CVC: South Wales rockers’ joyous, outrageously groovy rebirth

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. The six-piece honed their vintage psych sound on Cardiff’s music scene – but now they’re unafraid to jump into the unknown

Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach is not simply a venue, but an institution. What started as a Welsh Language social club in the 1980s gradually evolved into a space steeped in musical history: it’s where The Strokes sold out one of their first UK shows back in 2001, and an early incarnation of The Killers played two years later. As the place of many formative gigs, performing at the 380-capacity room is a bucket-list goal for bands that develop their sound through grafting around the Welsh capital’s touring circuit.

CVC, a gang making danceable psych-rock gems, however, are perhaps a convention-breaking anomaly: in October 2019, they sold out Clwb Ifor Bach before they’d even released an EP. While performing, the six-piece – lead vocalist Francesco Orsi, guitarists David Bassey and Elliot Bradfield, keyboardist Daniel Jones, bassist Ben Thorne and Tom Fry on drums – found themselves marvelling at the scope and compassion of the community that raised them. Their band name – an acronym for Church Village Collective, named after their hometown located 11 miles north of Cardiff – represents their congregation, as Jones explains to NME today: “CVC is full of sub-members: the people who supported us at Clwb, anyone who lives in Church Village, and those who are yet to discover us…”

Speaking to Orsi, Bassey and Jones in Brighton the morning after their stonking debut appearance at The Great Escape festival, our conversation is as charming and unpredictable as the band themselves. They seem only ever one step removed from a tangential discussion about their stage outfits, which include cowboy hats and garishly patterned shirts. “Next time we play a festival, we’ll have to take a week off work to go charity shopping beforehand,” Jones says. He reconsiders this for a second: “But I’m not sure how to explain to the others that I’m already planning on wearing diamond-encrusted Speedos!”

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“If I were to watch ourselves on stage, I know I’d love the show because there’s so much energy,” Orsi says of the previous day’s performance, which saw the band air material from their forthcoming debut EP, ‘Real To Reel’ (due September 16). CVC’s warm and delicious songs feel as though they should ooze from windows all summer long: lead single ‘Docking The Pay’ floats along with chiming percussion and airy gang vocals before its riffs soar into the stratosphere.

Credit: Dan Hall

For CVC, the EP is a bold and rhythmic revamp. A few months after their performance at Clwb Ifor Bach, they wiped all their previous music from streaming platforms, following the departure of two previous band members, for reasons which they will not divulge today, other than “they broke the moral code.” Bassey continues: “When we did that show, we realised that we’d sold out the best venue in Cardiff, so we felt almost invincible. But prior to that, we’d played so many smaller gigs that we got ourselves a tricky reputation. It got to the point where it was obvious that everyone was thinking, ‘Oh, of course, bloody CVC are playing tonight.’”

Their collective eagerness to not only establish themselves on the Cardiff scene but to break out of it, too, meant that they were “emailing and phoning promoters incessantly” to play support slots and charity events. This, however, resulted in arguments over how omnipresent they were becoming at venues across the city; after a short and much-needed break, they drafted in Fry and Bradfield as new members and began work on their currently under-wraps debut album, which was recorded with one mic in the kitchen of Bradfield’s flat in 2020.

Orsi says that, with “whispers of some label deals”, the band won’t re-record their old songs with the new lineup. They instead want to focus on twisting their loose, lively, tie-dyed psych melange into intriguing new shapes. “Everybody’s on the same wavelength now. It felt natural to start again; it would have been unfair on the others to keep going on the way we were.”

To move forward, the band simply “just needed the right person to listen to us”. They found that in one of their managers, Jonny Bradshaw – formerly of Domino [Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg] – who they got in touch with over lockdown. Throughout the interview, he keeps finding reasons to hover around us, offering smoothies from the café across the street and barely concealing his pride.

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Life in CVC is now both efficient and unhurried. This summer, they will play a host of festivals across the UK, including TRNSMT and Reading & Leeds. But they say that they are approaching each new opportunity with a newfound calmness; the focus is no longer on how many gigs they can play within a year, but about how they can use this second wind to fuse sincerity with showmanship.

“This [success] really has been a long time coming; not just for us, but for our families, too. We’ve always had their support, but now we’re playing fucking Reading & Leeds; at the level we’re at, you can’t do much better,” says Bassey, who half-jokes that the band’s progress has given him the impetus to reach out to his distant relative, the legendary vocalist Dame Shirley Bassey, whom he’s never met. “When we headline Reading one day, she can join us on stage to sing ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. It would be a belter.”

“We want people to keep the faith in us,” Jones concludes. “We’ll always be indebted to Cardiff, but sometimes it’s nice to play gigs in cities where nobody knows you by your first name.”

CVC’s debut EP, ‘Real To Reel’, will be released on September 19

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