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The story of Paper Aeroplanes is as heartwarming and poignant as one of their songs. Vocalist Sarah Howells suffered a great personal loss, leading to her meeting guitarist Richard Llewellyn and their subsequent realisation that they were meant to make music together. Now they’re ready to reach their widest-ever audience with their much-anticipated third album ‘Little Letters’.
Sarah began life in Milford Haven, a small industrial town in Pembrokeshire, and Richard was bought up in Tresaith, a picturesque coastal village on Cardigan Bay. At the age of 13, Sarah began composing songs, realising quickly that music was the career path she would take. Later in her teens, her band Jylt were on the verge of national success when bass player, and best friend, Nia George was diagnosed with leukaemia, from which she tragically passed away at just 21.
Following a period of soul searching, Sarah felt compelled to continue writing and singing. She joined forces with Richard after he stood in for Nia in the Jylt line-up. In 2005, Rich and Sarah formed Halflight, who quickly caught the attention of the Welsh media. They self-released 3 EPs and supported artists like Gossip, James Morrison and the Cheeky Girls (!?), before moving away musically from Halflight, forming Paper Aeroplanes in 2009.
The duo have released two albums, ‘The Day We Ran Into The Sea’ and ‘We Are Ghosts’, as well as three EPs. In the process, they’ve gained considerable recognition amongst some prominent champions of new music, such as 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, Cerys Matthews, Chris Hawkins and Lauren Laverne and Radio 2’s Bob Harris. Radio Wales are also big supporters of the duo, helping cement their ever-increasing reputation in the principality.
Paper Aeroplanes have toured extensively around the UK, selling out venues and building up an increasingly solid fanbase. Audiences are instantly captivated by Sarah’s hauntingly distinct vocals, which have the ability to hush even the most stubborn of crowds. Last year alone, the duo played over a hundred dates in the UK, including festivals such as Hay, the Isle Of White and Secret Garden Party. They also have a growing German following, touring there a couple of times a year.
The ever-growing popularity of Paper Aeroplanes has enabled Sarah to relinquish her coffee shop job, where she’d perfected her waitress smile and milk-frothing skills. Indeed, it’s Sarah’s love for cafes which inspired her to come up with an inventive marketing approach to expand the duo’s audience in 2011. They recorded a four-track EP in Richard’s spare room, which they offered to a number of independent coffee shops around the UK. The cafes gave away a CD with every purchase, and in return the band promoted the coffee houses on their web and social media sites.
Aside from writing striking folk-tinged songs inspired by personal relationships and misty Welsh mountains, both Sarah and Richard have been known to moonlight on dance tracks. This unlikely side-project kicked off in 2008 when well-known British trance producer Lange approached Sarah to feature on his track ‘Out Of The Sky’, when he was spending time working in Cardiff.
Since then, Sarah has become an increasingly significant presence on the global dance scene. She’s written songs for major dance DJs and been featured on some major club tracks for the likes of Paul Van Dyk, Markus Schulz, John O’Callaghan and Dash Berlin.
“The contrast between my trance career and Paper Aeroplanes is huge, but it’s that contradiction that I love.” she says. “I get to experience both sides of the lifestyle coin – staying in five-star hotels with well stocked mini-bars in South Africa and Singapore, and then coming home to get the National Express to Cardiff to record with Rich in his flat.”
Spring 2013 sees Paper Aeroplanes releasing their third album ‘Little Letters’ on May 13, on Navigator Records. The new record is co-written by Sarah and Richard and produced by the duo alongside Phill Brown (Talk Talk, Bob Marley, Laura Marling), with the initial recording sessions taking place in Yellow Fish Studios, Lewes, and the remaining tracking taking place in Richard’s Cardiff flat.
“The album is a step away from our previous recordings – it’s more full band-based, with a darker edge.” says Howells. “The lyrics are more raw and honest, and we dig deep down into our personal lives and past relationships. We also take inspiration from our rural Welsh upbringing, which I didn’t really appreciate until I moved away to the big cities of Cardiff and now London.”
Watch them fly.
“Little Letters is another exemplary addition to (Paper Aeroplanes’) catalogue, a truly beautiful album of perfect pop vignettes – affirmation if it is needed of the mounting acclaim that surrounds them. ……a band on the edge of greatness” – Folk Radio – Album of the Month
Upcoming tour dates
No shows booked at the moment.