Monday, May 23, 2011

Jylt: One crucial indie-rock discovery from Wales

Jylt: Tim Ramsey , Sarah Howells, Alex Cooper and Nia George (Courtesy photos)
By Andy

Sometimes you hit the play button -- and know that what's beaming back at you is spot-on. Everything falls into place. There's no need to ponder whether the melodic yet biting female vocals, swirling guitar riffs and fluid bass and drums are up your alley ... just like that, it's already a part of you.

Jylt is such a band.

I first heard the indie group's "Retrospect" on Radio BBC Wales while searching the Internet about a decade ago. I felt a similar buzz after hearing bands like Stiff Little Fingers, the Alarm, Bettie Serveert, Thin Lizzy and Minor Threat for the first time. Rock-solid music matched with poignant lyrics -- the perfect concoction.

After sending off a short note to the band -- then in their late teens -- to far-away Milford Haven, Wales, a reply from guitarist Alex Cooper read: "What's someone from Seattle doing listening to Radio BBC Wales?" ... It was almost like throwing a dart at a map -- I chose Wales (maybe because of the Alarm connection) and Jylt stuck with me.

For about two years, I kept an eye on the band from my computer screen -- while sporadically corresponding with Cooper and singer/guitarist Sarah Howells -- and received some packages from the band containing CDs and a "Retrospect" video. They were going places after securing a record and publishing deal.

"When they played live, it was SO right that it made the hairs stand up on the back of yer neck," read one review.


But there was a lull in our connection after a while, and I was wondering what was up with Jylt.

After checking their Web site, I was saddened to hear that singer/bassist Nia George had passed away in 2004 from leukemia at the age of 21.
Nia George

"Without Nia, it hurt way too much to continue, so we lost the band the same time we lost our best friend," Cooper said in a recent interview with this blog.

Jylt disbanded -- and since then, Howells dedicated her Halflight acoustic group's "Subside" EP to Nia and, in her current outfit Paper Aeroplanes, she sings for her friend on "Days We Made" and other tracks; Cooper and drummer Tim Ramsey play together in Persona B (a band, along with Jylt, that Carrie always makes me keep on our mp3 player).

Nia's father, Bernie, and I have been in contact over the years and he released a 16-song CD, "Messages," a compilation of Jylt tracks along with recordings made by Nia that he found after her passing.

"To this day, I can wander to her house and be welcomed by Trish (Nia's mom) and Bernie," Cooper said. "They are probably the strongest people I have ever met, and I love them like I do their daughter."
Nia in full-on bass and vocals mode.
Money raised from the sale of "Messages" go to the Bucketful of Hope Appeal, set up by Adam Evans-Thomas, a Pembrokeshire man who died of leukemia within days of Nia, according to a BBC News article. It aims to raise money both for day-care facilities at Withybush Hospital at Haverfordwest and the hematology unit at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff.

"We have been able to bring these songs together to create a celebration of exciting and happier times," Bernie said in the article. "The CD is both in memory of Nia and a chance to get her music heard by a wider audience and to raise as much money as possible for the appeal."


Cooper noted that playing in Jylt "was the most exciting and safe environment that anyone could ever wish to grow up in."

He wasn't an original member of the band, but one day at school, Nia approached Cooper and said she had something "really important" to ask him and then wandered off without an explanation. Later, Nia asked Cooper to join them at practice, which he did and was soon playing guitar to Crowded House songs.

Cooper was 15, and part of a band that would run through names like Mantis, AGNES, Carbon Sta and Epik before settling on Jylt.

"It was not till we settled on the final lineup that things felt absolutely real. Tim Ramsey joining on the drums gave us a whole new 'rocky' feel. This period saw us focusing completely on the music and each other.  We became incredibly close through this time and the four of us were pretty inseparable," Cooper said.
Nia was a like a sister to Cooper. She was full of mischief and possessed a ridiculously infectious laugh, he noted. "Even when she was ill, she would be more concerned about others than herself," he added. "Stubborn as a mule and very beautiful with it!"

Music-wise, Cooper was blown away by how Nia could sing and play her bass parts with such verve. Her writing wasn't of the excessive sort, it was straight to the point.

But there were a few cracks in her vocal armor, and that provided some fun for the Jylt crew.

"If she did cock up, you would hear her laughing her ass off over the microphone every time," Cooper said. "She could be very stern, however, and the two girls definitely ruled over us boys. Such is life!

"There is still not a week that goes by where I don't cry over that lady.  I will never get over her.  My music took a long time to begin again after she left," added Cooper, who plays guitar and sings in Persona B and just handles vocals in Underdosed. "I may not be very spiritual, but with Nia it's different. I do feel her around still, and the hugeness of her character has affected many people I know that have never met her and only discovered her after she passed away.

"I will always be thankful that Nia helped me become the person I am today," Cooper concluded.

For more information on Jylt, visit and
Alex and Tim.

Sarah with Richard Llewellyn in Paper Aeroplanes (Richard Johnson photo)

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