Swansea-based indie punk pop singer songwriter Helen Love – who can count the likes of Phil Jupitus and Dave Gorman among her celebrity fans – has been churning out infectiously unforgettable pop ditties for over two decades now.
Always happy to namedrop her hometown in her songs, she regularly references Swansea’s glorious bay, with local landmarks such as the old Top Rank nightclub and the city’s Marina cropping up in her lyrics and videos.
This month sees the inaugural Helen Love all-day festival take place at The Lexington in London – an event which sold out almost immediately – and on Monday, she’ll be releasing a new, free single in memory of one her favourite poets, our very own Dylan Thomas.
Helen credits the bard, along with Vernon Watkins and Nigel Jenkins, as being one of her three favourite things to come from the city, and has been a fan since childhood.
“I suppose it was just reading Under Milk Wood in school,” says Helen of her first experience of the wordsmiths’ words.
“I found it amazing that this genius was from Swansea – one of us.”
Ever since then, she’s been happy to spread the word far and wide.
“When we were in America, we kept Bob Dylan waiting – thanks to Joey Ramone – in this rather posh New York studio.
“We took great delight in telling him we came from Swansea – Dylan’s hometown.
“I don’t think he believed us, mind!” she laughs when recalling the bands adventures in America with the punk rock pioneer.
This was a period which prove to be highly influential in the band’s development, and her fondness for The Ramones, which she regularly references in her music, hasn’t diminished with age.
“I still love The Ramones – the greatest band in the world,” she says.
“Perfect, two minute bubblegum pop songs with fuzzy guitars. How could that be bettered? It’s genius in it’s simplicity.
“Staying with Joey in New York for a week was amazing,” she adds of the frontman, who would later invite her to perform on the track Mr Punchy on his album Don’t Worry About Me, released posthumously in 2002.
“He was so kind and generous, and it wasn’t a bad place to play our first ever show.
“We met his mum and his brother and hung out in The Village, and he recorded a duet with us for our Punk Boy track off the Love and Glitter Album.
“I played it for the first time in years just recently, and I forgot the he sang: ‘From Swansea Bay to the USA’ at the end of it.
“How cool is that?”
Very cool indeed. And this promoting of Swansea is something Helen has done remarkably well again on her new single, Where Dylan Thomas Talks To Me, available to download on Monday, and with the video available to watch on the Evening Post’s website the same day.
As the name would suggest, the song is a tribute to our favourite son, and the video features Swansea Bay in all its glory.
“It will be good that our fans in America and Europe get to see where we live – sunny Swansea!” she says of the video.
“We did the video ourselves. It’s a very lo-fi, cut and paste job, but I think it works well,” she explains of the creation process, a DIY approach which also applies to the songwriting.
“I’d love to say the songwriting is rocket science, but of course it’s not,” she admits.
“It didn’t take long to write – some may say it sounds like it!” she jokes.
“But hey, it’s a punk rock tune.”
But the song doesn’t just celebrate Dylan, with Helen using the tune to highlight another issue – and poet – close to her heart.
“I’d like to see the cycle path from Mumbles to Swansea being renamed The Nigel Jenkins Way after the man himself,” she explains of the sadly missed Swansea University lecturer.
“It idea started off as a nice line in the song, and I sent it to Angharad – Nigel’s daughter – and she thought it would be great if it did really happen, and I agree with her.
“He was a complete one off, a fantastic writer and poet, a maverick, a punk rocker, somebody Swansea should be really proud of, and I’m happy to be joining the campaign. I’m not sure what Swansea City Council will think about it, but I don’t really care. For us, we already call it The Nigel Jenkins Way.”
And finally, if Dylan were about today, what would Helen’s ideal way of celebrating his birthday with him in Swansea be?
“I would bring back The Coach House,” she says of the former Wind Street venue where many local bands cut their teeth.
“When I was growing up in Swansea it was all about The Coach House, watching bands in the cellar, and hopefully, one day, being good enough to play there yourself.
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