Accompanied by a sombre, felt, period-dressed puppet (representing Mr Evans), Super Furry Animals’ former frontman Gruff Rhys retraces this distant ancestor’s incredible journey from North Wales to New Spain. John Evans was a Welsh farmhand who in 1792 set out to discover if the legends of a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe called Madogwys were true. Venturing into this unchartered wilderness with only his “golden tongue” and Welsh charm to get him food, friends and shelter, Evans’ journey is truly fascinating. This impressive film, written by Rhys, chronicles his many explorations in a sometimes irreverent yet extremely educational way.
During Evans’ search for this fellow linguistic tribe, he defected to the Spanish, hunted bison, got imprisoned a few times, kept replacing one nations’ flag with another, walked endlessly while surviving bouts of malaria, wrestled the odd alligator as one does and drew up a meticulous map that would be used by future famed explorers Lewis and Clark – this and much more, all achieved in his 20s.
Told in black and white, Rhys – an eccentric musical performer – is also an engaging presenter, giving fresh relatable insight and remaining thoroughly likeable throughout. Watching him create songs and play gigs along the way adds another enjoyable layer in conjunction with the many absorbing and compelling contributors he encounters – including the last Native American male fluent in the almost extinct Mandan language (sadly not Welsh) and a sensationally spirited New Orleans tour guide who delightfully dispels a few voodoo myths.
Continuing Rhys’ desire to go beyond music, American Interior is a multi-media project arriving in four formats. Rhys does have experience with multi-platform concepts, as evidenced by previous album Praxis Makes Perfect. The record is about left-wing Italian activist and publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, released with Rhys’ group Neon Neon, and was accompanied by a theatrical production in collaboration with National Theatre Wales.
In the case of American Interior, alongside this expertly directed and enjoyable film by Dylan Goch, is a 13-track album, a book described as “a psychedelic historical travelogue” that combines walking in Evans’ footsteps with Rhys’ own enthralling road trip, and even an app containing 100 entries recalling Evans’ astonishing tale. As Rhys explains, he’s “blurring the boundaries and possibilities of songwriting, music, literature, film and technology to create a multi-sensory experience telling the incredible true story of John Evans.”
American Interior is released nationwide on 9th May 2014.
Watch the trailer for American Interior here: