caerphilly,” says Tom Findlay, the other half of GA along with Andy. “But we have a brilliant soul singer, Veba, plus MAD [the voice of Superstylin’] and Saint Saviour, who sang on a lot of tracks from our Black Light album like I Won’t Kneel and Paper Romance, so we’ve got ALL the bases covered. We got the offer of playing the castle, and had heard amazing things about the venue, so it was really quite easy to say yes.”
With Judge Jules having also visited St David’s Hall at the end of May with Janice Robinson and the London Concert Orchestra to represent Ministry of Sound’s The Annual Classical, do GA see the rise of the DJ with orchestra as something to be revered, or competition for the trail they have blazed?
“I’ve seen Pete’s show a few times and I really like what they do,” Tom confirms. “They invest a lot of time and effort in recreating those tracks, and the production of it all is amazing. So essentially good luck to them, there’s room for all of us, and I love the fact it’s all properly live.”
It’s been nine years since they’ve put out a full studio album – the aforementioned Black Light – and four years since their contribution to the Moda Black series with compilation and remix hybrid, Little Black Book. With such a big date looming here in south Wales, can we expect new material and even an incoming album?
“There’s lots coming,” Tom reveals. “We’re working on a new record that should come out at the end of this year, or the beginning of next, depending how firmly we get our skates on. It’s sounding really good, and we’re working with some great singers. There’s also a GA21 compilation coming in July around the Caerphilly show that should pull together everything we’ve done in the last 21 years.”
It’s been over a decade since the band last performed in Wales, and 10 more before that since this writer saw them on the Ericsson tour at Cardiff Uni’s Great Hall with Hybrid and Paul Van Dyk. To make it such a historic venue is to return with something of a flourish that should bring out plenty of ex-clubbers who now only venture out for an event such as this. But what is it about their brand of dance music that endures?
“I guess our love of all the best things in the genre cuts through,” explains Tom. “We’re lucky to bring out all the semi-retired ravers, plus a younger generation. Everyone has the chance to engage with music across all genres, and that’s a wonderful thing. To be honest, we’ve not had as much experience of Welsh crowds as we’d like, so this one should set the record straight, and if it all goes well, we’ll see y’all again in 2020.”
You’re well advised to arrive early for some warm-up fun in the sun (hopefully) with very worthy opening act – and the founder of Cardiff’s now sadly defunct Plastic Raygun label – Jean Jacques Smoothie, even if it’s just to throw shapes to his 2001 blinder 2 People.
Caerphilly Castle, Sun 14 July. Tickets: £40. Info: www.orchardlive.com