Interviews

10 inspirations for driving post-punk record, by SWALLOW THE RAT

SWALLOW THE RAT by Ray Tipoki
SWALLOW THE RAT by Ray Tipoki
Auckland, New Zealand’s shoegazin’ alt rock / post punk band SWALLOW THE RAT just released their new full length, Leaving Room, and today we have teamed with them to give you a special feature of 10 different things that inspired it and define part of each of the band’s members identity.

Due out April 24th from Shifting Sounds, Leaving Room is a compelling tangle of driving post-punk rhythms and raw, shoegaze-tinged guitars. Swallow The Rat excel at using tension and atmospherics to make their sound even more impactful. Their songs often hinge on an ability to feel spontaneous yet deliberate–tightly wound intensity that only unravels when the band is ready.

It’s a creative chemistry rooted in the merging of musical backgrounds: guitarist/vocalist Sam Vercoe, drummer Hayden Fritchley, and bassist/vocalist Stephen Horsley all hail from Auckland, but it wasn’t until guitarist Brian Purington—a native of Austin, Texas—moved to New Zealand and began collaborating with Vercoe that Swallow The Rat was born. Adding Purington’s uniquely American influences and vibrant psychedelic flourish to Vercoe, Fritchley, and Horsley’s foundation of wiry New Zealand post-punk resulted in the collision of muscular riffs and shimmering textures that are captured on Leaving Room by producer/engineer Nick Abbott (Foals, Pulled Apart By Horses, Robert Plant). It’s the perfect accompaniment to the album’s lyrical explorations of loss, change, and disenfranchisement with modern life.

Texas.

I think when I was 13 the first song I ever tried to play drums along to was Velcro Fly by ZZ Top. I absorbed a lot of music that came outta that area. Noisy bands like Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, M.D.C. Swallow the Rat has a connection to Austin (obviously through Brian being from there). I remember when Sam first contacted me and asked if I wanted to have a jam with him and this dude from Texas. I was like hell yeah, cool, it’s a chance to do something different, with someone who wasn’t part of the Auckland scene. A year later we ended up doing a tour to Austin. That trip was an inspiration fer sure. – Hayden

SWALLOW THE RAT band feature

Coffee.

It’s probably my drug of choice. In the early 90s I used to hitchhike from Wanganui to Wellington and go see bands like 3Ds and Tall Dwarfs. Late at night after the gig we would go up to Midnight Espresso on Cuba Street and get a coffee. Nothing much has changed; the search for black gold continues. During breaks from recording on this record I would fire up the bunsen burner outside and brew up some stovetop for everyone. – Hayden

SWALLOW THE RAT band feature

Neil Young.

The first time I saw Neil Young was on the 1993 Mtv Music Awards when he joined Pearl Jam on stage to play “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World”. I had no idea who he was, as I only listened to and played punk rock at the time. When he walked out on stage, I thought “Who the hell is this old dude?”, but he blew me the fuck away. The guitar solos on that song are a raw primal sonic attack with no attempt at virtuosity. I’ve adopted this approach with my playing, and whenever I’m stuck on coming up with a guitar part I just ask myself “What would Neil do?”. – Brian

Butthole Surfers.

I grew up in the Texas town of San Angelo,“the mohair capital of the world.” I moved to Austin after I graduated because of the Butthole Surfers. They were hands down my favorite band at the time and I wanted to play guitar in a band like that. They blended psychedelia, punk and weirdness in a way that spoke to this delinquent West Texas outsider. – Brian

Additionally their drummer, King Coffee, ran a label called Trance Syndicate. This label released some of the best music happening in Texas at the time. Bands on the label included Bedhead, Ed Hall, Crust, Sixteen Deluxe, ….And You’ll Know us by the Trail of Dead, etc.

I discovered all these bands once I got to Austin and all of these groups make up my musical DNA.

NZ Music

The 3Ds, Skeptics and Bailterspace are some of my all time favourite New Zealand bands and have influenced my songwriting for a long time. All three of those bands mix noisey moments with strong melodic hooks. Skeptics broke up in 1990 so I never got a chance to see them live, but I’ve been lucky enough to see the other two. Seeing the 3Ds play one of my favourite songs of theirs, Animal, at the 2010 Laneway festival was definitely a musical highlight of mine. – Sam

Sonic Youth.

When I was 16 I bought Sonic Youth’s album Washing Machine. Not long after I heard they were playing in Auckland, so my mate Nick and I decided we had to go. Sonic Youth came out and played a three hour set of feedback, great guitar hooks and Kim Gordon spinning around playing bass. All the while the drums were propelling the song along. That gig was engaging from start to finish, and it was the coolest thing I had seen. Thurston Moore’s combination of feedback and driving rhythm on guitar has been an influence ever since. – Sam

High dependency Unit (HDU).

HDU are a New Zealand psych noise band who were active between 1995-2008. The first time I saw them was at a festival in about 1998. I’d read about them, but nothing could have prepared me for the sonic onslaught that ensued. They were, and still are the loudest, and best band I’ve ever seen. Empty coke bottles were bouncing 1 metre into the air with the bass, I couldn’t see cause my eyelashes were shaking, and my organs hurt afterwards. My obsession with drone, noise, delay and dangerous amounts of bass began that day, and is still continuing. – Stephen

HTRK.

In 2010 my wife and I moved from New Zealand to London. I’d become dissatisfied with playing guitar, and guitar music in general, and was flailing around trying to find something to inspire me again. I first heard Jonine Standish’s voice on a Rowland S Howard song- it was deathly, androgynous and impossibly sexy. I investigated further, and discovered a new path. HTRK are a band that had roots in sludgy noisy post punk, but had found a way out- an amalgam of techno, dub bass, no wave, noise and sound design. I was still exploring this world when I returned to my roots upon joining Swallow the Rat, but this time playing bass, which is a whole new trip. – Stephen

Pedals:

If you come and see us live, you will notice that everyone has far too many pedals. Even the bass player sports a full size board, which is completely moronic and pointless. Seriously though, a big part of the bands identity is derived from sculpting different sounds for different songs- roots in shoegaze but far more spiky. We are always looking for new pedals to take things in new directions. – Stephen

SWALLOW THE RAT band feature

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