Adam Franklin spent most of the '90s fronting the seminal Brit-rock act Swervedriver. Over the last several years, however, he has steered clear of the shoegazing subgenre that his band helped create. Instead, Franklin has explored jangle pop, droning psychedelia, and alt-country with his group Toshack Highway, and now solo with his 2007 debut, Bolts of Melody.
While Swervedriver's sound leaned toward heavy, Franklin's newest output isn't as easy to categorize. Melody occasionally employs the swirling noise that always supplemented Swervedriver's bombastic drumming and thickly distorted guitars. But these elements serve Franklin's solo songs in different ways, creating dreamy but desolate soundscapes that also boast weeping pedal steel and ornate piano arrangements.
Scene spoke with Franklin via phone shortly before he began rehearsals for this fall's U.S. tour.
Are you bringing a band with you from the U.K. or playing with people from the States?
It's sort of a mix. The last tour we did was two or three guys from New York and then Ley [Taylor], who's from Toronto and played on the album as well. But this tour the drummer we had couldn't do it, so I'm actually getting my old friend Jeff [Townsin], who's from London.
Will you be doing any Swervedriver songs?
I think there are a few Swervedriver tunes that can be done in this sort of combination or lineup.
The solo record is a lot different from Swervedriver. How different are the arrangements of those songs?
For a while I was doing some solo shows, and at those shows I play a few Swervedriver songs. But obviously, if you're playing solo, you don't want to do it like the full-band version. So I just kind of rearrange them in a more finger-picking acoustic style.
There's some twang in the newer songs. Is country music an influence?
We do have the pedal-steel player live, but there isn't actually any pedal steel on the album. And likewise, we have had a few shows with piano as the fourth or fifth instrument, and there's not that much piano on the album either. But it's just ways of approaching them, where the recorded version of the song isn't necessarily cast in stone.
In the last few years there has been a shoegazing revival in indie rock. Do you still feel tied to that movement?
Yes and no. We've become one of those bands that gets called one of the shoegazing bands — and at the time, and now still, we were much more of a rock band. We know a lot of those bands and still keep in touch with them. It's difficult to sort of think of it as, like, one whole thing, because if you trace a line from, say, Lush to Swervedriver, there's a big difference there. But I think the line from, say, Swervedriver to Sonic Youth isn't such a long line. So at the same time, you know, shoegaze has now become a turn of phrase. You can listen to the new Sonic Youth album and say a couple of the songs are shoegaze, or even [listen to] a band like Air and have them described that way as well. It's difficult to say really, because then again I hear some of these bands that are supposedly "nü-gaze" or whatever, and some of it does nothing for me whatsoever.
Swervedriver was always lumped in with those bands, and you obviously had some connections, peers on the same labels, and some stylistic similarities. But you were bringing more rock to the table than some of the other bands like My Bloody Valentine or Lush.
There were a bunch of those bands that I liked and some that I thought were shit, you know? Likewise, there were grunge bands that I thought were great and certainly a hell of a lot of grunge bands that I thought were shit.
What are your plans for the future? Can we expect more solo output, or do you have other projects in mind?
It would be good to get another solo album out next year, if I can. The songs are there, and it would be good to follow up on this one. There's also this thing, the Setting Suns, that I've been doing with Sam [Fogarino] from Interpol, and we just recorded an EP that I believe is going to come out around November. Depending on how busy we are, there are loose plans to record an album as well.
Any chance of a Swervedriver reunion down the line?
Well, it's great that people still talk about the band. It's been 10 years since Swervedriver has done anything and 20 years since the band formed. Obviously, a lot of bands have been re-forming lately. A lot of these bands, you go and see them, and it's really quite awe-inspiring. I went and saw the Pixies when they reformed, and it was kind of spine-tingling. So who knows? Perhaps.