Looking at Chris Richardson’s long list of songs with Cincinnati in their title, I came across a strange one, even by his standards. In 2017, Welsh band My Name Is Ian released the album Cincinnati Cola, with song titles like “Harambe” and “Spring Grove Cemetery.” Looking at their website and other sources, I learned the band took a retreat here in 2016, witnessed the shooting death of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo, and wrote “Fight, Drink and Watch People Die on TV” after overhearing a conversation at Sundry and Vice in Over-the-Rhine. Further, it’s the first in their planned “19,345 Cities” project—an album per city. With that info, plus the fact that I loved their music, I wrote to bandleader Reginald Foxwell (pictured above right with his bandmates) to find out more.
How did you happen to be taking a band retreat in Cincinnati?
Funny enough, our trip to Cincinnati in 2016 was actually inspired by humdrum real-life in our hometown of Cardiff, Wales. I was working in a bar where the standard brand of cola we served was Cincinnati Cola, something we never actually found there! That’s where the album name obviously came from, but it also must have triggered some intrigue within me. As a band, there was no particular plan when we went there; we saw it as much as a holiday as a band retreat. But it was a beautiful place. We had a great time. Lots of hangovers, culture, and inspiration (mostly stemming from the Pendleton area we were staying in) that led to us producing the album about a year later.
What were the circumstances by which you witnessed Harambe’s death?
Ah, Harambe. I think calling us “witnesses” may be a slight exaggeration. We weren’t in the enclosure or on the fence. And not actually even in the zoo, as it happens! But we were there in the city at the same time, and it felt weird. I don’t know if it was just our mood, but everything felt quite strange afterwards.
Have you made any progress on your “19,345 Cities” project?
The short answer here is no. It is a bold project, and even the selection of the remaining 19,344 cities beyond Cincinnati has been difficult. But we’re planning on doing another album relating to Milwaukee, just down the road from you. We’ve made a lot of friends at Marquette University on the internet over the last few years and figure that writing an album about a place may somehow force the universe into letting us play there. We are also eyeing up Chicago. Ultimately, either way, we’d love to come over to the U.S. and do a three-city tour: Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cincinnati. That would do us.
Anything else you want to add?
Only that we had the best time there. We’ve not been lucky enough to come back since, and with the world the way it is we’re not sure when we will be. As I say, though, we loved the States and the scale of everything. Oh, and say Hi to Adam at Sundry and Vice if he still works there!