Returning to the stage in 2008 after a ten year hiatus, Oxford’s Swervedriver have hit the ground running over the past three years, finding a renewed vigor in playing shows and breathing new life back into their old material. Made up of Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar), Jimmy Hartridge (guitar), Steve George (bass) and Jez Hindmarsh (drums) the band originally went on hiatus back in 98 after they found their creative juices stagnating. It would seem though that a break was exactly what the band needed, or so Adam Franklin told us when we caught up with him a few weeks ago ahead of their upcoming run of Australian shows.
Music Feeds: How have you found playing again these last three years after your ten year hiatus?
Adam Franklin: It’s been really cool, it feels more streamlined in a way and having had time away you can kind of look at it more objectively from the outside somehow. We can actually appreciate which tunes are the better tunes, or perhaps there are parts of certain songs where there’s a fiddly bit and you don’t really know why it’s there so you say let’s just plow though that bit.
I mean we’re still tweaking the songs, even though they’re all old songs. There are songs where Steve’s singing back up vocals and we’ve worked on new harmonies, or just little bits here and there. All I can say is that the people who’ve came and seen us recently have told us that we were the best they had ever seen us, that we just seemed pretty on top of it. The other thing is that the songs were all written by a bunch of 23 year olds and now they’re being sung by a bunch of 40 year olds, and as somebody said to me, it seems like we’ve sort of grown into the songs. There was always a sort of world weariness to it, which is probably brought out that we are genuinely world weary.
MF: What’s it like revisiting these songs you’d written in your youth?
AF: It’s interesting because back then I thought those songs were what it was all about, that’s what I lived for and coming back you’re sort of just dipping into what is in a way someone else’s ideas, because it’s the younger you. But it’s certainly rewarding to see that the songs hold up, and that people still want to hear us play is doubly awesome really. It’s like coming home and finding last night’s leftovers still taste really good, like last nights pizza actually tastes better cold.
Like they say people don’t really change, so the sentiments in the songs are still part of us, and nothing feels unnatural. There must be bands who get back together and they try and play their first single which they all wrote when they were teenagers and they can’t relate to it anymore, but that’s not really been a problem for us.
MF: Are there any plans to work on new Swervedriver material?
AF: There hasn’t really been any talk or anything. People have been asking about it a lot, but we’ve just sort of reconvened and we’re just looking at the immediate thing ahead. In the years between when we were weren’t playing we all saw each other now and again at birthdays, weddings and a few funerals actually, but we’d all sort of meet up and we wouldn’t really discuss the music, we’d just hang out, and it’s still sort of along those lines now.
There are certain songs where we’ve worked on new arrangements and we’ve done a couple of covers as well as working on playing some of the more obscure b-sides, so the inclination to work on new stuff is kind of there in essence, but we haven’t actually worked on any news songs. It could happen.
MF: Considering the renewed energy you’ve found in the live shows, it seems to me like the break might have doe you guys well in terms of working on new material?
AF: I think it could be a really positive thing. I think we definitely hit a brick wall back in 98 when we last did recording sessions and everything and I think a general sort of malaise set in which is why we ended up deciding to, well you could say call it a day, but the initial idea was to just take some time out and that time out ended up being longer than people might have expected.
I was talking to somebody before about how things have changed, how back in the day to get ideas back and forth you’d do something on the four track and then give everybody a cassette and then exchange cassettes etc where as now you can just record at home and email each other ideas, and how it would be interesting to see Swervedriver move into the 21st century.
All of the Swervedriver songs in their original home demo stages were quite different things, and then they’d really turn into something else and we’d all reconvene in a room and play them together. So that would sort of be the initial stage of sending the files back and forth but then it has been really cool just playing together in a room. There are elements of a lot of the Swervedriver songs that are improvisational anyway, whether it’s the end of Jewel or Duress, there are these sort of things where everyone goes off a little bit, in a way it’s like you’re composing on the spot because you’re improvising.
MF: So you’re pretty much still happy with just playing live shows.
AF: Yeah. It’s interesting the whole thing of getting back together and playing live because the songs really only come alive when we’re actually playing them. All our stuff becomes sort of like photographs, all our records from the 90s and even the live recordings are all sort of set in stone, they’re kind of crystallised and the only time the music is really alive is when the band is playing live, and that’s the kind of interesting things about bands and music, especially in a case like our when we’re going back and bringing things from the past back to life.
Swervedriver will be playing shows down the east coast next week, as well as playing as part of the Perth International Arts Festival
Wednesday 16th February
Tickets $44.00 + bf
available from www.feelpresents.com
phone 1300 762 545 or in person at any Oztix outlet.
Perth International Arts Festival
Sunday 20th February
Becks Festival Bar (on sale November 3rd)
Tickets from www.perthfestival.com.au or phone (08) 9484 1133