Name: Gareth Hughes
Major: Spanish and French
Gareth opened the door to his South Street flat dressed in his trademark attire—a band t-shirt, jeans and a flannel—(though he jokes that he can do formal, “and sometimes I like to spice it up with a blazer.”)—and after a quick hug, we headed into the kitchen for some tea. As I watched him putter about turning on the kettle, getting the mugs, and doing all the things necessary for tea, it struck me how gentle Gareth is. Even his eyes radiate a soft kindness, which I found amusing when I realized what a striking figure he is: well over six feet, with a well-groomed beard and curly ponytail, he is certainly hard to miss. In fact, he’s one of those people that you seem to run into everywhere once you’ve met: balls, ceildihs, pubs, sidewalks, etc. Thankfully, he is less awkward than I am, and claims to not think I am stalking him. This may or may not be true.
Most people will recognize Gareth as the tall bass singer in the contemporary acapella band, The Alleycats. While Gareth sang before joining the group, this is his first foray into the acapella world, after having the torch passed on to him by his academic father, the previous bass singer of the group. Unfortunately for the Alleycats, this is where the academic legacy stops—for now— as Gareth is going to France for his third year abroad, leaving behind no heirs. The Alleycats are not the only group in our fair kingdom who will feel the absence of the great Hughes. Four-piece blues rock band, The Retrophobes , will also mourn the temporary loss of their bass player. I went to go see their final gig of the year at the Blue Stane, and while the band as a unit was impressive, with a high quality of playing and a good sense of humour, Gareth really stood out. This is most likely because he is the only member of the band I know, but also partially due to his unconventional performance in a duet in which he used a bow on the strings of his bass, like a giant horizontal viola. Two words: Mind. Blown.
When asked how he balances the demands of two bands and his course work, Gareth humbly replies, “It’s not impossible to do both…music and language are an important part of who I am.” As we discuss other societies he participates in, mainly Quaich Soc and Celtic Soc, Gareth goes on, “there’s so much to do at Uni, the actual degree is just a tiny part of why we’re here.” One of the reasons Gareth chose to come to St Andrews, as opposed to a university closer to his home near Liverpool, is the “allure of Scotland…it’s unique in it’s own aspect.”
Gareth has certainly embraced this new Scottish culture. No where is this more evident than his living room, where band posters hang in harmony next to a map of Scotland’s whiskey distilleries, and the bookshelf is more of a display case for the various whiskeys Gareth and his flat mate James have acquired. When I jokingly remark that all whiskey tastes vaguely like nail polish remover to me, Gareth seizes an opportunity to showcase his knowledge. He remarks on the various flavors, and craftsmanship of different blends and malts, before discussing the differences between Highland whiskeys such as Talisker and Isla and those distilled in other areas of the country. Though he hasn’t yet settled on a favorite, Abelour whiskey, a single malt from Speyside, is certainly on the list (just in case anyone wanted to buy him a goodbye present…)
The conversation soon turned towards Gareth himself, and his personal style. As mentioned earlier, Gareth has a laid back style that suits his personality well. Band t-shirts (preferably black) and jeans are his staple, though I can personally attest to the fact that he can seriously rock a tuxedo. When I ask about his long hair, the conversation flits back to music momentarily, “I wouldn’t be long haired were it not for the long haired musicians I admire” (I’m sure he mentioned some examples, but I accidentally deleted the transcript from my phone as I was leaving the flat, and didn’t write them down. My journalistic integrity is really showing, I know). “For now,” he continues, “I’ll keep it, I can’t imagine myself differently. Who knows, in a few months, I could decide to cut it all off.”