"You could trace a line from Teenage Fanclub to Slowdive, perhaps we’d fit in-between the two, or perhaps we were a bit heavier" - Swervedriver talk to Soundblab - Interviews - Soundblab

"You could trace a line from Teenage Fanclub to Slowdive, perhaps we’d fit in-between the two, or perhaps we were a bit heavier" - Swervedriver talk to Soundblab

by Rob Taylor Rating: Release Date:

Hi Adam, and thanks for speaking with Soundblab. The new album, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You, has been in the pipeline for a while now, with singles 'Deep Wound' and 'Setting Sun' released in 2013 and  2014 respectively. Also Autodidact is out there as a video. How are the fellas feeling about the new album ?

We’re all really pleased with it. Yeah, there’s been three tracks out there now, we put out the single a couple of years ago ['Deep Wound'] and then we started getting ideas together. We found that once you’ve got that one killer song, that everything flows on from there. In the end it was quite quick, the ideas were coming thick and fast.

The shoegaze label was always a misrepresentation of Swervedriver. My view, which is shared by a lot of people it seems, is that you were a gritty rock band with a penchant for great hooks. Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah. We’ve all thought that really. It came about because we were on the same label as these bands that were called ‘shoegaze’, and we were friends with a lot of those bands. We played with My Bloody Valentine very early on, in 1986 or thereabouts, and this was way before the term ‘shoegaze’ was even conceived. They were playing very different music, we were also playing different music, and somewhere around 1990 or 1991 the shoegaze phrase was coined.

I pulled out a Creation Records 1983-1999 compilation I own, and the insert contains a fold-out family tree of Creation artists. It suggests your immediate predecessors were Slowdive and Teenage Fanclub. It's interesting that even the Creation label had a vested interest in compartmentalising you along with those bands. I don’t know whether you saw Swervedriver as very similar to them though.

Back in the day, you never necessarily thought about it. There was a period where bands were sort of developing, and we saw a lot of those bands around that time, before they’d even put a record out. Perhaps they had one record out. You’d go and see them in the back of a pub somewhere, and it was before there were names for scenes or a genre. Everything was more open-ended.

At some point, as you say, thing get compartmentalised. You could trace a line from Teenage Fanclub to Slowdive, perhaps we’d fit in-between the two, or perhaps we were over on the other side, being a bit heavier and noisier. I guess ultimately, in the end, being in that genre [shoegaze] works in our favour.

Anyway, it turned from being a derogatory term, and [these days] you get blogs online, with 'The Top 20 Shoegaze Albums You Must Hear'!  Some 20 year old kid in the Mid-West that's getting into that stuff, and they’ll go to your album because its listed. In the end, it benefits us more being part of a scene.

With runs on the board, its not going to harm you.

Yeah, its funny, I think of shoegaze as being something else, and then when you hear calls of "shoegaze legends”, you think, “Hang on a minute, I’m not shoegaze!”

I was reading an interview with Jimmy Hartridge he did a few years ago, where he commented that you probably spent more time listening to Black Sabbath than Jesus & Mary Chain. I didn’t take it too literally, but then again, listening to a song like 'For Seeking Heat' (from Mezcal Head) that observation can be given some credence.

Yeah. I think in the end it’s all sorts of music. You don’t necessarily like every band of every genre, you might not like heavy metal, but you might like Black Sabbath, one of the leading lights. Everyone just cherry picks what they like. Even amongst the so-called shoegaze brigade, there’s lots of different influences on those bands. Sometimes we’re compared to bands that sound nothing like us.

On that point, the other day I was listening to an old Sub Pop compilation (Subpop 200) which compiled stuff on that label in the 1990s, bands like Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Screaming Trees. In my view, these may more accurately be regarded as your soulmates than bands in the Creation Records roster.

Yes, we certainly thought so. Creation was really the last label we gave our demo to. We recorded this demo and we were handing it out to people, and the very first label on our list was Blast First Records. Blast First was a subsidiary of Mute and they put out bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jnr.

However, as it turned out we were friends with Mark from the band Ride, and he handed the demo to Creation. Creation was the first label to get back to us, so we thought "Wow! We’ll sign to them." Eventually about a month or so later, Blast First got back to us and said “We love this record, we want to put it out”, but we had to say sorry, we’ve already signed to Creation.

I have a copy of a book published by Melody Maker entitled The History of 20th Century Music, a pretentious title if there ever was one, and there’s a section on British music in 1990-1994. I could find no entry for Swervedriver, a travesty I thought. Is that a reflection of the lukewarm response you got from the English press, and has that improved over time.

[laughs] I don’t think Swervedriver was massively lauded at the time. I think people were instantly curious to hear the band, partly because of the label we were on, and there was no doubt Creation was great exposure for the band. Maybe they thought “These guys aren’t up to much”, and it was more in the US and Australia that we had more respect.

There were so many bands on this little island, or in the whole of the UK, and there was, then, three weekly music newspapers. It became two, but, it was almost like an overload of stuff going on. Over time that has changed. The band influence is now there, and people want to hear us play. Some of the other bands that were lauded are now long gone.

What struck me is how great the older songs like 'Duel', 'Sandblasted', and 'Scrawl and Scream' still sound even now, and I wondered whether the new album, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, veers towards the classic widescreen sound of Raise and Mezcal Head. Is that an accurate perception?

It’s difficult for me to say, really, because a lot of it is intuitive. You come across an idea, and you think “This is going to be good”, and then you develop it, and it's difficult to assess which record it’s more like. I’ve heard people say that some of the new songs like 'Setting Sun' sound like Ejector Seat Reservation, or someone else says “It sounds like Raise”. For us, I can’t really differentiate, I’m aware that the third and fourth albums, and the first and second albums roughly go together, but I can’t judge it.

When we were discussing doing the new album, the reality is we knew we had to come up with ideas, and that’s what dictated the sound in the end. It doesn’t matter how much you discuss what sort of album we should make, it depends on what tunes you come up with. 

We did think we should go back to the source, the things that influenced us at the start, even reading JG Ballard’s Crash (a classic novel from 1973 about car-crash sexual fetishism), a book I read at the time, and which inspired some of the lyrics.

I remember when we did our first demo, I did a little compilation tape and it had things like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jnr., Husker Du and bands like that on it, and I slotted in these two songs we’d recorded, just to see if they stood up, and then there was a party going on in London in a squat we were living in and I put this tape on and then those tracks came around and if everyone had stopped dancing and talking and having a good time then I would've thought, "Oh shit, these tracks have blown the vibe!" But they didn’t, they carried on so. We sort of figured, we’re in a good space here, and I updated it and created a playlist which has a lot of those songs on it, and put in a couple of the new songs, and it stood up against those.

On the new album, as with those that came before, you have this remarkable facility for writing a great tune, a great hook.

For me, it always comes down to the tunes in the end, it's pop music. Me and Jimmy listened to a lot of T. Rex and The Sweet and bands like that when we were kids, and you mentioned Black Sabbath; the thing about Black Sabbath was that Ozzy was a massive Beatles fan, they were his favourite band, and Black Sabbath were incredibly melodic. They may have had the guitars tuned down and been playing chugging riffs, but there was always something really good and melodic going on over the top.

The album was partly recorded in Melbourne, Australia, right?

We were playing in Melbourne, and we had a couple of days off in the middle, and it's, “Let's try and see if we can find somewhere to record”. We found producer Lindsay Gravina at Birdland Studio, which is a legendary studio, a lovely studio, some lovely guys there, and we went in for a day and got five songs out. 

We played it live really, the guitar sounds are exactly what’s on the record. ‘Red Queen Arms Race’ is pretty much a live recording, as is the last track on the album ('I Wonder'). It was great and a lot of fun.

Finally, congratulations on outliving all the record companies you’ve recorded with!

I hadn’t thought about that. Creation Records, A&M Records, Zero Hour, they're all pushing up the daisies and we’re still out there, it's great!

Swervedriver's excellent new album, I Wasn't Born to Lose You is out March 3. Scroll down for US tour dates.

Tour Dates

03/04 San Diego, CA - Casbah
03/05 Los Angeles, CA - Roxy Theatre
03/06 San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall
03/08 Seattle, WA - Neumo's Crystal Ball
03/09 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
03/12 St. Paul, MN - Turf Club
03/13 Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon
03/14 Chicago, IL - TBA
03/15 Grand Rapids, MI - Pyramid Scheme
03/16 Cincinnati, OH - The Woodward Theater
03/17 St. Louis, MO - The Duck Room @ Blueberry
03/19 Dallas, TX - Club Dada
03/20-21 Austin, TX - SXSW
03/23 Atlanta, GA - Terminal West
03/24 Durham, NC - Motorco
03/25 Washington, DC - Rock & Roll Hotel
03/27 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg
03/28 Cambridge, MA - The Sinclair
03/29 Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer

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