PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson
The track, Subliminal, is available via:
8th February, 2019
I am going to have to repeat myself here a bit...
because, whilst it is not a slight on Swears themselves, they have a lot in common with other bands I have featured from the North East. Whilst the sound is sort of the same and there is not really a unique angle – in terms of their story and how they got together; what their music combines etc. – that is inevitable in a market that is growing and very busy right now. I shall get to the good bits in a second but it occurs, looking at them, that they take good images. There are some cool photos on their social media right now but I would suggest the boys gets a few more included. They have some great live shots that have been taken at various shows but not too many of them together in a portrait. It would be good to see them come through because, whilst their images suggest they are a great live act, a few composed shots might add a new dynamic to their personality. The guys keep their social media updated and informed so, as a fan, you are always being kept in the loop regarding what is going on and how they are moving. That is important in this market because I get so many requests from people who are either not on Twitter – an essential platform for every act – or they do not update it very often. It is hard enough to stand aside from the pack so you’d think people would take advantage of every option out there. For a band or artist, social media offers fans around the world and I never get the logical behind people forsaking Twitter. Even if you do not use it that often and it does not bring too many people in, it is useful to have and there are ways to attract more followers. Swears are organised and, when it comes to their social media platforms, they are visible and passionate.
This might sound like a small point but, as I have said numerous times, it is vital. Music is as much about the visual aspect of things as it is the music. If the guys can supplement their online spread with some more photos then it would stand them out even more. I would also like to know what sort of music they are attracted to. As I say, I have reviewed a few bands from the same part of the world and, given this review is so extensive, need some special angles to come from. You listen to their music and know that there is a lot of depth and work that goes into it. The band is tight and you can feel that, behind the scenes, they have a great relationship. Bringing something of that to the page would be awesome and give them another layer. I am not too bothered when it comes to biography because most people will look away from that and go straight for the songs. I guess that is the most important part of the process and, so long as you get the music right, then the rest will sort of take care of itself. This is true but Swears have a great sound and I think they could give themselves an easy boost. I should park that on the side for now but, as I said, I might need to repeat myself because of the situation and location of the band. When it comes to me reviewing Subliminal, I will be able to give a unique expression but, right now, I will need to move onto another subject. Before I do, it is worth exploring Swears’ social media and information because they definitely want to reach as many people as possible and stand out. Joel Clayton, Craig Hughes and brothers George and Stephanos Louca have been going since 2017 and made some big steps since then. I love the singles they have already released and they seem to be growing stronger with each one.
I will talk about the new track soon enough but I wanted to cover the North East and why it is often overlooked. I have, as I said, talked about music from Newcastle and Middlesbrough and why these are areas we need to talk about more. I think London does get a bit too much attention but how many bands do you get from there? I feel London is better when it comes to solo artists but other parts of the nation seem to do the band thing better. I think the North has always been stronger when it comes to bands and we need to embrace them more. There are a lot of great solo acts around but I can feel bands starting to make more of an impression. When it comes to bands, I find myself attracted to those playing in areas like Brighton and Manchester. Swears are up in Middlesbrough and, whilst it is not as busy as other cities, there are some great venues around. I have assessed a few bands from that way and I am always left satisfied and educated. I find bands like Swears are less concerned with copying other bands or producing sounds they think will fill stadiums or get into the charts. I will discuss the sound Swears make because, with every band that comes through, it is hard to stand apart. There has always been that North-South divide when it comes to music. Things are getting better but I do worry many artists are relocating down this way because they cannot get the same attention where they are. Swears have a great local reputation and I feel like they have ambitions to perform as far and wide as possible. They are clearly happy where they are but how much of the national music media casts their eyes as far as the North? It is a bit of a concern and I think it is something that needs to be challenged and solved.
PHOTO CREDIT: Piron Aston Music Photography
Swears have been around for a bit now and they know the business pretty well. Their great live sets and solid songs have won them praise and attention but this is a very competitive industry. It may seem like a cliché but I feel you get more personality and energy from bands in the North of England. Look back at the bands from this area that have endured and inspired – such as Oasis and Arctic Monkeys – and there is something about them that lasts in the memory. So many of the new bands from the North are carrying on this mantle and setting themselves aside. Swears instantly seem to jump from the speakers and their music remains in the mind. I am not sure whether there is a direct connection between location and music but I think there is something in it. If Swears were based in London, I feel their music might sound a bit generic or they would change what they do. Where they are now, they have a bit more freedom and are writing in a way that is true to them. I do feel like there is little focus given further north of London and there is so much treasure to be discovered. I think there are more and more bands coming out at the moment so it can be tricky having that unique selling point or distinct flavour. Swears, in terms of sound, are similar to a few bands but it is the combination of qualities and the way they write that gives them a little boost. I do wonder whether the general sound bands are producing has changed through the decades. Look back from the 1960s and the Pop that dominated; the fact Punk came out in the late-1970s and we had Britpop and Alternative by the 1990s. Every decade fostered its own movement and, a lot of the time, there was an emphasis on energy and spirit. I am not suggesting bands have lost that now but there are fewer out there who are producing something quite intense and rousing. Many bands now are sort of mixing genres and there is something lacking. There are some mighty bands around but so many of them come off as quite routing and uninspired. It is a hard balance to get right.
PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson
The guys of Swears seem more prepared and, as I said earlier, I would be eager to know which acts inspired them. I do not feel like it gives too much away mentioning that and, for people like me, it is interesting seeing where they came from and who they grew up around. I shall mention their sound when I come to the song review but, in a general sense, there has been something missing from the industry. There was a time when you got a lot of fuzzy bands who produced something quite lo-fi and snarling. Maybe it was more prevalent when Grunge ruled but I have seen it continue. I think the band market has less pull than it did and so many new options are stepping far away from that gritty and gravelled sound. It is a shame because, when done right, it can be electric and hugely memorable. A lot of bands have tried their own version of Grunge and Alternative and it can fall flat. There is something about the connection between the Swears members that makes their music pop and explode. Maybe it is their influences and the music they love but I think they have detected a gap in the market and are primed for success. I would love to see more bands follow their lead. We all have plenty of choice when it comes to sounds and genres but there are not that many bands that are doing what Swears are. Maybe it is a thing of the North but that is another reason why critics and people need to train their eyes that way. One of the reasons there might have been a dip regarding fuzzier sounds is because it is not that commercial. The market has shifted and it has changed a lot. The most popular sounds in the mainstream are sort of Pop-based and you would struggle to name that many bands that are getting as much attention as the best solo artists.
PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson
In sonic terms, there seems to be this leaning towards Pop but I feel that will start to change in a few years. If you look at how things have changed through the past few decades, I feel we are about to see a break away from the Pop rulers and a bit more eclectic landscape. I am not suggesting hard and hitting bands like Swears will instantly conquer and replace the current order but there is a yearning in the air that is calling for movement. I feel people want to discover music that has depth a sense of heart. There are Pop artists who have soul and can provide something real but there are too many that are quite shallow and commercial. Maybe Swears felt this pining when they started life but I feel they will start to grow and become more popular as there is this drive for evolution. It would be strange to think Swears will just remain where they are and play the local circuit. They are an ambitious band and their music is getting some serious heat. It is the sheer force of their movements and how they suck you into songs that gets to me. So many bands make you work hard and they are not always as appealing as you’d hope. The second you start to play Swears, you are in their world and are moved. That is not an easy thing to pull off so kudos to them. I think it is their sound and chemistry that sets them apart because, as I intimated, they have very similar aspects to other bands out there. The reason they stand above so many other groups is the way they play and how instant their music is. Even though more artists are looking at gnarling sounds and something fuzzy, Swears have this additional magic and level that gets into the brain and stays there for a while.
PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Lochrie
I think live sets and a reputation on the circuit is a good way of spreading the message. Streaming numbers are important but there is nothing like seeing an artist play and then sharing the good word. Swears have been played on BBC radio and they have gained a lot of praise because of their incredible sets. It is clear Swears are one of the best bands on the Teesside circuit and that is not something to be taking lightly! There are some great bands up there all bustling for attention and looking for fans. I think Swears’ ability and natural strength on the stage is another reason why they get into the mind. I find so many artists are impressive in the studio but they do not translate that well onto the stage. Maybe that is a reason why some live venues are closing. If there are not that many great artists pulling people in then venues can struggle. The Teesside scene is thriving at the moment and that is because there are so many tremendous local acts. Swears’ new single, Subliminal, was recorded at Prospect Studios but it does have that live sound. I do hope the media shows more love for Swears and they get the chance to have their music played on bigger stations down here. I am not sure whether they have been included on BBC Radio 6 Music before but it seems like they’d pick up a lot of new fans there. This might be territory for them to explore but Swears are clearly on the rise. I will end by looking at their 2019 and what might come next but, when thinking of their new single, the title sort of tells the tale. Subliminal is about the media and how their negativity can infiltrate our minds. It is about their pervasive negativity and sense of propaganda that can skew our thoughts and do damage. It seems like an appropriate and always-timely thing to write about. The way the messages are projected and delivered means every words stands out and you find yourself coming back for more.
There is something Punk-like and anthemic as Subliminal opens up. There is that meaty riff and gravelled sound but I love the chanted vocals that sort of mix the Punk of the 1970s and 1980s with something modern. It is a great start to the song and you are already invested. There is a sense that the chanting and vocals represents the chatter of the media and its inanity. The hero talks about carrying out wishes and not being able to put up with this. Maybe it is a reaction to the way the press project these views and try to poison the people. The composition is great but I feel like it does crowd the vocal at times. Maybe it is the way the lines are delivered but some lyrics do sort of fade down or they are not as decipherable as they should be. Most are clear but there are occasions when you miss a few of the words and the music gets a bit too heavy. That is not a big problem because, to be fair, look at Punk and Grunge of the past and that was a common problem. One gets the sense the hero is fed up with the way the press is campaigning on their own terms and they are spreading lies. I feel like there is a more general look at the media and the way there is not a lot of truth. This might extend to social media but I get the sense the printed press are under the boot. What I like is the sheer force and commitment of the band. Things never get too loud and aggressive but one cannot say Subliminal is a soft and calm thing! Maybe there is a little nod to the Foo Fighters at times – which is not a bad thing – but Swears very much do their own thing. They talk about different layers to the dayshift and that sense of fatigue comes back through. A lot of the lyrics are clearly a shot against the media and the way they operate but there are some oblique elements that make me wonder.
Everyone will have their own visions regarding some lines but you detect a definite anger and need for change. When the chorus swings back in, you are ready to sing along because it has that instant and huge sound. Subliminal is under two-and-a-half minutes and it is impressive to see a band do that. A lot of artists like to take a bit more time but Swears manage to pack so much into that time. Their short and sharp mandate is a rally against the press and the way we are all sort of being brainwashed. One detects personal dissatisfaction and a desire for improvement. The band is very tight throughout and you can tell they have worked very hard on the song. It has that great live sensation so I can imagine it will go down very well with the crowds. You have that catchy chorus – so people will be singing along – but the verses pack a big punch. I do feel there are very few bands who can produce something economical and focused that lingers in the mind, Swears have achieved this and they leave a lot of questions unanswered. I get the aspects regarding subversion and subliminal messages but I get the feeling there are other aspects at work and other concerns. Maybe that is me reaching but one feels like the lyrics are not only attacking the media but looking inwards. Every listener will go in their own direction but I definitely wondered whether the lead had some concerns and personal struggles he was trying to get out in the song. In any case, Subliminal is a song that will last in the memory and make its impression. I will wrap things up in a bit but I hope more people listen to the song and get something from it. Swears have grown between releases and they seem to get bigger with every track. This is promising as they look ahead and think about new material.
I do wonder whether they have an E.P. in mind as Subliminal could perfectly open it. I mentioned how bands like IDLES and Foals are making an impact because of what they are talking about and you can add Swears to that list. I maintain there is something special about bands in the North and the way they perform. Maybe it is something to do with their local environment and sounds around them or it might just be a natural thing. In any case, this song shows we all need to spend a bit more time investigating folk like Swears. I love how each band member gets a chance to shine on the song. The percussion is able to strut and stand out whereas you get a moment when the grumbling and groaning bass takes the lead. It is not just about the frontman and making sure his voice is the dominant force. The song is about connection and chemistry and, essentially, being different. It is refreshing hearing a band that allows the music to shine and gives each musician a moment in the sun. The lyrics will remain long after the song has ended and I think their importance will not diminish anytime soon – which is sort of tragic. I have talked for long enough – so I shall move on – but congratulations to Swears who have created an instant and incredible song that proves they are one of the most exciting new bands coming through in the North of England. I look forward to seeing where they head next and whether subsequent material follows the same path as Subliminal. A raw and incredible song from a band that are in a league of their own. Do yourself a favour and follow this fantastic Middlesbrough band.
PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson
I have talked about a lot about general aspects around Swears and how they fit into the market. I think they will have a very successful 2019 and continue to pick up plaudits. They will have gigs in the Teesside area and check out their social media feeds for all the latest news. I wonder whether they will play in the southern counties and if they have plans to perform in London. I would like to see them play but I feel like there is a whole world for them down here. I maintain they need to remain where they are and should not feel the need to relocate. Their reputation is building and that will only continue as they put out more music. If they can add a bit more to their social media pages and maybe put up a few live videos onto their accounts then that might give people an impression of who they are as a band. Swears have featured on Amazon Prime so there is footage out there of them playing. I wonder whether they might produce an E.P. this year and launch that into the world. I am excited to see where they can go and what they can achieve. There are more bands coming along but I think solo acts still take most of the acclaim. Maybe it will take a bit longer for the balance to shift but I feel more and more bands are making their voices heard.
What strikes me is how few can project that fuzzy and intense sound and make it stick. There are a lot of people trying it and I genuinely feel that there is another Grunge-like movement in the offing. Swears are definitely one of the more assured and talented bands around. They have this exceptional bond and energy. This all comes through in their music but they are so much more than force and aimless riffs. There are bands that trade in the hollow but Swears have a lot of depth and they are joining bands like Foals and IDLES regarding subject matter and its importance. There is an appetite for truth in music and I feel, as the political situation in this country shows no signs of shifting, it means Swears can keep on growing and getting more acclaim. I will leave things there but I would recommend people do investigation regarding Swears and start from the beginning. If you can see them live then make sure you do but it cannot be too long until the guys are playing around the country. There is a hunger to see them in the flesh and I hope that is realised. I shall leave things here and it has been great listening to Subliminal. I hope I have done the band justice but, as I mentioned, there are a lot of aspects that are similar to other bands I have encountered – including where they are based and the fact they are an all-male band playing on the heavier side. That said, there is plenty to separate Swears from everyone else and that all can be found in the music. Get your ears around their latest gem and discover why they are picking up so many great reviews. I know Swears are local and growing at the moment but it will not be long until...
PHOTO CREDIT: Piron Aston Music Photography
THEIR name is better known.
PHOTO CREDIT: Izak Jackson