Blackwood is in a village in South Wales, explained the Welsh duo, Into the Ark, as they discussed their humble beginnings, travels, aspirations and eventual successes prior to their show on BergenPAC in Englewood, May 4 at 8 p.m., opening for their mentor turned friend, Tom Jones.
Dane Lloyd and Taylor Jones met at a rugby club charity event and quickly struck up a friendship. Using their commonality of music, the duo decided that they needed to see the globe, play music and create an identity.
“We were just in Tunisia about three years ago, playing covers and things to try and make a bit of money and travel the world,” said Lloyd. “We knew we wanted to do original music and we knew that we needed a name as well to follow with. We were picking a load of names and that’s the one that stuck really. Taylor’s mother said we were clever because there’s two of us and it’s two by two, but I can’t lie: That’s not the reason that we picked it.”
Deftly leaving this subject behind, they moved on to another one: the nuts and bolts of their wanderlust. “The main thing was traveling. We knew that we wanted to backpack and play music. Australia, Tunisia … it didn’t matter where we really started. It was just more about seeing the world and playing music.”
Ah, but the allure of opportunity quickly engulfed them and, wanting to ultimately be absorbed by a label, they returned to the U.K. And, once there, things began to develop.
One of those things was a spot on the U.K. version of “The Voice.”
“After leaving Tunisia, we were signed to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, as writers. We were writing music and then started touring the U.K. and a bit of Europe (but) it hit a standstill after two years. We were really running out of funds and we were kind of at the last resort as far as continuing music or not.
“Then we were asked to do the show and, seriously, we were like, ‘Nah, no way do we want to do this.’ Then they gave us a bit of background of what type of artists are on the show and it was really credible and we had a lot of freedom of what music we sang and picked and basically the prize of the show was a record deal — which, obviously, that’s always what we’d been aiming for.
“So we decided to go for it in the end and at first we thought, ‘Well even if we make it to the first round on TV, it would help us with an audience and getting bigger shows,’ and then we kind of went, ‘Well, to each their own’ (after advancing) every week and it kind of shocked us, but that’s a good thing.”
Being one of the finalists in the competition and having Tom Jones as a vocal coach doesn’t hurt either. This illuminated the paths that led to their recording an EP called Valencia, which is due for release on June 22 via Blackwood Records.
“It’s a five-song EP and we also just signed a record deal earlier this year and we’ve started our first full-length, so we are working on that now. We recorded it like in the ’60s, had a lot of fun with it and recorded most of it in one take. It was more about having some fun with the artsy side of us before we start doing more mainstream stuff.”
The relationship forged with Jones during their run on television has paid huge dividends: a spot as openers on his North American tour.
“Tom Jones is amazing; he is such a nice guy. We are both from similar valleys in Wales, so all of our mannerisms are very alike and we hit it off from the start. Watching him perform every night allowed us to learn how to be onstage and he has really looked after us; it’s been amazing. Some of the shows we’ve been doing are 18,000 people and we’ve never done anything like that before.”
And what was that like, stepping onstage in front of that many cheering faces for the first time?
“The first time it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying. We popped a tire on the way to the show in the van and we remember being glad it happened in the end because we were so focused on fixing the van and getting to the gig that when we were onstage, it kind of took a bit of the fear away.”
Showing a bit of their youthful exuberance, they recounted the moment when the call came that Jones wanted to make them an offer. “We were shocked, really. We had talked about it hypothetically, like ‘What if he takes us on tour with him?’ When it happened, it blew our minds, but it didn’t feel real until we were actually onstage in front of that many people.”
Besides their opening set, they get a bit of a bonus. “Yes, we do like three songs with him a night, but we’re not sure if that’s a secret. Ah, go ahead and tell them. Let’s put it out there anyway.”
So what can those attending the BergenPAC show expect from this talented duo? “We’ll be on the road about five weeks, around 20 shows. The Englewood show will be our second show so there will probably be a bit of nerves to start with, but music-wise, it’s very vocal-driven — like Simon & Garfunkel harmonies, singer-songwriter songs as well as some soulful acoustic. A mix of everything, to be fair.”
Into the Ark will be very busy this summer. After this tour with Jones and the continuation of crafting their debut album, they will be hitting the U.K. festival circuit.
For more information, visit intothearkofficial.com.