As the British neo-folk revival swept through his hometown of London recently, singer and multi-instrumentalist Huw Williams admits he had a coveted bird's-eye view of the scene that launched Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons and the artist then known as Jay Jay Pistolet — Justin Young, who would go on to form The Vaccines.
That's because his equally rustic outfit The Melodic knew those artists quite well.
"We used to play gigs with all of them, back when we were just starting out, and they've all really exploded," he says with no hard feelings. "But they were taking purely English and American folk influences, whereas we were bringing in this Latin American sound, and more of a reggae and West African feel."
Ergo, it took The Melodic — which debut in The City next week — just a little longer to find its sound, which now incorporates exotic instruments such as a compact Andean lute called the charango, a 21-stringed kora African bridge harp, banjo, ukulele, clarinet and melodica.
The band finally released its first EP, "On My Way," featuring delicately plucked, almost medieval-sounding ballads such as "Roots," "Hold On" and the title track.
A full-length followup, "Elfra Parade," hits shelves in November, home-recorded in a converted bedroom studio.
In his gritty neighborhood of Brixton, Williams was the odd man out growing up. While his classmates were delving into garage, dubstep and American hip-hop, he sank deeper into his father's vintage folk collection, discovering songwriters like Bert Jansch and the work of archivists Cecil Sharp and Francis Child.
Meanwhile, his chum Rudi Schmidt was exploring similar records and teaching himself to play mandocello, dulcimer and a coconut-housed uke called a cocolele. He grew so fascinated with the charango, he traveled to Bolivia to study and tour with its reigning master, Ernesto Cavour.
"We weren't completely isolated characters. There are other people in school that we got along with," Williams says of his friendship with Schmidt, which soon evolved into The Melodic.
"But we started learning guitar together when we were 16, and we were both really into inspiring each other to push our musicianship further. And now we play all sorts of stringed folk instruments, but we're taking in influences from many other places, and from poets like Pablo Neruda and W. H. Auden."
The Melodic's album title provides a unifying theme, adds Williams, 25.
"The Elfra is actually a river that runs underneath the streets where we grew up, an underground river that you never see," he says. "We never knew it was there, but it was this thing that we all had in common."The Melodic
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $10 to $12
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com