THINK Arizona, think big, big skies; and maybe we just need to amend that a little, what with Citrus Clouds carving out an impressive shoegaze aesthetic over in Phoenix, and Mute Swan a hundred-odd clicks south-east down the Arizona Sun Corridor in Tucson also wielding massive, FX-laden six strings with potency – the state is also the home of big, big guitar sonics these days. That Thames Valley sound transported, and transporting.
OK, OK, so: let’s introduce these guys. They blend the traditional shoegaze – no dream pop, this – with elements of post-punk and modern psych-rock.
Let’s meet them in turn: right now the Mute Swan cast is Mike Barnett on guitar and vocals, Prabjit Virdee on bass and vocals, Tom Sloane on guitar, and Gilbert Flores on drums; although props to Roger Reed, who drummed on the album. Now, let’s hand over to Mike to talk us through – he’s pretty much an expert on the band, what with being the singer and all.
“We came together from a couple different bands in town with the idea of playing some challenging but still accessible psych rock,” he says.
“At some point shoegaze started getting mixed in there, when we discovered MBV and Cocteau Twins. We dip into different genres from song to song though, so while we were putting on the shoegaze mask for ‘Sedative Sun’, it still has the Mute Swan stamp on it.”
And that’s the track you can hear below, which we’re premiering today. It’s pretty delish: check out those Kevin Shields-esque tonal bends that usher the tune into being, all delicious melodic scald. But it also fans out into a more spacious place, allows room for you to breathe and those guitars to ring out, while Mike’s vocals have a tiny touch of Pale Saints’ Ian Masters in their pure delivery. It has overtones and bags of melody and, well: if you rate the ‘gaze, turn this is up and let it drive all over you.
“The lyrics for ‘Sedative Sun’ came after watching a documentary about the opioid crisis in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, close to where I grew up,” Mike continues.
“I don’t actually care too much about lyrics, which is funny because I have a degree in writing and studied poetry.
“Hopefully we don’t offend any purists, but bands play what they listen to – so that’s what we do. We also listen to a lot of electronic music like Boards of Canada, Air, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Washed Out as well as Stereolab, Bowery Electric, The Sea & Cake, Animal Collective, and Broadcast. Stuff with weird vocals, now that I think of it.”
You want more, right? Excellent news. Because Mute Swan are releasing an album, Only Ever, on February 5th, via Melbourne’s Salty Dog.
There’s a couple more singles already out doing the rounds, should you wish to explore more: have a dabble with “Enough Fun”, the lovely summer glissando of “Life-like Dream” and particularly, if I may be so bold as to direct you, the propulsive, quirky excellence of “Burnt Almonds”.
Of the album, Mike says: “I would say Only Ever had more of a musical concept than a lyrical or thematic concept. It was about, how can we bring each of these styles that we like into our world of chord voicings and melodic language?
“The fifth track, ‘Life-like Dream’, has to do with non-duality and ego death. So that’s kind of the topical range.
The title is a lyric buried in one of the songs; it’s a nice way of saying ‘limited to any time in the future or the past’, or feeling limited but actually being infinite.
“I’m pretty excited for our music in the future to continue moving into sounds that can’t quite be identified: is that a guitar? is that a human voice? That would be cool. We’ll see.”
And they’ve got a pretty neat idea for an album release party, in the absence of any shows: instead of a celebratory gig, they’re doing a live-stream listening party at 8pm Mountain Standard Time on February 5th (that’s 3am on the 6th, GMT) on their YouTube channel.
Mike says: “We’re taking over a big art space in the middle of a shopping mall and playing the whole record on a turntable with projections and other interesting visual props. Unfortunately that would be 3am in the UK, but the video should be on YouTube by the next morning.”