With their heyday in the early ’90s, Swervedriver developed a strong connection with Sonic Unyon and Southern Ontario as a whole. The band’s atmospheric space rock or ‘shoegaze’ gelled well with Tristan Psionic and Psianspheric as well as countless others. While the band broke up after their initial stint, Swervedriver reunited and quickly revisited some of their old fans. Only four years after the record that brought them out of a seventeen–year recording hibernation comes a new album called Future Ruins and their coming back to visit their old friends in Hamilton.
“After ten years went by, I was living in New York and Jimmy Hartridge had talked with the other guys — everyone fancied getting back together,” recalls lead singer and guitarist Adam Franklin on the reunion. “When Jimmy approached me, I thought those were some of the happier times. I’d be in a bar and hear one of our tunes and think, ‘that sounds so good’ but I also thought I’d never play any of them live ever again. It was sad and I moved on but in 2007 Jimmy called me up and asked if I was in and I said, ‘sure, why not?’”
Originally focusing on their early material for the reunion, Swervedriver’s music rekindled thoughts of other ’90s bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive or even Teenage Fanclub. With the four–album catalog of their first era — Raise (1991); Mezcal Head (1993); Ejector Seat Reservation (1995); 99th Dream (1997), Swervedriver had a lot of music to mine but as a few years progressed, new music for the new millennium seemed appropriate and for diehard fans, the results have been quite good. Hallmark spacey tracks with a strong lyrical content make up the new music and sit quite nicely to the legacy of the band. But being called shoegaze and considering Swervedriver’s legacy are touchy subjects.
“We reflected the times we were in, on the one hand we were alternative punky rock and at times there would be things that verged into the shoegaze territory with sonic sounds but we didn’t call ourselvees that,” says Franklin on Swervedriver’s music. “The fact we were called shoegaze or now that we’re put in the top ten shoegaze bands or whatever — I don’t get it but it means all of the kids in Japan and Brazil who discovered MBV may dig in to us and dig it so I’ll take that.
“We got back together for quite a long time before we started making new music,” adds Franklin. “I had done a lot of new music without Swervedriver but it was Jimmy and the band that got the itch to make new music after a while. When we did, there is a legacy and not come back and do a crappy album. That’d be the most heinous crime you could commit. When we make the new music, we try to tap into the influences that first brought us together. The future is still open ended but we tapped into the films, books and otherwise that first helped create this music. We’re making music we like and a lot of fans are agreeing.”
With a thirtieth anniversary looming, Franklin and company don’t have any specific celebrations planned and concern themselves more with the here and now. Swervedriver’s most recent full-length, Future Ruins, released in January of this year to critical acclaim, emobies the band’s earlier triumphs and creates some new gems. Franklin and company are excited about playing the new music and revisit Hamilton.
“It’s terrifying to think it’s been 30 years since we first started, time has really flown through that window,” says Franklin. “I’m happy to still be doing it. An ex–girlfriend rang me up and she thought she was calling somebody else. When she realized it was me she asked what I was up to. When I told her I was going on tour with Swervefriver she said, ‘You and Jimmy are still doing that — that’s kind of awesome’. She remarked about a certain kind of continuity about it all. Who knew we would just keep on keeping on but I guess we did!
“I’ll always remember Pizza Pizza," laughs Franklin on returning to Southern Ontario and his fond memories. “I’ve kept in touch with a lot of those guys and there’s always been a close bond with everything Ontario. I played some shopping mall in Hamilton with Simply Saucer fifteen years ago. I got to hang around with a lot of cool people in that scene over the years. We’ve got lots of great fans all over the world and I hope our Hamilton fans come out for this one. We’ve got lots of old material and new material and we’ve played that room before and I really like it.”
One of the band’s trademarks was the sheer volume of their live performance and will Swervedriver’s return be the loudest show we’ve ever experienced?
“Quite possibly,” replies Franklin. “I mean, we don’t always intend to play so loud but it just seems to happen. We’ve always had loud drummers and while something may have been set up one way, there’s the bang bang bang when the drummer comes in and the music has to be heard properly. Bands like the Shangri–las were loud back in their day. I think the volume is all encompassing and it’s there for the release and the release can be good. The volume isn’t just for show, it’s the emotional heft.”
Swervedriver plays this Friday October 25 at This Ain't Hollywood with SianSPHERIC opening and DJ Chrissy Hum. Doors are at 9pm and advance tickets. Click on swervedriver.com.