Q&A With Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin

How do you best the anti-guitar-god bluster of arguably the most sonically bold and melodically sophisticated band of England’s shoegaze era? If you’re Swervedriver’s unflappable former leader, Adam Franklin, you don’t even try. You simply work off the various templates for greatness set forth by your former outfit, which, quite frankly, spewed out enough novel ideas to sustain a half-dozen indie-rock careers. Which brings us to Franklin’s latest, I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years (Second Motion), whose initial tracks were hammered out in New York late last year with his newly minted backup outfit, Bolts Of Melody. Sleep is Franklin’s most well-rounded collection to date, balancing the more laid-back guitar balladry and pop sensibilities of his last two solo albums with the ornery, volatile spark of vintage Swervedriver largely missing on those efforts. Franklin will be guest-editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our 2009 Lost Classics post on Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head.

“Yesterday Has Gone Forever” (download):

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MAGNET: With I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years, you continue that obscure tradition of naming backup bands after former albums. How did you go about assembling this latest group?
Franklin: Really? Who else has done that? That’s actually quite a good game: Stevie Wonder & The Innervisions, Meat Loaf & The Bats Out Of Hell, Jimi Hendrix & The Are You Experienceds. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, but I’ve gathered the Bolts Of Melody over time. They’re mostly in New York now, although there is a London wing. The Americans call them the Brits Of Melody.

As we grooved to “I’ll Be Yr Mechanic” in the car the other day, my seven-year-old daughter offered this critique: “I like it, dad, but I can’t understand what the guy is saying.”
I knew I didn’t enunciate the line “and as the eagle flies” clearly enough. I hope the album passed the seven-year-old test in all other respects, though—that’s a crucial age. I can still smell the T.Rex vinyl when I hear “Jeepster,” man.

Where do you stand on your singing these days?
I don’t always stand while singing, actually. Sometimes lying on your back in a hammock is the way to go. I haven’t always been comfortable with my vocals, no. I certainly don’t have a pick-up-an-acoustic-at-a-party-and-belt-it-out kind of a voice, but I’m quite happy with that, as I’ve never been so crazy about those kinds of situation anyway, to be honest.

Sleep may be your most grownup-sounding album to date, with numerous, somewhat obvious references to ’60s rock and pop icons like the Velvet Underground and Brian Wilson. Could this newfound refinement and penchant for ballads possibly be a symptom of getting older?
I’d have said that the new album is less grown-up than the previous album, Spent Bullets, so maybe I’m retarding. I think one symptom of getting older is finally not really giving a crap what people think anymore, which is probably a good thing.

Then again, “I’ll Be Yr Mechanic” sounds like it could’ve been on Raise. And would you be offended if I said “Yesterday Has Gone Forever” reminds me of Teenage Fanclub?
I couldn’t possibly be offended. Teenage Fanclub is probably the band I’d join if I were offered any group in the world to muscle my way into. Not only would I be playing with three great songwriters and harmony vocalists, I’d only have to write three killer songs per year. A couple of times, back in the day, Swervedriver played the same city on the same night as the Fannies. So we staggered our stage times so we could catch each other’s set.

When you look back on Swervedriver’s ’90s heyday, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Dreadlocks, Jazzmasters, songs about cars … We played some great shows. Quite often, we’d do things like play pool with the punters before the show—I think people quite liked that.

I realize this is a longshot, but do you recall playing a ridiculously cheesy club in Tempe, Ariz., called Chuy’s while touring behind Raise? I covered the show for a local newspaper, and we spoke briefly. You looked exhausted.
No recollection, I’m afraid. In my defense, it was probably very hot. Did we play pool?

Nope, there wasn’t a pool table to be found in that dump. What was the first introduction to the U.S. like for you guys? What are your thoughts on how you were marketed here by A&M?
Our first time in the U.S. was in New York City, which seems appropriate. We played at the now-defunct Marquee. We were very loud due to nerves, and by the end of the set, just one guy remained down the front—and it was Bob Mould. I think A&M probably did a decent job; it was all very grungy back then. Sometimes though, as the sun set over the A&M lot in Los Angeles at the end of the working day, you could hear the mournful sound of Herb Alpert’s trumpet parping away as he finally got sick of his paperwork, which was really rather lovely.

Mezcal Head: overrated or underrated?
Underrated, I suppose. I only tend to get to the end of side one, but I probably don’t count.

More to the point, most critics cite Mezcal Head as the definitive Swervedriver album. Me, I’m partial to Raise. Which is your favorite and why?
Raise is supposed to have this hazy kind of sound, as if the record’s warping in the sun—although, when I listen to it, it doesn’t sound like that. I’m still trying to write that one, actually. I’d probably select Juggernaut Rides ’89-’98, the “hits” album, as that’s the one that just keeps on giving.

—Hobart Rowland

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One Comment

  1. M.L.
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    This Hobart Rowland interviewer I think asked some really crap, inference-laden, or just-plain amateurish questions of Mr. Franklin.
    “…may be your most grownup-sounding (sic) album…with numerous, somewhat obvious references to ’60s rock and pop icons…could this newfound refinement and penchant for ballads possibly be a symptom of getting older?
    MORE: (your record) Mescal Head…overrated or underrated?
    …..do you remember talking to me in 1992? YOU looked exhausted…..
    ….my little girl can’t understand your singing- oh, and how do YOU stand on your singing??
    Oh, and “…would you be offended if….”
    Yeah, “Hobart”, he SHOULD have been offended- with your whole jerkish line of questioning.
    But, Franklin happens to be a class act, (so you weren’t mercilessly lampooned- he just spun your negative inferences into humor).