â€when I was a kid all I did was listen to music,â€ says, front man of Brit Pop Punk Band Switches. â€œ… I started playing and writing songs when I was four or five.
At that age I only knew two chords so it was mainly Bolan rip-offs. I used to be fascinated with multi-tracking. I had this Fisher Price tape recorder and my moms reel to reel and I used to bounce across. I donâ€™t know if those tapes still exist, Iâ€™ll have to find them and do some remixes.â€
Self proclaimed neurotic obsessive-compulsive weirdos, Switches have pulled through impressively and despite their neuroses. On March 18, 2008, This London based quartet will be releasing their debut album, Lay Down The Law, produced byRob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith) on Interscope.
Front man, Matt grew up in Southend (a low-rent seaside town, something like the old Asbury Park neighborhood) and formed the band while at college: When you hear their music, you may be surprised to discover that all members have completely different tastes in music but it seems itâ€™s this very factor that
has kept each member on their toes and contributed massively towards their killer sound and recent successes.
Thereâ€™s Ollie Thomas, guitar: the sixties throwback aspiring to psychedelic-tinged virtuosity ala Hendrix and Abbey Road. Jimmy G, drums: all sharp-dressed eighties, think Thriller, Vegas and Letâ€™s Dance-era Bowie. Max Tite, bassist: nineties indie kid who loves vitamins, cake and Sufjan Stevens with equal desire. And Matt: seventies songwriter with a love for ELO and 10cc even though he wasnâ€™t born while they reigned, and a fully-fledged Child Of Britpop.
â€œSwitches spectacularly combine all that is good about British indy (new wave bounce, three part harmonies, guitars that â€˜chugâ€™) with all that is good about US indy (The Pixies, pretty much). We really donâ€™t need to remind you how all-powerful such a record could be.â€ – NME
The varying influences are a natural for Matt. In his teens he wrote hundreds of songs spanning from pop, disco, piano ballads, Beck-esque hip-hop, glam, punk, hardcore and emo. His stacks of homemade tapes were typhoons of conflicting styles. However styles, genres, bin cards and such hadnâ€™t quite been established in pre-school â€“ when Matt began playing at age three. At four heâ€™s bringing his dadâ€™s electric guitar to school (dad was a former BBC engineer), along with his own little Fisher Price recorder.
Already Matt loved to multi-track and over-dub when he shouldnâ€™t have even known the words. While this didnâ€™t make Matt a child prodigy, the music obsession and compulsion to play obviously continued and therefore, you have this story and the band.
Rather than head straight into the studio to record a disjointed mish-mash of an album, Switches hit the road. The band was on a mission to solidify their sound and present a coherent musical front. They returned ready to record their debut â€˜Message From Yuz EPâ€™ for Degenerate Music â€“ four tracks of handclappy glamstomparama that crystallizesthe last decade of British pop excellence and stood as an introduction into Switchesâ€™ world: Starts like Elastica kung fu-kicking and winds up in a three-way rock-opera face-off between ELO, Kraftwerk and Ziggy Stardust.
They then released â€˜Lay Down The Lawâ€™ which was immediately picked as track of the week by NME. Admired for itâ€™s swagger, stomp and hooks galore â€“ the song teases for the same named album to come.
Bishop captivates, corners and connects. Meanwhile the music is busy tricking nâ€™ tripping with enthusiastic & irresistibly upbeat riffs. The songs are swamped in the bitter sting of romance and conveyed by lyrics that betray the music with an emotional deviance often delivering a smartly sour bite.
â€œThe message is going to be of Love, but to be wary,â€ says Matt. â€œLove songs that arenâ€™t quite happy endingsâ€¦I really admire Ray Davies for writing songs that werenâ€™t involving him; he was just watchingâ€¦â€
Matt continues, â€œRock music is still alive and kickingâ€¦I really hope we can take it into new areasâ€¦ but it needs that genuine connection between band and listener. Creating music shouldnâ€™t be a one-way street â€“ empathy, creativity and passion are obviously crucial to usâ€¦but itâ€™s the added dimension of performing the songs face to face with an audience, then itâ€™s sink or swim.â€
Another night, another free residency at Spaceland. Another evening huddled like too-cool-for-school indie-rock vampires around a smoky, glass-sealed pool table. Another haze of near explosions, vodka tonics, ambiguous â€˜cross-the-room stares. Any normal night, this hipster scene would be quietly rocking to one of a handful of local LA acts, rewarding detachment with subtle head-bopping praise. And Iâ€™d be right along with them.
But, friends, I saw a grown man dance at Spaceland last night. And not just one. A fucking dozen. Like crazy robot monkeys. Blame it on Switches.
Coming off a triumphant set at Lollapalooza (with like-minded brit popsters The Fratellis), Switches are now wrapping up their American tour before hitting the UK festival circuit, and this may well be the last time youâ€™ll be able to catch them on small club stages. More than any band Iâ€™ve covered here at the
â€˜Sploder, Switches are primed to explode onto the American music scene. A simple glance at their myspace (click the link, Iâ€™ll wait) reveals not one, not two, but THREE primed-for-release singles: â€œLay Down the Law,â€ which reminds me why I ever liked Franz Ferdinand while it moves grown, jaded indie rockers to
dance like disco spastics, â€œDrama Queen,â€ which features an honest-to-God memorable chorus in a time where it often feels like catchiness has gone out of style, and â€œComing Down,â€ which, as the capper to an uncanny triumvirate of singles, brings to mind the virtuosity of late Irish rockers Ash. One can almost see the screaming teenage fans, the legions of American popsters that will find their indie rock niche with this accessible-yet-inventive powerpop quintet (their myspace lists four members, but they are touring with a fifth member on the black and whites). This is a band on the verge of success, and in a scene almost totally devoid of good powerpop, thatâ€™s an exciting proposition.
The importance of frontman Matt Bishop canâ€™t be understated. In a crowded field, rock vocalists tend to distinguish themselves with funny voices, gimmicks, or attitude (or, in some cases, all three). Not to knock it, but Bishopâ€™s got something different: versatility. Bishop sounds equally at home sneering through â€œLay Downâ€ and shouting out Britt Daniel-esque spoken-word in â€œDrama Queen.â€ A good rock singer is hard to find, but a versatile one is almost miraculous. The trick, as any Weezer fan knows, is keeping the songwriting as good as the vocalist. And as these three tracks show, these boys have a fourth of a greatest hits album already in the can.
Switches â€˜Lay Down The Lawâ€™ Available March 18, 2008 on Interscope Records