This young UK act has no need to switch it on. They’re already on fire, stirring up our stages and television screens across America. Not only have they already played Jimmy Kimmel Live, but their single “Drama Queen” is the theme to the MTV show Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods and they’re currently doing a Nylon Magazine tour across the states with She Wants Revenge, Be Your Own Pet and The Virgins. Each of the four band members was lovely enough to put some time aside while traveling to let us in on a bit of Switches news.
Matt – Lead Vocals & Guitar
Thom – Bass and Backing Vocals
Ollie – Guitar & Backing Vocals
Steve – Drums
You’ve got quite a nice long US tour coming up. How do you feel about being so closely allied with a cool fashion magazine like Nylon? Will you get some free clothes out of the deal (would be nice, yes?)
Ollie [guitar]: The tour is going to be amazing and we’re all very excited. Some new clothes would be very sweet and help us achieve ‘cool’ status, something as a band we’ve always strived for…. umm…. then again probably not (haha).
Thom [bass]: Yeah that’d be great, although I thought Nylon was a girls’ fashion mag.
Steve [drums]: Free anything is always nice as we dont get a lot of shopping time on tour. Clothes would be great; clean clothes are welcome!! (haha)
Switches have toured with the likes of punk Britpop legend Graham Coxon. Was it nerve-wracking at first to open for such a legend (who I assume must be a hero to you as he is to us)?
Matt [lead vocals/guitar]: I felt strange meeting him, because I worshipped him so much as a teenager. We bought him a book on motorbikes because we know he’s into them. His guitar playing taught me a lot about why not use the pentatonic scale.
Ollie: Of course he’s our hero, he’s taught me pretty much everything I wanted to know about playing guitar. Graham Coxon is the greatest player of our generation and he gave Blur the most unique and interesting part of their sound. It wasn’t nerve-wracking opening for him though; he’s just a chilled out entertainer.
You guys have such an addictive pop sound but luckily, you’ve left a lot of the edge in. How do you write and come up with ideas for new songs and sounds as a band?
Ollie: Our main man Matt makes a good demo we can work from, and we’ll add our own ingredients on the top. Like a spicy pizza. I think we’re a chaotic rock ‘n’ roll band at heart, so however catchy and sweet a song will sound, we’ll always fuck it up enough to leave “edge” [not U2 guitarist].
How did you get so good at doing vocal harmonies? Any singing lessons as kids?
Matt: I learnt how to sing vocal harmonies by listening to Beach Boys records, working out the parts and then singing them myself onto a multi-track machine. That was my idea of fun as a 17-year-old. Now I just drink and watch films if I want fun.
Thom: I’ve been singing since I was a lad. Loads of different material…I discovered rock’n’roll and the Beatles when I was 7 years old and never looked back.
How did you happen to record Lay Down the Law in Los Angeles?
Ollie: We wanted to work with a producer called Rob Schnapf. L.A. was his stomping ground and he and wouldn’t move for us. We moved for him. Good job we did though, we had the greatest time ever recording our album in Sunset Sound.
Matt: I wanted to work with Rob because he produced the Vines’ Highly Evolved. It was my favourite album when it came out. Also we wanted to make a rock n’ roll record and that’s what he does.
Was it a dream of Switches to get to hang out in Hollywood and chill out under the palm trees for a while?Ollie: Absolutely. Lots of our favourite bands and musicians hailed from L.A. and i think it was this that partly attracted us to the place.
Matt: It enabled me to live out my Beach Boys fantasy. All their classic records were cut in L.A., so growing up all I wanted to do was go to L.A. and pretend I was a Beach Boy. The truth is, I felt more like pale, nerdy English boy.
Steve: Hollywood is everyone’s perfect dream, I think. That’s where the stars are and all the happenings go on, palm trees are sexy!
I know you’ve got a list of favorite British, Australian, etc. bands who might have influenced the band, at least early on, but I distinctly hear a Dandy Warhols inspiration in the song “Drama Queen.” I’m a fan of theirs. Am I way off?
Ollie: Not way off. A lot of people have mentioned that, including themselves. I think that’s the way the verses are sang, the choruses are more of a ELO theme, really.
Matt: I used to listen to the Dandy Warhols’ Come Down album on my headphones whilst walking alone around my University Campus and think I was the coolest guy there (in reality I was a head-case recovering from some sort of breakdown with a can of White Lightning in my hand and my trousers tucked into my socks). I told Courtney that’s what I felt his music was about that and he knew what I meant.
Thom : I think the only similarity really is the guitar style and verse vocal delivery. We met up with the Dandys in Portland and Courtney was a big fan of the song.
I met you briefly behind the scenes at the Spin party at Stubb’s in Austin, after your set. Spin called your band a “shape-shifting” outfit. What do you think the reviewer meant by that? Sounds quite mysterious! Ollie: It does sound quite mysterious. I think we are a very adaptive band and although all of our music sounds like us, each song can sound dramatically different in style. We listen to and love a lot of different music. I don’t think bands listen to enough music these days.
Thom : We have a lot of musical influences collectively as a band so perhaps that’s what they meant.
Would you prefer your songs to come across live to those hearing them for the first time as “immediate” or “challenging yet memorable” (or perhaps both)?
Ollie: I think we’re more of an immediate band song wise at the moment. Who knows though, perhaps it will get a hell of a lot more challenging later down the line. Both are good, but different.
Thom: I think the way Matt writes is very subtle, sounds simple and immediate but on closer examination is complex; very difficult to achieve both I think.
–MVW/photos by Eileen Murphy