Music Q&A: Swervedriver

To celebrate 25 years since the release of Swervedriver’s classic second album Mezcal Head, the band will be performing the record live for the first time (dates below)

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What informs your music and songwriting?
That’s a tricky question. I’ll tell you what informs our songwriting – just the desire to make people feel better. Who’d want to be a traffic cop/traffic warden, handing out tickets and everyone that sees you coming hates you? Or someone that works in a call centre, phoning you up to try and get you to give up your bank details so the boss they work for can rip you off. You have Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un just basically trolling the world and the likes of Martin Shkreli trying to profit from illness.. I don’t know, in a much broader sense it’s about giving something back, isn’t it? Whether it’s working for a charity, providing some kind of good repair service or just painting a picture that someone likes and puts on their wall. People tell us how our music helped them at some point in the life or that they just loved the sounds on the new record and so it’s great knowing you have an audience to write for. We just wanna raise the dopamine levels!

How have you evolved as a band over the years?
That’s difficult to say as well. I think when you’re the artist you don’t really think about it in terms of conscious thought and everything is more instinctual. People might say to us “make another record like Mezcal Head” but I don’t know what that means because that record was just a bunch of songs that were recorded the way they were recorded because we liked those sounds at the time and your tastes shift over time. People really dug our fifth album, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, which was the “comeback” album and the first one for 17 years or whatever it was. I saw a review that said that the sound had mellowed but I can’t really be the judge of that – something can be really heavy to me but the heaviness is more because of the words or the themes than just the speed or distortion. You get someone like Beck who tends to do three different kinds of records: a kind of funky one, a folky one and and an electronic one.. Is he thinking about evolution or is he just having fun jumping back and forth from one thing to another?

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
We’re just finishing up our sixth album, which may or may not be called Future Ruins. We did the basic tracks in Los Angeles at the end of a US tour back in September and now we’re down in Brighton finishing this thing up before heading out on tour. Once again we don’t really know what we’re making and it’s always fun hearing those sounds go down for the first time or grabbing the perfect lyric out of thin air and singing it right. The songs on this album really seem to sit together well and it has a great flow. We can’t wait for you to hear it.

What’s on your rider?
Vodka, socks – actually socks haven’t been on there for a while but it can be useful on tour provided they’re cotton and promoters can pick them up cheap so it doesn’t cost the band too much. They have those ones in Primark though which aren’t 100 per cent cotton and yet they market them as cotton socks by calling them “cotton-rich socks” and having this image on the packaging which is white lettering over a black sock with the word “rich” is cunningly half-obscured against the white background so it looks like it says “cotton socks” in big letters! Not that I’ve thought about this at all. So really it’s just vodka. Perhaps we should put an avocado on there.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
These weren’t really surreal experiences but we sometimes used to have music playing on the tour bus that was incongruous for where we were and what was going on outside, so three examples spring to mind: one was having Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner blaring in Berlin as we rounded the Brandenburg Gate not long after the Wall had fallen. Another was that recording of all the individual parts of Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys being recorded with Brian Wilson calling out instructions, which goes on for 40 minutes or something and we were listening to that as we pulled into Belfast and saw all these 18 year-old British soldiers walking around in front of barbed wire checkpoints with machine guns. The third was simply playing Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk as we drove through the desert in Arizona for the first time.

What song do you wish you’d written?
Reflections by The Supremes. I don’t wish I’d written it though really. I’m just glad it’s out there.

What’s your worst lyric?
Crikey! Tough questions, Big Issue North! How can I turn this around? Okay, so the last song on Mezcal Head – one of the albums that we are touring – is called You Find It Everywhere and was loosely about globalisation with lines like “The clothes you wear / You can buy them everywhere / The profit’s there / They’re buying every share”. That’s not a terrible lyric but there were others I felt were a bit lazy such as “So take me there / I really just don’t care / We stop and stare / I’m falling every stair” so when we performed the album in the US – and this meant it was the first time we had ever played that song live – I didn’t wanna sing some of those lines so I updated certain lyrics with topical 2017 themes, so you had “So take me there / Wheel me in on Medicare / The president’s hair / We all just stop and stare”. That’s probably a far worse lyric than the original though, thinking about it.

Swervedriver play Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 14 May and Manchester, Band on the Wall, 17 May. For the full tour schedule visit

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