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The Vega Bodegas

The Vega Bodegas - JSF Featured Artist

It was great to meet you in the Brecon Beacons the other weekend, I had a blast. Running Punks, JSF Runners & Primal Roots taking their lives into their own hands and legging it down black slopes, that's living! You told us some cracking stories that I'm sure our community would love to hear. Let's start with the new track, I've blasted it out on my run this morning.

It was lovely to meet you too. That weekend in Brecon really inspired me. I think sometimes when you’ve overcome your own battles, they feel so personal and unique to you, that you forget other people are on the same journey as you. Being able to share all we’ve been through, whilst running down a mountain was really invigorating and motivating.

It felt symbolic in a way because we were all quiet for the climb, but really opened up and bonded as we raced down with gravity on our side.

I’m so glad you like the new song. We were really nervous about putting that out because a five-minute song full of strange imagery and stream of consciousness lyrics is not the normal way to return to making music. In the end, we went for it because it seemed like the exact moment the band became rejuvenated again after some time off. Haha.

I have lost a few fish during the lockdown, but our guitarist Marc has lost a tank full of them. He just can’t keep them alive.

The song got its title because Marc and Jamie recorded a demo of it together and emailed it to me. They were on a roll and I had something like ten demos in my inbox. I asked them to stick any random song title on each file, so I knew which was which. They called this one All My Fish Are Dead and it was the perfect place for me to start when I wrote the lyrics. I wrote it over a couple of months. I’d listen to the instrumental version while running and would think about what kind of messages I wanted to get in there. 

As soon as the song took shape in my head, the lyrics flowed really quickly.

I kinda always wanted to do a running video for it as a thank you to the Running Punks Community because they helped me fall in love with music again last year. I’d gone through a phase where I only associated music-making with bad times.

I kinda got the feeling nobody was into the band, and that made me feel rubbish. I didn’t want to go through the process of promoting music again because I was embarrassed by it. The Running Punks Community changed all that though, because making music suddenly became about expressing and being yourself, rather than seeking approval.

I saw freedom in music again, and when you feel that, no level of rejection can touch you. You know you are doing something that makes you healthy and happy, and that’s all the matters. I probably wouldn’t have felt that way again without the love that came from my Running Reviews.

It suddenly felt acceptable to be me and allowed us to create what we want as a band. So yeah, the music video is a thank you to all those crazy runners out there who’ve helped me love myself for who I am again.

Oh, my word.

I nearly passed out making that video. If you watch it carefully, you can see how much I slow down after a minute. I was choking on my own words. In the end, I had to walk for the breakdown bit.

Oh, I also genuinely lost my footing at the end. The plan was to stumble, but when I came to doing that, my legs were so dead, I actually fell face first in the sand. The beach was really busy too, so I had a lot of worried looks.

What are the plans for the band now we can move around a bit and play shows? Have you got any tours lined up and how is the track being received? I saw it made one of the KEXP playlists which must make you happy as it’s a cracking radio station. I’m interested to know how the various lockdowns affected the band & your creative output, would you say it hampered what you were doing at all?

Yeah, KEXP has been incredible. All My Fish Are Dead was in the top 20 most played songs on that station last month. We never thought that would happen, and I don’t think it’s happened to a Welsh band before. The reaction from America has been amazing, and we’ve had some lovely messages about the song. I believe we are going on tour with an incredible band in September, but I can’t say too much right now until it’s all sorted.

We’ve also just done some filming for a new TV series that comes out next year in this country and America. Again, I can’t say too much, but we got to play ourselves in an episode and the show will feature two of our songs. The cast is incredible and contains one of my favourite comedy actors. So yeah, that’s going to be massive for the band when it comes out.

We’ve been okay with staying creative during the lockdown. We’ve been exchanging home recordings for a while now and we’ve written the next album that way. I’ve really enjoyed the process because it’s allowed me to try more things lyrically and vocally. I’m really limited with my range because I’m not the best singer, so it’s nice to experiment with new ways of delivering songs.

I think I might have seen your old band, Future of the Left somewhere in Camden back in the day. Forgive my ignorance but didn’t you do pretty well? I may be wrong here but did the band start to pop off at the same time as your running career or was it the other way round?

Yeah, that band was pretty successful. I joined them a few years after I stopped running.

Talking of running, please tell us about the World Indoor Championship in Moscow, that story is so good…

Haha. Is this the one about me going crazy on the start line before the semi-final? Yeah, I lost the plot a bit then because people kept telling me to enjoy the moment, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In my youthful arrogance, I probably took that as them saying I had no chance of making the final, and I should just go out there and enjoy the experience.

Well, that got me going crazy and as I walked to the start line I started shouting and yelling. I was saying things like “you’ve got no chance today” to the Olympic 800m champion. It was wild. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so up for something in my life before.

It worked, because as soon as the gun went I shot straight to the front, ran my own race, broke the Welsh record, and qualified for the world championship final. It was at that moment that I realised life was about proving yourself right, and not worrying about proving people wrong.

It’s also when I started telling myself that life, sport, and anything in between, was about More Than Just Turning Up. That is now the Running Punks motto.

Running Punks – what’s that all about then and how can folks get involved? I feel there is definitely a synergy between what you are doing and JSF Runners. Maybe there is scope to collaborate on something at some point? JSF Running Punks has a nice feel to it…

Running Punks is a beautiful online community. It’s free to join. All you have to do is let us know how you’re running is going, tag us in your posts and let the good times roll.

We do sell merch too, so if you want to dress like you’re one of the gang, that is very much appreciated! We also have a virtual run club every Sunday, where Running Punks from all around the world share their runs and music.

It’s growing every week and it is absolutely astonishing. I think we can definitely collaborate at some point. Our goals are very similar and we have the same approach to running.

And finally, your album reviews whilst running fast are bonkers – you must scare the shit out of people as your flying past them… can bands submit music to you? How does it happen?

Haha! I have scared a few people. Luckily most people around here know who I am, so they see me coming and leave plenty of room on the path. When I first started doing them I was worried someone would get annoyed with it, but everyone I see gives me a big smile and a thumbs up.

I’ve even met a few people while out and about shopping and being normal, who have stopped me to say the Running Reviews have given them the confidence to start running. Yeah, bands can contact me online and send their stuff for me to run to. I get about 3 or 5 requests a day, so the list is quite long. I promise I’ll try and run to your music if you get in touch though.

Anyway, thanks for your time mate, let’s keep in touch.

Thank you so much! I really enjoyed that! See you soon.

—interview ends—

Links to support The Vega Bodegas:

https://thevegabodegas.bandcamp.com/
https://www.runningpunks.com/

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Without People You’re Nothing – Joe Strummer

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