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November 14, 2003 at 8:05 am #1137416bradsearsKeymaster
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The Name Game
November 14, 2003
By KATIE VRABEL
I only recently became a fan of the British band Swervedriver, but it happened instantly, from just an overheard snippet of their music at a record store. Now I feel like I should have been into this band back in the ’90s when they existed, not because they would have been right there under my nose to discover, but because they should have been.
Swervedriver is one of those bands whose name, for those in the know, brings to mind descriptions like “underrated,” “ahead of their time,” and “screwed over by record labels.”
Singer/guitarist Adam Franklin explains, “I think that it was like a blessing and curse signing to a major label early on. We were signed to Creation in England, which was a cool label to be on. It had a lot of cred, there were good bands on the label. It meant that people would be listening for who the next Creation band was, but at the same time, you know, we didn’t really see any money. We got licensed out to A&M in the states and then most of the money that A&M gave to Creation for Swervedriver basically went towards paying for Oasis’ shoes or whatever. The main thing is getting a label that’s got good distribution, that can actually get you out there, having people know that something’s out. If they don’t know it’s out, you’re kind of like a duck in water as they say.”
Franklin, who has spent the past few years recording under the name Toshack Highway and touring as a solo acoustic act or with a band, is not really dwelling on it.
“I think for a while, a couple years ago if we did interviews, it would always center on label troubles and all that sort of thing,” says Franklin. “But I think a lot of other bands have probably had a lot worse problems with labels. You’ll hear about bands that actually got an album recorded and then they can’t actually release it, and it just sort of sits on the shelf somewhere. At least all our records got out there. But it’s kind of weird, I guess there still is a rabid Swervedriver following. And it’s kind of bizarre how sometimes it’s ‘bad’ to have a hit, and some of the die-hard fans kind of go away because they don’t feel like it’s their band anymore. But if you’re the sort of band who never quite makes it then you can remain somebody’s sort of own personal band.”
Swervedriver played big, psychedelic/alternative rock and drew comparisons to proto-grunge bands, especially Dinosaur Jr., and the British “shoegazer” bands. Franklin cites both of these as among his diverse influences, which range from the Beatles and T Rex on the classic side, to the Stooges, to the groups he credits with salvaging music in the ’80s, like Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., to current acts like Air, Broadcast and “genre-benders” like Beck.
On his Toshack Highway releases, Franklin creates spacey, three-dimensional soundscapes, using acoustic guitars with electronics for texture, and more recently stripped-down, acoustic, bluesy, singer-songwriter tracks.
On his current tour, Franklin is playing as a three-piece and touching on all points of his career so far. His immediate career goals include: recording another full-length album, his first since 2000, getting a recording deal with proper distribution, and figuring out what to call the next project.
“My main thing at the moment is how to actually bill myself when I’m playing gigs,” says Franklin. “It makes sense to let people know that it’s the guy from Swervedriver, because maybe they don’t know who Adam Franklin is, but it’s kind of strange having it on the billing ‘Adam Franklin from Swervedriver.’ On this tour, they’ve done some posters and it says “Adam Franklin from” and then “Swervedriver” in big letters. And all the releases say it. Toshack Highway doesn’t seem like quite the right name for thi
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