U.K.’s Switches in the City of Angels

Monday, 11 February 2008

The city of Los Angeles smells and feels as average as it always does. The noon sun is high but slightly orange thanks to the haze of smog provided by our labyrinth of freeways, highways and byways. The turn of one corner smells like a vagrant’s homestead while the sidewalks are cracked with tree roots trying to break free. A bus barrels by, leaving a trail of billowing carcinogens behind and some old lady just gave you the finger for cutting her off.

Even so, the guys from U.K.’s newest sensation, Switches, absolutely love Los Angeles. They’ve been in the States before, touring with various bands here and there, playing Lollapalooza and making a name for themselves. They’re back and while a considerable leg of their west-coast tour was spent playing at Southern California venues and recording their album in L.A., the rest of the county is calling.

Recording their next album in the heart of Los Angeles, most of their adrenaline and excitement came from the fact that they were in L.A. in the first place. What made their venture in recording most exciting was waking up every day and having to go to the studio in a place like L.A. The daily dredge of the city is commonplace to most of us but viewed in wonderment by others, namely the guys from Switches.

On any, not particularly interesting day, Vermont Avenue is bustling with afternoon activity. Perhaps most famous for the delectable and edible styling of Fred 62’s, this particular area of L.A. is dotted with cafés here and there with Skylight Books within spitting distance. Among this, a vintage clothing store is having a sidewalk sale, which looks more like the store threw up onto the cement before it.

Somewhere in this L.A. vignette, a café has cordoned off its indoor dining area for a lunch meeting with Switches and famed music video director, Marcos Siega. Going over ideas for their next music video, the boys throw out suggestions and plans with Siega’s creative wheels visibly churning out ideas as well.

These are the things dreams are made of. So far from home, the boys from Switches are positively riddled with excitement, reveling in the prospect of being able to wake up every day in a city like L.A. and having to go to the recording studio to record an album.

You wonder what sort of lifestyles seen only through the posters of famous musicians wallpapering their boyhood walls are realities to them today. Their most enthusiastic and newest edition to the band, drummer Steve Godfrey, remembers memorizing entire Guns N Roses albums on something like a full pots-and-pans set as a kid. Today, he’s touring in a band and rocking out to the jams of his own integrated making.

Band frontman and guitarist, Matt Bishop, talks about some of his favorite music styles found in the likes of Electric Light Orchestra and 10cc. The brainchild behind Switches, he had formed the band while still at college. Bishop took in talent from around him, each member of the band exhibiting a variety of tastes in music from Abba to David Bowie. Now, with a fully fledged band, they’ve pooled together their creative resources and are properly showing the States what they’re made of.

They give you exactly what you’d expect from a band of brothers in musical arms. Having traveled all this way to play their music and record new tunes, they’ve notably left their perpetual June gloom of the U.K. behind. It seems as though their presence has helped spread that breath of fresh air and sunshine in music we’ve been dying to hear.

Give us tight jeans the color of anything but blue, give us vests and t-shirts with disheveled hair. Rock that swagger about the stage you thought was only okay if Angus Young called the AC/DC boys back for a show and make the fans scream. Switches are back and in all their shredding, harmonizing and sheer excellent music making, they’re trudging through sleet and snow in their current U.S. tour. Making their way through the likes of Colorado, Michigan, Ohio and even a Toronto date coming up soon, they’re just one manifestation of a music sowing Johnny Appleseed.

It’s the kind of feeling songs like “Killer Karma” would spread throughout the crowd. Featured in their upcoming album, Lay Down the Law, the track calls for having an entire venue of their fandom loudly sing along. Eventually, you might expect the words and a bouncing ball to suddenly appear out of nowhere. It seems Switches have made it a point to bring fans together under the universal notion of music. Well done.

We’ve always enjoyed the products of the U.K. music scene. The numbers of bands that have made their mark on our shores are boundless. They’re given names in our account of music history like the “British Invasion,” with bands that have had a profound effect on the trends we hear in today’s jams. We can be certain these Southend and Guildford natives will be upholding that tradition to the nth degree for sure.

Their album is an amalgam of pure rock and roll, its tracks played as one better than the next. There’s “The Need to Be Needed,” an expositional ballad that lets us know that wherever you come from, the kids still aren’t alright. Switches have sung a requiem to the torn lives of youth and the taut heart strings of lovers on the brink of emotional overload. There’s an interlude of what sounds like an homage to Queen and scattered harmonizing bars you thought only the Beach Boys could achieve a cappella.
All the same, they seem to have exploded onto the scene with their single, “Drama Queen.” Undeniably catchy, this track has the dark, ethereal voice akin to The Dandy Warhol’s frontman, Courtney Taylor-Taylor. It’s got a hip-shaking, danceable rhythm locked in with power choruses that would make you want to throw a fist in the air and sing along.

It’s a good thing the Switches are here to let us know Britpop isn’t dead. Instead it’s obviously thriving, the ghost of Ziggy Stardust smiling brightly from Mars. The U.S. is so far enjoying reveling in the Switches’ impeccable harmony, vocal prowess, heavy, foot-stomping bass lines, marching drum licks and guitar riffs skyrocketing one’s adrenaline to the moon.

Just listen to something like “Lay Down the Law” and let that one-clap interlude alternating beats draw you in. Their hoards of fans only have until mid-March of this year to remain patient when they can expect the Lay Down the Law release on Interscope Records. You’ll not only know all the words by the end, but you’ll have scouted the next venue they’ll be at and already have tickets.

Lay Down the Law will be out March 18, 2008 on Interscope.

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