English guitar-smearing royalty Swervedriver have, across their 30 year history (albeit with a decade of inactivity in the middle), carved out their own unique musical niche, the bands effects-pedal laden sonic nirvana seeing them rightfully exalted as underdog-icons of early 90’s indie rock.
Earlier this year they pleasingly resurfaced with their seventh long player, the rather excellent ‘Future Ruins’. And for Australian fans the joy was two-fold, with the band announcing a run of shows that will come to fruition in mid September. Regular visitors to our shores across their three decades in the biz, the band are once again looking forward to entering our Antipodean orbit, according to amiable front man Adam Franklin, on the line in the wee hours from his home in Oxford, England; “We have always really resonated in Australia for some reason. It’s a situation we’re very happy about, because it’s always fun coming back. It’s very far away and it costs a lot of money to get there, but we can go there on the back of a tour and hang out for a bit, which is fantastic!”
Talk turns to the recently released ‘Future Ruins’, the album furrowed in the shadows of contemplative disquiet, holding a mirror to the malaise of our current times with a knowing, world weary eye. But don’t peg it as a downer, as the bands renowned, Jazzmaster-infused guitar tones inject the experience with warm swathes of psychedelic guitar washes, their famed dynamics transporting disciples to the bands 1998 mantra of space, travel, rock and roll.
The albums title track spells out the state of play with typical Swervies panache; “We are ruled by fools, These are future ruins, Rocket fuel, Force-fed rules..” Says Franklin of the albums genesis and coming together; “We were offered some studio time in LA, at the conclusion of a run of dates playing the ‘Raise’ and ‘Mescal Head’ albums in their entirety. And we ended up coming back with something like 30 different tunes. So then the question was, how are we going to cull this down to an album? And I suppose one way of looking at it, was choosing which songs had common lyrical themes or ideas. So that brought it down to about 13 tracks. There’s still some really great tunes that are ‘in the can’ as they say, where maybe a vocal melody or a lyrical idea wasn’t coming to me. Before we recorded I had ten songs that I thought would become the new Swervedriver record and in the end only four of those ended up being on the final album.” So in some ways it was like putting together a play list or a mix tape.”
From the hard hitting punch of ‘Mary Winter’ and ‘Good Times Are So Hard To Follow’ through to the contemplative slow-burn of the Mogwai’ish ‘Radio Silent’ and the sprightly, pop infused delight of ‘Spiked Flower’, the album sits together as a remarkably cohesive whole. The band also display a pleasing propensity to fiddle with the base template in the form of the sing-speak mood piece, ‘Everybody’s Going Somewhere And No-One’s Going Anywhere’ (a ‘title of the year’ contender, surely!). Says Adam: “It’s definitely one that doesn’t sound like a Swervedriver song!”
Which leads to a discussion on diversifying ones sonic repertoire..”That avenue where you haven’t gone down before as a band, that’s what you want to do, you want to be testing yourself. People always come back at you and say, hey, I wish you’d do something more like (first album) Raise again! But for us there’s no tangible way of doing that. When we did Raise, we went in with the songs we had and that’s the way we played them at the time, that’s the way we felt. Which is the way we’ve done every album. You don’t think about it in terms of – we’re going to do a faster album, or a heavier album”.
As for which song off the new record resonates with Franklin the most; “I think ‘The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air’, that’s one song that every now and then, I fancy listening to myself! It’s kind of rare that you want to listen to your own stuff. You might hear holes in it, or you know it too well by that point. That’s where playing songs live is what reignites tracks, because that’s where they come to life again, in a room full of people.”
Be sure to ignite (or reignite, as the case may be) with the sonic wonderment that is the Swervevdriver live experience, when they perform at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley on Saturday, 21 September. They’ll also be touring around the country, with further shows scheduled for Thursday, 19th September (Melbourne), Friday 20th February (Sydney) and Sunday, 22nd September (Perth).