Interview: Kieran Webber | Header Image: Chris Crowder
In a time where austerity is ripping apart this country and Brexit dividing homes, bands such as Swine Tax are part of a movement of artists that are incredibly important. The young band (only forming in 2017) from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne have been making a serious impact.
They blend the best parts of indie-rock and punk mixed with political undertones, making them a band worthy of your attention. Through a string of single releases and explosive live shows they have started to build a strong reputation for themselves, we wanted to chat to them to see what all the fuss was about!
CLUNK: Hey Vince, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! How are you all and what have you been up to this week?
Vince: Same old thanks, how are you? Well, we’re all going down to Leeds at the start of October to record some songs at Suburban Home studios and naturally we’ve left everything to the last minute. So we’ve been frantically writing and working out lots of new material this week – it’s been lots of fun! Aside from that, Charlie has just started a music course at uni, Tom went for a stupidly long run and my car broke down.
CLUNK: We’re good thanks! So how did you guys meet and how did Swine Tax come to be?
Vince: Tom and I grew up in the same area and knew each other from school. When I moved back to the North East after attending uni in Glasgow, I started to pick up my guitar again. I knew Tom was a proficient musician and that we had similar taste in music, so I asked him if fancied jamming together. We quickly got bored of playing our chaotic Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies covers – with two guitars and no vocals – so Tom moved onto thwacking the bass and I started yelping and writing songs. We then put an online add out for a rock drummer and Charlie responded. The rest is history.
CLUNK: What was the influence behind the band name?
Vince: Ukrainian pig farming.
CLUNK: What influenced you musically growing up?
Vince: I’m sure all of our parents’ record collections have influenced and corrupted us to a significant extent. We all listen to a lot of the Fall and the Clash. Tom and I are long standing fans of Pavement, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. Charlie is also big on punk and stoner metal genres. Tom and Charlie are into Captain Beefheart. I’m also really into the Modern Lovers, the Velvet Underground, the National and the Cure. We all love A Tribe Called Quest too – as everyone should!
Listen to ‘Thorns’ here:
CLUNK: What was life like growing up in Newcastle and how has it influenced your music?
Vince: Pretty good, yeah. Obviously there’s the social problems, industrial decline and under-investment in infrastructure etc, etc. But, it’s definitely a good city to live and create music in. It has a vibrant and largely supportive local scene with lots of dedicated DIY people. However it’s comparatively small, which makes working together with other bands and promoting your own shows quite important in order to get any kind of national publicity. In terms of influence, I can’t think of any North East bands that have influenced our music directly. But we do attend a lot of gigs, so depending on what we’ve seen that week, we might come into the practice room with nasty sludgy riffs or a hip-hop vocal delivery. And yeah there’s a few local references in my lyrics to pick up on.
“It has a vibrant and largely supportive local scene with lots of dedicated DIY people”
CLUNK: Your music has a strong political undercurrent so I am interested to know what you think of the current political climate in the UK?
Vince: We’re mad for it, of course! Haha. But yeah, we’re working class and hoping for a Labour government as soon as possible. The apparent anti-migrant sentiment, stoked by the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, is certainly troubling. It’s good to see artists meeting it with a positive counter-narrative (c.f IDLES, Nadine Shah), but politicians also need to do more to counter the climate of fear and ignorance. You can also see the effects all around us of a decade of public service cuts. I live with a chronic pain condition – so I wouldn’t be able to make music without a publicly funded NHS free at the point of use. As for our music, our politics definitely comes in there yeah, though we’re conscious not to be didactic or too obvious. We also sometimes change lyrics in live shows to include things that are topical or whatever – which keeps us amused and turns some heads.
CLUNK: How do you think Brexit will affect the arts and creative industries in the UK?
Vince: I suppose it’s all up in the air at the moment. But you can already see that overseas artists are being refused entry to the UK for festivals or are themselves declining invitations to play because they consider the Home Office’s iron-fisted process to be humiliating. Tory governments have already done plenty of damage with funding cuts to the arts and closure of community projects and libraries. As so-and-so said: “they know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
“Tory governments have already done plenty of damage with funding cuts to the arts and closure of community projects and libraries”
CLUNK: What bands are you listening to at the moment and why?
Vince: Parquet Courts, Canshaker Pi, (Sandy) Alex G, Protomartyr, Roxy Girls, Nap Eyes, The Nightingales, The Fish Police, Dead Naked Hippies, Young Fathers, Ought, Faithful Johannes, Bilge Pump, Mouses, Dead Like Wolves… there’s a few to be going on with. They’re all making great music at the moment!
CLUNK: Can we expect a full LP soon?
Vince: Probably not, but you can expect plenty of new music soon. We’re impatient and like to release music sporadically, as soon as we’ve finished it. An LP is something that we might start to think about next year, but at the moment we’re just enjoying experimenting and recording with a variety of creative people.
CLUNK: Lastly, we like to end our interviews with a story, can you tell us a tale of something weird/funny or gnarly that has happened to you guys?
Vince: We’re not that wild to be honest with you, so sadly we really don’t have any Hunter S Thompson-esque tales or anything (though Charlie dons a canny Fear and Loathing fancy dress outfit much of the time). I can let you in on our religiously observed pre-gig ritual: a carpark kick about, sparkling water (don’t knock it) and Buggin’ Out by A Tribe Called Quest. Rock on!