SUPER FURRY ANIMALS spent much of 2015 peering into the past. The brilliant, witty group oversaw a 15th anniversary re-release of Mwng, a spacy album of psychedelic pop sung entirely in their native Welsh. And they participated in a couple of retrospectives that surveyed the band's 25 years together: Ric Rawlins' biography Rise of the Super Furry Animals and an hour-long TV documentary called The Furry Years that was broadcast on BBC affiliate S4C.
"It's quite a strange experience reading a book about your exploits," says keyboardist Cian Ciaran, speaking over a crackly phone connection from his home in Cardiff, Wales. "A lot of it I didn't remember and a lot of it reminded me of stuff that I'd long forgotten. The documentary was quite weird, too. You went from watching yourself as a 15-year-old to a 35-year-old in the space of half an hour. It's... fucking hell—it's a bit of a whirlwind."
That's a pretty apt description for the band's career as a whole. The quintet—rounded out by singer/guitarists Gruff Rhys and Huw Bunford, bassist Guto Pryce, and Ciaran's brother Dafydd on drums—initially earned attention via headline-grabbing moves like buying a tank from a military surplus dealer, fitting it out with a sound system, and DJing at music festivals and raves from inside it. Stunts like that quickly fell by the wayside on the strength of the sound of Super Furry Animals' own records, which connected the dots between beautifully dazed '60s rock and the loopy joy of '90s acid house. Not for nothing is the band's entry in the mix CD series Under the Influence bookended with the Beach Boys' "Feel Flows" and German trance duo Hardfloor's squelched out "Acperience."
Super Furry Animals have zigged and zagged from those two signposts in always fascinating, if not always successful, fashion. A bit of black metal and Philly soul crept into their masterful 2001 album Rings Around the World, and their love of glam was roughly stitched into the quilt of their most recent, 2009's Dark Days/Light Years. The connective tissue throughout has been an unholy knack for a catchy hook and a lyrical bent towards social and political concerns (their best known single is titled "The Man Don't Give a Fuck").
"It just comes naturally," Ciaran says of their deep interest in global issues. "I think it's maybe a product of where we are geographically and our upbringing. It's really easy to put your head in the sand, but then you relinquish the right to complain. Ignorance isn't always bliss."
The Furries' recent dive into their past has a practical element, too. Until last year, the group had been on an extended hiatus as they all worked on various solo projects and extracurricular ventures. But after a few festival gigs and a bit of work supporting the Mwng re-release, they've decided to hit the road this year for quick tours of the States, Japan, and the UK, with a setlist that cherry-picks from their fairly thick discography.
"We're playing it safe a bit," says Ciaran. "Just these shows with no agenda and nothing to promote. No pressure in some respects. So, no new material, but never say never. It's not on the radar quite yet. Besides, our national team qualified for the Euro soccer tournament for the first time so that's all I can think about right now."