An Interview with Swervedriver's Adam Franklin

Paul Caparotta
Swervedriver's Jimmy Hartridge and Adam Franklin (Photo: Steve Gullick)
Swervedriver's Jimmy Hartridge and Adam Franklin (Photo: Steve Gullick)
Swervedriver return to the Bay Area next week with a show on November 5th at the Independent in support of their 2019 release, Future Ruins (Spotify). Tickets are still available for the show that you can find here. We had the chance to speak with lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Franklin a few weeks ago to learn more about their most recent release and memories of the Bay Area which you can find below.

Last year Omnivore Records released founding member of the Byrds' Gene Clark's, Gene Clark Sings for You (Spotify). Hearing these demos, these raw lost fragments, feels like unlocking a treasure chest. Melancholic, propulsive—it’s this spirit of Gene Clark that Swervedriver channel with their cover of "Think I’m Gonna Feel Better" (Spotify).

Right on the heels of Future Ruins (Spotify), released in January, Swervedriver dropped two incredible covers to support Record Store Day. How did we get from an empty vista of music to two exceptional albums and a sprinkling of singles over the past four years?

In 2013 Swervedriver released Deep Wound (Spotify)—the first new music since 1998’s 99th Dream (Spotify). Singles leading up to the album were strong, so expectations were pretty high for I Wasn’t Born To Lose You (Spotify). It didn’t disappoint. Beginning to end, Swervedriver sounded inspired, energetic but also loose. The music was fierce and dissonant when it needed to be, and gauzy and leisurely when the mood called for it.

Future Ruins ups the ante a little bit. Songs are layered with double meanings—"Drone Lover", "Spiked Flower". On I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, the first track, "Autodidact", eases you into the pulse. On Future Ruins, "Mary Winter" is a little more prickly, the guitars a little sharper.

Franklin says that much of Future Ruins necessitates a “balancing act between innovating and being true to the song.”

Some songs, like "Mary Winter", with just an ounce more speed could easily fit midway through their 1991 debut album, Raise (Spotify). "Good Times Are So Hard To Follow" wouldn’t be out of place at all on 2009's Mezcal Head (Spotify).

That said Future Ruins is very much its own world. Tempos and rhythms shift all over the place. Tracks like "Radio-Silent" add little melodies into a droning, hypnotic swirl; and "Everybody’s Going Somewhere & No-One’s Going Anywhere" feels infused with the spirit of Tom Waits’s Bone Machine; a dreamy version where Adam Franklin channels Wait's "Black Wings" in his own voice.

Asked about his influences, what he’s listening to right now, Franklin mentions The Clientele. He’s impressed by their ability to create a completely immersive experience that draws the listener’s full attention. The Clientele's Alasdair MacLean, Mark Keen and James Hornsey create balanced, measured music that feels completely formed until it spins apart and comes back together. You can see how Franklin might appreciate The Clientele’s balance and love of play.

That said, you’d never hear something as dissonant as "Threeascending" on any Clientele album. Swervedriver’s rhythms, their unique approach, is infused with a tension that keeps the music taut and brisk.

“Using the music as a tool to express your rage and frustration,” mentions Franklin. That undercurrent feels pervasive on Future Ruins—even in the quiet moments.

Stepping back into their Record Store Day release earlier this year, I asked Adam about the b-side of "Think I’m Gonna Feel Better"—an introspective cover of "Reflections"; a song made famous by The Supremes. “It’s interesting because it’s all about the dark night of the soul—in the middle of the night when people think about things. It relates to these times in general,” comments Franklin.

Swervedriver take this slice of history and bend it to their will—“maybe like the MC5 would have done,” suggests Franklin. It certainly feels like it would fit perfectly on Future Ruins, with that beautiful, layered psychedelic outro. Franklin seems particularly interested in the idea that the song "Reflections" is infused with a brand of Holland/Dozier/Holland introspection that The Supremes absolutely made their own. The idea of having a man in his 50s singing these lines feels like a natural and interesting twist.

That idea of keeping things fresh and driving a new perspective also infuse how Swervedriver approach their live shows. An element of the Swervedriver sound involves layers of guitars, big and small details that come alive when listening through headphones. “Playing live, we change some things around—it keeps the songs live. You don’t want a song to be cast in stone forever,” mentions Franklin. “The recorded song is the template that’s not necessarily to be followed completely religiously.”

And you see where the hard work kicks in. Mixing up small pieces, changing tempos or completely revisiting songs—Swervedriver manage to keep their audience guessing while hitting all the right notes.

When our conversation shifts to memories of the Bay Area, Adam talks about a trip to San Francisco’s infamous Bimbos 365 club where the Art Deco interior conjures up all sorts of ghosts from the past. He remembers a cubby where a telephone used to live. The conversations that took place there and all the conversations that now live in the fabric of the room...

Don't miss the conversations that will happen at the Independent next Tuesday, November 5th! Click here for tickets and hope to see you there! Thanks for reading and be sure to follow us across our social feeds for more pictures, concert announcements and news here: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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