Swervedriving with Adam Franklin
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As the co-leader of the seminal dream-pop/shoegaze band Swervedriver, Adam Franklin mastered the sound of revving guitars, hammering rhythms, and tuneful mumble. Swervedriver performed a lot of songs about cars—and crashes—at a pace that practically demanded that drivers listening to them press down hard on their own accelerators. As a solo artist, Franklin has gone for a more modulated version of the Swervedriver style, with less eyeball-popping guitar distortion and endless rapid-fire drum rolls but every bit as much molten guitar and sleepy monotone vocals. Franklin’s two solo albums—Bolts Of Melody and this year’s Spent Bullets—are appealingly trippy, but they’re just as impressive for their songcraft. Currently on tour with The Church and hitting The State Theatre this Sunday night, Franklin spoke with The A.V. Club about receiving his due, getting raucous onstage, and having his dreams infiltrated by Sonic Youth.
The A.V. Club: After the very Swervedriver-ish Bolts Of Melody, the new album feels like a stylistic departure. Was this a conscious choice, or is this softer, trippier sound just where your head is at right now?
Adam Franklin: You know, I really have no idea. I was thinking it was a natural development from Bolts Of Melody rather than a departure, but what do I know? It’s certainly kind of trippy, and I don’t think of it as being softer. But I think it’s a balancing act between the music and the lyrics, and the words on Bullets carry a heavier weight than on Bolts. I think we’re actually going to be quite heavy and more raucous on this upcoming tour.
AVC: How much do you try to replicate the sound on your records when you play live?
AF: Sheer volume! The same with Swervedriver. You hit them over the head with the third guitar line, and they don’t even notice that guitar line No. 1 has disappeared from the mix. We shall also be bringing Steve The Juggler on the road to provide further distractions stage left. No, I actually think that live and studio versions of songs don’t have to be the same. And anyway, every song has a very simple, solid structure, so we’re not gonna need an orchestra or anything. Some of the songs may well stretch out into infinity.
AVC: Do you think Swervedriver is finally getting its due from critics and music fans, even if it comes a decade or so too late?
AF: I suppose you could say that. Possibly. I mean, people liked us back in the day, and although the decision to break up was made in the middle of some miserable UK shows, we then went to the U.S. and Australia afterwards and had some storming shows. I think we split at the right time and then people started to miss us.
AVC: How enduring are your influences? Do you find you still listen to a lot of the same music that first drove you to pick up a guitar, or are there things you used to love that you can’t abide so well anymore?
AF: I was digitizing some vinyl recently, and a bunch of records from my youth still sound as good as ever. A Hard Day’s Night. T. Rex. Armed Forces by Elvis Costello. The ’80s were possibly more tricky. You might buy stuff that you thought you liked, only to discover you didn’t really like it after all. Although the Death Cult EP [by The Cult’s early incarnation, Death Cult] still has a certain something.
AVC: What are you into right now, musically?
AF: I love “I Love You Too” by Dead Meadow and Eux Autre’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” I played Sonic Youth’s new album last night but dozed off to it, and then it was on repeat all night for some reason so it was infiltrating my dreams throughout. As I was semi-dormant I can’t really tell what was going on. I may have imagined half of it. I certainly had strange dreams. There was a blackbird buzzing around the room like a bee and I had to put him outside. I shall have to give it a more lucid listen today.