Noise from the Edge of the World, an Interview with Swallow the Rat
Swallow the Rat is a relatively new unit located in New Zealand. Channeling a dusty fury, the band explodes with a raw edge mixed with glimmering guitars. With an organic, live sound, Swallow the Rat bring to the table an energy that should catapult them into many music fan’s collections. The band was kind enough to answer my questions about the band’s origins, current recordings, the future of their debut album, and the scene in New Zealand.
Hello all in Swallow the Rat!
Let’s start by having you all introduce yourselves and let us know what you do in the band.
Hayden: myself Hayden Fritchley, drums, art.
Sam: Hey I’m Sam Vercoe, guitar and vocals
Stephen: Bass, Synth, beergut
How did the band form?
Sam: Brian had been in contact asking about the Auckland music scene as he and his family were moving to Auckland. So, when he was over for a holiday in 2016 we met up at a bar and had quite a few beers/whiskeys, and that’s probably where the idea of a band started.
Once Brian finally moved to Auckland we slowly recruited band members and began working on material.
Before we get into specifics about your recordings and what’s to come, can you talk a little bit about the artists that influence the band or individuals in the band?
Sam: 3Ds, Gordons/Bailterspace, Sonic Youth and Fugazi to name a few.
Hayden: Jah Wobble. Labels like Earache. My 14 year old son has been been getting into Slint lately so Spiderland has been getting thrashed at home. He’s a drummer too so I’ve been showing him other Britt Walford stuff.
Brian: My Bloody Valentine and the Butthole Surfers
Stephen: A dogs breakfast really. My origins are in bands like High Dependency Unit or Sonic Youth. These days it ranges from Tim Hecker, Oneontrix Point Never, Wolf Eyes, Blank Realm, HTRK, Townes Van Zandt, Love Theme
You came out with “Echoes of a Tide” back in January as your debut single. Then you subsequently came out with “New Cross” and the self-titled EP. How have you been going about writing songs and what is your process like for recording?
Hayden: We try to get together once a week and make a whole lotta noise. We flesh ideas out as a group. In terms of recording what has worked for us is to plug in and play live, then maybe add or subtract a few layers. We’re back in the studio next month and this will most likely be our process again.
Are you headed toward a full-length? If so, when are we going to get to hear more? Will the EP tracks be included or will be all new songs?
Hayden: It’s looking like mid next year for an album. We’ve been working on some stuff but the track listing is yet to be decided. We’ll wait and see what comes of these next sessions.
What sort of gear do you all use in Swallow the Rat? Is your gear different live than it is in the studio? If so, how?
Sam: I play a Fender Stratocaster through about half a dozen pedals cranked out of a Fender DeVille amp. That setup is what I use live and, in the studio, so far. The other guys in the band have a lot of nice guitars, so I might play one or two of them on the new recordings to mix the sound up a bit.
Hayden: Stephen has brought in a few synths which is sounding cool. I’ve finally killed my favourite ride but I’ll keep using it.
Stephen: I do have a bit of a problem with buying gear- mainly small desktop synths and studio gear these days. I use an 86 Tokai P bass copy that i bought off my cousin- its super light and has a great neck. I’m borrowing a Fender Mustang and Jazz bass for the studio.
Brian: My main guitars are a Copeland Jazzmaster and a Gibson SG. I use a Fender Vibrolux live and record with a Vox AC30 and Sovtek Mig100. I own a fair number of guitar pedals, some of the main ones I use in Swallow the Rat are an Earthquaker Disaster Transport Sr, Death by Audio Echo Dream, Ibanez Tube Screamer with the Keely Mod, Dunlap Wah, MXR Phase 90 and a Zvex Super Hard-on. I’ve recently added a couple New Zealand made pedals into the mix; a Peper’s Pedals Rad (Rat Clone with tweaks) and a Lightning Wave Ghost.
Have you all been in other bands? Are you currently in other projects? If so, where can we hear your other music?
Sam: Yep we’ve all been in other bands over the years. I’m not currently in any other bands, but my old band was called Lost Rockets. https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Qx4mz98IabtF91FYiX8kW?si=cdB366p3RwePZZL16_uwVQ
Hayden: Yeah we all have. My other band right now is Deathbeam. https://deathbeam.bandcamp.com/album/tracking-down-black-dog
Brian: I have a couple projects I’m involved with back in Austin, My Education (https://myeducation.bandcamp.com/, and Cinders Ensemble (https://cindersensemble.bandcamp.com/releases) along with another New Zealand based project, ROPE (https://ropenz.bandcamp.com/)
Stephen: I previously played in Body Corporate https://open.spotify.com/album/6aTPyimMdfQjccQR0QS6hG and Thieves https://thievesss.bandcamp.com/. These days I also have a solo electronic noisy techno project called birdcatcher https://bird-catcher.bandcamp.com/
How is the live scene in New Zealand and do you see the environment affecting the way your music sounds and how you express yourself?
Sam: The live scene could do with some more venues to play in. We’ve had a few iconic venues close in recent years, but there are still plenty of good (new and old) bands playing up and down the country.
I think living on an island at the end of the world has always influenced New Zealand music, giving it a certain sound that’s hard to describe. I guess the isolation seeps into the tone of what you’re creating.
Hayden: I guess the scene here is not unlike other places, slightly incestuous, with different units coming and going. We just do what we do. Right now there’s some great new bands coming out of smaller towns like Tauranga.
Stephen: Having had a few years out of the scene due to small kids, I’d have to say is in pretty good shape.
Brian: The scene in Auckland is much smaller than Austin but there’s a lot of talent here and everyone has been very welcoming to this re-homed Texan.
Can we expect a possible U.S. tour or are your plans more local at the moment?
Hayden: At this stage we’ll be over in March to play SXSW. If we survive that who knows.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers?
Sam: Support your local music scene. Cheers for reading and listening!
Hayden: Thanks for reading and listening. Hopefully see you soon.
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