Bemis bounce back as they return to The Wedgewood Rooms for festive shindig

In early summer Bemis frontman Gareth Howells was floored by a run-in with Covid.

Saturday, 18th December 2021, 10:41 am

The frontman of The Guide award-winning folk-rock band was hospitalised, and in a bad way with ihs family fearing the worst.

But Gareth has thankfully made a full recovery, and his band are now looking forward to returning to The Wedgewood Rooms' stage for their annual Christmas show.

‘I'd had one jab and was a week away from the second,’ recalls Gareth. ‘I ended up in hospital on two drips and a ventilator – it was pretty serious and we were all pretty scared.’

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Portsmouth folk-rock band Bemis are at The Wedgewood Rooms on December 19, 2021

One of the things which helped him through the experience was the support he received from friends and fans.

‘I couldn’t believe the amount of messages I received. Without exaggerating I had thousands of messages. I did feel that at least if I did go, someone would go to my funeral!’

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The virus also affected Gareth’s voice, leaving him unable to talk properly, let alone sing, for several weeks.

‘I was so scared about not being able to sing again because that's what I love the most. When I first managed to get about a minute's worth done, I sent a little video to the band which was really cool, and we all had a bit of a moment because I was getting better.’

It was a turning point for Gareth, and gave him the confidence to push forward with their slot at Victorious Festival.

‘I didn't want to cancel it, and it was getting close. I was telling them they could do it without me, and they were saying “no”. So I said: “Okay, I'll be there, even if it's just to talk between the songs”.

‘But in the end Victorious was just as it should have been and we did a good set.’

Bemis’ last album, their ninth, was After Hours, which came out in May 2019. The pandemic stalled work on the follow-up, but Gareth says the wheels are turning.

‘We've got tonnes of material, and we would have recorded half of that by now. But we raise the money to make the albums from the gigging, so because we haven't been gigging as much we haven't had the money!

‘We're dying to do it – it's going to be a big one. We've made the decision on which songs we're going to record and it looks like it's going to be about 15-16 tracks, which is from all four songwriters as well which is cool.

‘And Ritchie (Leo)'s back in the song-writing pool now as well, which is great, because he formed the band with me.

‘We wrote our first song together for about seven years, which is really good.’

Ritchie and Gareth started Bemis back in 2006, with the line-up fluctuating over the years.

‘The core line-up is seven people now, which allows us to put all the harmonies in the songs.

‘We're notorious for having loads of guitars at the front, and to be honest, I'm not going to play guitar in most of the set on Sunday because there's already so many guitars.

‘We're all going to be there on Sunday – it's going to be a night of extremes! Some songs will have 10 people on stage, and then there's going to be one song where there'll only be one member of the band on stage – and it's not me.’

During lockdown Gareth was a keen livestreamer – doing dozens of Facebook Live shows from his home in Southsea. And they also had a practical purpose – helping his son and Bemis member Louis fund his university degree.

‘I did quite a lot of those. It was quite a good earner for Louis, because we ended up getting quite a lot of money for his uni in the first few months of lockdown, which was great.

‘It's not the same as being in front of people and it took a while to get used to – certainly as a frontman you're used to bouncing off of people. But we still had a good time, it was just different. I'd recommend it just to keep you match fit. When we finally had gigs again, some of the band hadn't played in ages. It gave me a reason to keep practising!’

Bemis are at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on Sunday, December 19. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.

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