Thursday, 1 November 2007

INTERVIEW: Swimmer One

It doesn’t take a hydrologist to recognise there’s something stirring in Scotland’s musical waters. From the translucent dementia of The Magnificents to Frightened Rabbit’s cantankerous fuzz scuffles, 2007 has conceived a barrage of propitious Celtic acts. And leading this surge through the music industry’s tumultuous shores is Swimmer One with The Regional Variations’ majestic electro-pop spindling.

The duo of Andrew Eaton and Hamish Brown has created a bewitching slow-burning debut that ranks alongside The Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters for tartan-clad atmospherics. Entwined in a spiral of introspection and self-doubt, it’s a record that tugs coyly at the heartstrings; twinkling to the sound of traversing, spacious synths and despondent lyrical vignettes

Yet when Spins 'n' Needles asks the Edinburgh-based pairing whether they expected such an enthusiastic reception to The Regional Variations it finds this aura of uncertainty is consigned only to record: “The arrogant but honest answer is that yes, I did expect good reviews because I think it’s a really good album,” exclaims Eaton. “So my main reaction is relief, actually, since it suggests we weren't completely deluding ourselves.”

The Regional Variations could be mistaken for yet another doom-laden Scottish decree but scattered across its bleak panorama is an escalating speckle of hope: “It’s both a dark and optimistic record, and I’m pleased that a lot of people seem to have picked up on it,” says Eaton. “The album is partly about how you get from one state of mind to the other…and I’ve always thought you can’t be truly happy unless you understand what it’s like to be utterly miserable.”

This comprehension of misery is encapsulated on tracks like Largs Hum - a brittle composition saturated in poignant notions of Scotland. But Brown is at pains to distance the band from any rose-tinted nationalism: “I don't really romanticise things in the same way a lot of tourists do but I am proud to be Scottish,” he explains. “There are lots of things about Scotland that are pretty unappealing too and I don't see us as a Scottish band at all, we just happen to be based here.”

They may be reluctant representatives of Scotland’s music scene but since establishing Biphonic Records the couplet have become immersed within it. Now home to fellow electro-mongers Luxury Car, the label was an entrepreneurial reaction to the music industry’s lack of encouragement: “Sometimes you've got to get your hands dirty if you want the job doing properly,” says Brown. “So our motives were a combination of control-freakery with an added element of 'screw you guys, we'll do it ourselves' thrown in. We remain open to offers - just not from bampots”

But with bands like Radiohead and the Charlatans beginning to bypass traditional labels in favour of the Internet's free-wheeling climes, what benefits are left in running Biophonic? “How we look and sound is entirely up to us and we get to keep more of the money we make,” says Eaton. Brown chips in: “We’ve become alarmingly good at administration. That’s really what I’m doing with a laptop on stage – managing on big fuck off spreadsheet.”

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