Chrome Sweet Crome
"This year, Creation broke the mould and signed their very first kick-ass rock'n'roll animals - a
hard-edged, bone-rattling death machine called SWERVEDRIVER. With their second EP, "Ravedown",
just released, PAUL LESTER meets the band and finds out how their obsession with car crashes is
based on fact, not fantasy. Pics: PHIL NICHOLLS
ADI VYNES, SWERVEDRIVER'S BLONDE, BE-DREADLOCKED
BASSIST, is about to slip into something uncomfortable: a suave grey suit, and the kind of slick,
striped shirt Michael Heseltine would give his right eyebrow for. He's going to his sister's
wedding in Hull and he seems to feel his usual attire - battered jeans with more holes than cheese,
and Doc Martens that hug the calves like stormtrooper boots - would be rather less than suitable for
the occasion. Tonight, he'll be the beau of the ball, the very picture of conformity (matted locks
not withstanding). Tomorrow, it's back to normal - a hot-rails-to-hell, hamster-quaffing,
biker-from-Hades rock n'roll degenerate. Just like the rest of Swervedriver . Right, chaps?
"We're not smelly crusties," argues the equally tousle-maned singer/guitarist, Adam Franklin.
"Crusties. As in crusty. There are two types of dreads. Some do their hair like that
because it's the thing to do, because it looks good. And then there are crusty punks, the ones
that never wash. We wash!"
Do Swervedriver attract this particular brand of subcultural renegade
to their gigs?
"We get all different sorts," he says. "Indie kids, greboes,
psychobillies . . ."
THEY can boostan across-the-board appeal, all right. Understandably, the weeklies have been
swearing undying love for Swervedriver's hazy guitar fantasia, but the band have also just had
their Creation-backed "Ravedown" EP made single of the week by a heavy metal magazine. Are Swervedriver worried about receiving support from such an unlikely quarter?
"Not at all," says Adam.
"It just means that we' re crossing a few more boundaries than other bands."
"Yeah," adds guitarist, Jimmy Hartridge, "instead of mixing indie with dance, we're mixing indie with rock.
Maybe we're the start of an indie-metal cross-over."
"Ethereal metal!" Adi excitedly proclaims,
before waving goodbye (he's off to the wedding), and disappearing out the door in his suit, like a
"Man AtC&A" on acid.
METAL figures large in Swervedriver' s world. Maybe it was James Dean or
Jayne Mansfield meeting their respective makers in road accidents, or Jack Nicholson and Jessica
Lange exchanging body Auids right next to the bloodied corpse and mangled iron of an automobile
disaster in the steamy remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice", but pop has always maintained a
lurid fascination for the car crash.
Perhaps it's the old idea about sex and death being opposite
bedfellows. Whatever, on the cover of Swervedriver's eponymous debut EP, the photo shows a stack
of squashed Chevrolets and crushed Cadillacs, while references to highway fracas occur on "Son of
Mustang Ford", and the title track of the new EP.
Chillingly enough, due to a combination of synchronicity and fatal bad luck, Swervedrive
keep finding themselves at the scene of such catasrophes.
We crashed our tour van into a pub in Nottingham once," remembers Jimmy, with more
than a hint of perverse delight. "It was quite a classic crash, really. We hit a kerb, went up and.
. . " He pauses to recreate the enormous exploding noise with his mouth and the palms of his hands,
". .. crashed straight into the pub! It wasn't too damaged, but the road sign's still cracked to
"There was another weird one," says Adam, licking his lips and continuing the horrific
litany with relish. "We were coming back from a gig in Brighton, and suddenly we saw all these
clothes strewn across this country lane, and an upturned VW a bit further on. We got out, and this
old geezer told us these two kids had been joyriding at six in the morning."
Graham: 'We could see the skidmarks where the car must've travelled about 30 feet, then turned over in mid-air. We
couldn't believe they were alive. They kept looking at each other, then the VW,
and going,'How the fuck did we get out of that?'"
Adam: "They were in a state of shock, and we had to
calm them down. Funnily enough, there was a sign at the back of the car that said, 'Do It ln A VW!"
This is true, readers. Don't know about the next bit, though. "Apparently, the reason they crashed
was because they'd been listening to our single, and they couldn't believe how good it was."
IN terms of spirit and essence, then, Swervedriver are metal. Musically, they've been called chrome,
although Jimmy prefers metallic and shimmering. The general consensus is this band sounds like a
bruised and tattered Pontiac Firebird, polished up and cruising down sunbaked mid-Western
freeways, only without a driver, like the truck in Spielberg's "Duel". And the prospect of losing
control-for the car, for the noise - is always there.
Swervedriver are about travel, speed, motion
and escape; rebel music, for sure. But this is as much about fleeing the chains that bind in your
mind ("Gotta kill this pain. . .", or "Take me far away.. .", or "l don't care what you say/I'm gonna
do it anyway") as much as the dull ties of the real world.
"We've got quite a hard edge, I suppose," says Adam, as he, Jimmy and Graham assess the chasm between themselves and the so-called My Bloody Valentine copyists.
Jimmy: "Our lyrics and vocals are more upfront." As Adi so neatly
put it before he left, "They (the MBV-ists) are more snow and comfy sofas, whereas we're. . .
broken bottles and really hardbacked wooden chairs!"
Or something. It's true, though - Swervedriver don't seem to be in as much of a dizzy swoon about love as, say, Chapterhouse or Boo Radleys. Mind you, there's a great line on the first EP's "Volcano Trash", about "The apple of my
eyelash". Perhaps lyricist Adam hides his heart beneath the steel cage of his songs.
"It's all about making love on drugs," he says, "seeing visions, things shooting off the walls, stuff like
How about "Zedhead"?
"That's about when I was a kid, I used to think it'dbe great if your
bedroom was like a control room in a spaceship, and it could move outside the house and fly."
Pretty abstract, really.
"Extremely nonsensical, actually!"
IT'S been a great year for the electric
guitar. Brilliant records, lots of choice. So why Swervedriver?
Graham: "Someane at Creation said we're the best thing the label's put out since the Mary Chain's 'Upside Down'. I felt really good
about that, cos that's one of my favourite singles of all time."
Jimmy: "Someane else said that we're 'insufferably cool'."
Talking of which, Jimmy reckons Tim Charlatan is pretty uncool. On
the other hand, whenever Andy Ride comes on TV, Hartridge just can't help himself, screaming
"Andy!" until he's hoarse.
Are you really "insufferably cool", though?
"That's the thing about being cool-you don't think you cool. We'll just have to wait til somebody else says it."
Swervedriver are cool. Believe it.
The "Ravedown" EP is out now on Creation. SwervecJriver are on lour
10 promote it until Chrishnas.
Originally Appeared in Melody Maker, December 1, 1990
Copyright © Melody Maker.