Kurt from Sounds of Swami’s Top Ten Punk Rock Influences… in alphabetical order.
At The Drive-In
Like most noughties teenagers, I was drowning in a swirling pool of baggy pants, back to front caps and wallet chains with the sound of Limp Bizkit and Staind blaring at every house party I stumbled into. Seeing the DIY video for ‘One Armed Scissor’ on MTV2 from Relationship of Command kept me afloat through all that; then came the purchase of In/Casino/Out and Vaya. No one does chaos like ATDI. We’ve been trying to rip them off ever since.
Since falling in love with Fugazi, I made a conscious effort to hear literally every band on Dischord Records (you really should check out Evens, Hoover, Jawbox, Nation of Ulysses, Scream and Q and not U for starters!) and Bluetip were like nothing I’d heard before. Punk N Roll before Punk N Roll with intelligent lyrics, interweaving guitars and someone that could actually sing. I’ve always how big they sounded with stripped back production (J. Robbins!) Compression isn’t everything…
Like all bands, we’ve transcended through lots of influences and styles but without Dead Kennedys, we wouldn’t be the noise factory we are today. We’d all been through (and still love!) the likes of Sex Pistols, Ramones, Minor Threat et al… but Dead Kennedys were the band that made us realise that you can push the boundaries of the punk sound and still be classified as punk (whatever that means). On Fresh Fruit’, it was Jello Biafra’s theatrical performances and satirical lyrics and East Bay Ray’s delayed discordant guitar playing that set us up from the start.
Drive Like Jehu
No videos, no singles, no bullshit. They released two of the finest noisy punk rock records ever committed to tape and then split up. Much like a lot of the bands in this list, their brand of locked-in bass and drums provided an open landscape for two guitars to play absolutely anything over them. From dissonant noise to clean melodies, the twin guitar interplay is still mesmerizing to me. A couple of years ago I had tickets to see them until ATP fucked that up. Still hurts.
I could sit here and talk about Fugazi all day (the ‘End Hits is such an underrated album’ conversation has killed more than one party) but I’d say overall, they are our biggest influence… although I wouldn’t say we sound like them all that much. Fugazi really hit home that the song is all about the performance both on a stage and in the studio. Because of their manic live shows, they found it hard to capture their intensity in the studio… so they’d just do it live for the most part. Both our albums have been recorded mostly live with the most recent straight to tape. It’s all in the performance.
The band that followed Drive Like Jehu. When I first moved out of home, I moved to Leeds and spent my entire student load on drinking and buying records. I went straight to Jumbo Records and bought their third and final album (they’re recording a new one right now!) Audit In Progress on clear Red vinyl. What a revelation and what a record. The rhythms and quirky subject matter grabbed me instantly. Not to mention, it’s where we got our name. I listened to side one, flipped it over and there it was: Swami Records. Cool name for a band… but someone had it already so we added the ‘Sounds of’ part… still not as good!
There must be something in air in Seattle. The Sonics, Green River, Melvins… to many they won’t be seen as punk but to me, it’s all there in the attitude. Its the same with Nirvana; proud devotees of punk wearing the likes of the Wipers, Stooges and Flipper on their sleeves. However we go about it, a big chorus usually comes into play when we’re writing and it comes from Nirvana. The ‘grunge' sound looms heavy and that’s just fine.
There’s a formula emerging before my eyes; punk bands that push the sonic boundaries of punk. It’s fair to say that we all danced to New Noise in clubs years before buying The Shape of Punk To Come. One thing that is annoying about our music is that you can’t dance to it (maybe we should strive to rip Fugazi off a little more) but with the bulk of Refused’s third album, you could. Punk, Jazz, Metal, programmed Beats… and why not.
I’m not sure Reuben really falls into the punk category but you’ve got to give it to them for achieving what they did in a mostly DIY fashion. I love early punk and I love the many mutated angles it’s evolved into. You can see the clear evolution though Reuben’s three albums and it’s final magnum opus In Nothing We Trust has been blaring in our van for years whilst on tour. The intended raw production and genre defying music is something we took with us into the recording of Furniture For Modern Living.
SlintAdmittedly I’d heard about Spiderland for years but I didn’t buy it until I found a secondhand CD in a charity shop about 5 years ago. Their first album Tweez was very much of the Touch and Go / Jesus Lizard ilk but by the time they’d arrived at Spiderland, they’d turned their attention to a style of playing that was anything but that. A lesson in dynamics and story telling; they took the extremes to the extreme. Despite it’s dark and emotionally draining character, I’ve found that it’s the only album I own that I can listen to whatever mood I’m in. Spiderland had a huge effect on our new album.
Pre-order Sounds Of Swami's new album Furniture For Moder Living here: https://soundsofswami.bandcamp.com/album/furniture-for-modern-living