On the surface, our upcoming American Interior event explores two journeys across the United States. The first was made by Gruff Rhys, who documented his “investigative concert tour” as a book, a documentary film, a solo album and an interactive app. He's going to be talking with Iain Sinclair, whose own journey across America formed the basis of American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light.
But it's not quite that simple. Rhys' journey follows in the footsteps of his ancestor, John Evans, a Welsh farm-hand who ventured to the New World. Evans was in turn attempting to reconstruct the journey of the legendary Welsh prince Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, said to have discovered America three centuries before Christopher Columbus. In the process, Evans produced the first accurate maps of the Missouri river: maps which enabled Lewis and Clark to explore the American West. And Iain Sinclair's expedition made reconstructions of yet more American journeys: those of the Beat generation - Malcolm Lowry, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Gary Snyder - along the interstate highways.
These journeys seem to multiply at every turn. But then, so much of America's history is a history of movement: of explorers, colonists, immigrants, pioneers and nomads. What Rhys and Sinclair manage to do so well is illuminate how these paths interweave across history, and across the vast landscape.
You can watch the trailer for the American Interior project above, or listen to Iain Sinclair discussing American Smoke on our podcast. There's also a wonderful interview with Rhys over at the Guardian, where he discusses apps, disappearing languages and felt puppets - and there are some lovely reviews of the album over at The Quietus and Pitchfork.
Gruff Rhys and Iain Sinclair will be at the Bookshop on 15 July. Book tickets here.