“We tried to be a doom band at the start but we fluffed that up a bit really,” laughs Swerve’s vocalist Mike Ball (no, not that one). Formed from the ashes of a hardcore band in the summer of 2013, Mike, alongside Liam Conroy, Ross Burns and Dylan Glenny came together with the shared desire “to mellow out a bit.”
“It’s a bit more palatable for my mum than the stuff I’ve done previously but yeah, it’s generally just a good atmosphere,” he explains of his new band. “We get together; have fun and just mess about. Sometimes songs come out, and sometimes they don’t.” Their levelheaded approach is a double-edged sword as sometimes “it can be a bit counterproductive. If you’ve got a two hour practice booked out and you end up playing some afro-beat rhythm for half the time, it’s not great.“
While their productivity might be a bit hit or miss, the end results are bang on target. After releasing a string of standalone singles, the band recently unleashed their first proper body of work in the form of a four-track self-titled EP. Released through their own Modern Needs Records, the EP soundtracks a band harnessing an anything-goes approach and wrapping it around gnarled moments of luscious escape.
Writing the tracks over a few months, the release was the result of “just wanting to get something out there. We recorded the songs but didn’t know what to do with them. It made sense to just pool our resources and make it happen as a record because it just works together as a record,” explains Mike. “They’re not all the same but it has a unifying element in there that I can’t really put my finger on. The stuff we’ve written since stands apart from them. ‘Swerve’ was just something to aim for really.”
There’s a swirling, spacious quality to ‘Swerve’ but before you drift too far in one direction, the lurking undercurrent forces a change. From the buoyant ‘Afterglow’ to the swaggering, behind the head guitar solo of ‘Blue Sunset’, it’s a hypnotic, eclectic journey formed around “a literal mish mash” of everything the band listen to. “There’s obviously the shoegaze element and we’re just trying to mix things up by putting those solos in. I was listening to a lot of The Doobie Brothers, wigging out a little bit and I thought it would give the songs another element. The trick is to not be so outwardly verbose with it.”
Learning to communicate through song is a skill the band is fully embracing. Cathartic lyrics see Mike, “trying to be general but at the same time, be focused and put across one idea. I wanted to pin down relatable issues. I think a lot of it was about depression and anxiety and using that as a way of getting it out,” while the live show has streamlined their message.
“When we first got together I’d record guitars on guitars on guitars and we wouldn’t be able to even think about playing it live. Learning when to set the limit live has been really helpful in making more concise music.” Approaching ‘Swerve’ from a slightly different angle, the band spent more time thinking “about what serves the songs.”
Despite ‘Swerve’ being the band’s first proper release, they’re not worried about how people will take it. “I’d like people to listen to the record, dig the sounds and everything at first and then maybe revisit it and listen to what the lyrics are saying. I don’t want it to be something people listen to once. I want it to be worth a repeat listen.” In fact the only nerves come from the fact Mike’s bedroom is currently full of boxes of the record.
Swerve set up their own label Modern Needs Records to release their debut EP but “it’s not going to be the only thing we put out and we’re not going to be the only band on it. We were talking about doing a label before and the stars just aligned for us to do it now, both financially and with the material. It just made perfect sense.” Despite the label being in its very early stages, it’s already changed how the band looks at the world. “I’ve never thought about how to market your product before so it’s just understanding the cogs in the machine. The term business is really loose but we basically never used to practice. We used to play shows and sound terrible. We’re getting together more regularly now.”
“I wouldn’t want to say we’re going for it more now but it has given us this focus. When you’re throwing songs into the ether, it’s not tangible.” The label “makes everything a lot more tangible and that gives us the backing. It’s not all front; we’ve got this record now. We’ve got this collection of songs you can listen to and it feels like it’s all come together.” The band doesn’t have “massive aspirations” for either undertaking. They want to play a few more shows out of their Birmingham hometown, sell as many records as possible and have people enjoy it. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re going to see what’s what. We’re trying to write the best songs we can and if we get the opportunity to chuck in a wiggly solo, I’m happy.”