As SWERVEDRIVER hit town this week, Mary Boukouvalas chats to Adam Franklin about Future Ruins, touring Australia, country pubs and Indian cuisine.
Was the production process similar to previous recordings?
Yes and no. We once again brought ten songs to John Catlin to mix and we also recorded straight after playing some live dates but the way we got to those ten songs was different. Necessity being the mother of invention, recording after playing live dates seems to make sense because we’re all together in one place and we’ve all just been playing live in front of audiences and that means our energy levels are up, I think – everyone’s loosened up and got their chops together! But this time we had a bit more studio time so unlike I Wasn’t Born To Lose You where we had just the ten songs that we recorded, this time we decided to record whatever ideas we had lying around and so ended up with 30 separate recordings. So the period between initial recording and later overdub recording was kind of all over the place – in a good way – with a huge sprawl of tunes to look at. In the end a decision had to be made as to which songs would make the final cut and it was simply a question of which ones did I have vocal or lyrical ideas for, which brought it down to about thirteen. Some of the other recordings will yet see the light of day I’m sure.
Briefly explain the song-writing process for the readers. Do you all work out your parts separately and then bring them all together?
We basically had these thirty ideas – I think twenty were mine and Jimmy had ten – and these were in the form of home demos, some of which had drum or bass ideas, some of which were just like tiny sketches with a guitar or two. Some of the songs get cut up, for example Spiked Flower which was Jim’s demo and then I got a vocal idea and hacked up his arrangement to fit the words. Other songs weren’t even really supposed to be there, such as Everybody’s Going Somewhere and No-one’s Going Anywhere which was a little instrumental demo I had recorded one day and forgotten about until our engineer TJ Doherty heard me play it in a hotel room when I was searching for something else. He said “what’s that?” and I said “oh nothing, I was looking for something else” and he said “no, play it” and then “we’re recording it tomorrow” when it finished.
What are the stories behind some of the songs on your latest release?
A lot of it has ended up being reactions to the endless crazy shit that has been going on in the world lately and has then spiralled out into historical news and warnings from history perhaps. Golden Remedy’s lyric is largely taken from lines from an article I read about East Germany’s Stasi in the post World War Two period and how they were in some ways more sinister than the Nazis just before, simple because this was half a populace snitching on the other half on behalf of the state. In these times of extreme division that struck a chord with me – and yet the chord struck was quite a summery Beach Boys one.. I rather like how that song has this dark Cold War theme and yet the music sounds like a warm summery Californian day at the beach.
Which track was your most challenging/rewarding, and why?
Honestly none of it was a particular challenge and all the ideas were initially put down fairly speedily. Quite often my basic guitar went down as a guide to build the drums up with and I was thinking I would replace it later and play the parts ‘properly’ or whatever but when we came back to it we thought, “guitar sounds great! Keep it.” The most time we spent on anything was Jimmy’s solo on Drone Lover which he ended up taking out of the studio and doing at home anyway before me and TJ hacked it up. Some songs develop a life of their own – final track Radio-Silent seemed like an understated mellow jam at first and then ended up as this colossal, emotional slab beyond which there was nowhere further to go which is why it had to be the end.
What, or who, inspires you?
Anything goes, you know.
How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
Hmm, you’d probably want an album to be a tasty Indian meal with leftovers in the fridge for the next day, surely? I’m only saying this because there’s currently some leftover Indian in the fridge, mind you. A single could be an ice cream lolly or something.
How do you feel about touring? Are there any on-the-road anecdotes you can share with us?
Touring can be exhausting and exhilarating in equal degrees. There are times when you have to go onstage and play when you’re completely fucked up by jet lag or whatever and the last thing you’d wanna be doing is trying to perform in front of a crowd of people but then you do it and the reaction from the crowd is like a slap around the face and everything is great again – until tomorrow’s jet lag at least. But what a great thing to be able to do, eh? You can’t underestimate it.
What are your impressions/favourite moments in Australia?
It just seems like such a long way from home sometimes and yet it’s so similar to home in many ways. We’ve just come from Japan and Taiwan so I’m looking forward to scoring some baked beans. That was all Ringo Starr ever put in his suitcase when the Beatles traveled to exotic climes, right? Ringo had the right idea.
What can your Australian fans expect from this tour?
They can expect some Future Ruins tunes along with the other five albums and EP tracks! It’s great to now have a fairly substantial back catalogue and we enjoy juxtaposing a b-side track from 1990 with a new album track from 2019 or whatever.
What’s next for you?
More UK and North American dates in the rest of the year. It’ll be good to attempt some more writing at the end of the year. More immediately, I’m now thinking about that leftover Indian in the fridge.
Lastly, our magazine is called What’s My Scene. When I interviewed you in 2016, you said your scene was: “My scene is cinema and swimming. I like going to the movies and watching a movie and then coming out and feeling like you’re in that movie. I love being in a dark room. And also I like go for a swim or so and I just bought these underwater headphones so now it’s upped the ante. So now I can listen to music and swim underwater.” What’s your scene now? Is it the same as it was in 2016?
I haven’t used the underwater headphones in a while! In fact they kept breaking and to be fair they sent me new ones twice over but in the end I switched back over to thinking on things when I swim, which can be quite meditative and therapeutic in that respect. I suppose I’ve been checking out country pubs a little recently.
Catch SWERVEDRIVER on their latest Australian tour
Premier Artists Presents…
SWERVEDRIVER AUSTRALIAN TOUR SEPTEMBER 2019
Thursday 19th September 2019 – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne VIC Tickets
Friday 20th September 2019 – Manning Bar, Sydney NSW Tickets
Saturday 21st September 2019 – The Zoo, Brisbane QLD Tickets
Sunday 22nd September 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA Tickets
Hot off the heels of the release of their latest album Future Ruins earlier this year, which saw them stamp their authority as the OG purveyors of widescreen psychedelic shoegaze, Swervedriver are ready to land back Down Under this September brandishing their latest long player full of molten riffs and a sonic roadtrip through the depths of their back catalogue stretching back almost 30 years.
Forming in Oxford in 1989, Swervedriver were thrown headlong into the forefront of UK underground music, soon signing to Alan McGee’s legendary Creation Records and releasing their seminal debut EP, Son of Mustang Ford in 1990. This began a prolific period of touring and releasing records, with albums Raise and Mezcal Head defining the heavier end of the shoegaze spectrum, and elevating them to the guitar pedal stomping pantheon inhabited by fellow luminaries such as Ride and Slowdive. Amidst personnel issues and management changes the core team of frontman Adam Franklin and fellow guitar arc welder Jimmy Hartridge maintained an astonishing work ethic that saw EPs, albums and tours completed at a prodigious rate until the band screeched to a halt at the end of 1998.
The eight year hiatus only saw the absence make the hearts of fans both old and new grow fonder as they returned triumphantly to the live scene at Coachella in 2008 followed by a number of US, UK and Australian tours. Firm favourites on Australian shores, Swervedriver last toured to ecstatic crowds three years ago in support of their first postreformation album I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, with the wait now almost over for those looking to experience the spellbinding fuzzed out crackle and crunch of Future Ruins.
A product of its time, Future Ruins, doesn’t find the band settling in the middle age; rather it ventures from a bleak primal scream to a knowing introspection as they contemplate the modern dystopia we find ourselves mired in and kick out as only they know how – channelling simultaneous despair and resignation through coruscating yet tender walls of six string noise. Pack a set of earplugs and prepare for an epic night of sonic bliss.