Wife Swap USA: “We are going to fucking bring it”

Ahead of what promises to be an interesting (to say the least) show up on the big Dome stage, we spoke to Harry from boisterous Brighton punk legends, Wife Swap USA about gigs, punk and DJ Khaled.

Wife Swap USA: Facebook // Instagram

How exciting is it for gigs to be back, even if it’s in a new way?

We are really looking forward just to be playing again, and it’s been an honour to be put forward by The Hope for this. It’s going to be different but it should be great. The Dome has absolutely put the work in to make it happen, there have been so many hoops they have had to jump through and they’ve smashed it to make Live is Alive go ahead. It’s a miracle that the show is happening at all, and we want more shows happening, so it’s great to see that it is going well.

The team at The Dome are putting on these shows and the profits are going to smaller venues that are suffering more and that’s a really special part of it all. As someone that works at a venue it really is a real lifeline for so many. 

I don’t want to see any more venues close. There are so many places where pubs and venues have got rid or scaled back their live music capacity, Quadrant, Joker, Bleach, places like Brewdog, it’s happened and is happening across the city. We can’t afford to lose any more places so things like this event are so heartening to see.

How has the preparation for Live is Alive gone? Are you modifying the live show for the big stage and a distanced crowd?

We’ve been thinking of things to do for sure. I’m a bit worried that people might see us without the crowd engagement, without it being really loud, people might realise we’re rubbish. Without the distractions people might actually listen to the music! But yeah, it’s going to be interesting not being in the crowd, and also being far apart from each other as it is such a massive stage. We are just going to have to really bring it and try to fill up the space, it is going to be really weird, but it’s a challenge, an interesting challenge.

I think it is going to be one of those moments where it is almost make or break, so because we won’t have all the distractions of being rowdy we have to go out there and just fucking deliver a brilliant show. We aren’t trying to outdo other bands, we are trying to outdo ourselves and produce the best show we possibly can.

The money being raised is great for venues, but do you feel like the fact that it has come to this is indicative of a lack of support?

First of all I feel like venues have been shafted by the government for a long, long time. When Sticky Mike’s closed down it was because of lack of outside help, whether from intention or from overlooking it. The street that it was on, Middle Street is seeing the pubs, the venues on it being priced out so it can be redeveloped, and I feel like that’s been happening for ages, not just in Brighton but everywhere.

Venues have been closing down for years, or being turned into flats, chain pubs, Blind Tiger Social Club got closed down and turned into a Brewdog because someone moved in above it and complained about the noise. The people, the landlords that own these properties are more often than not living somewhere else and they don’t really care about local culture. They are away in high castles making decisions that have such a profound impact on the area and on people and they don’t care about it.

So, obviously the Government is fucking it regarding venues, but they aren’t the only ones, this culture of not supporting venues is widespread. You see it across the country, property owners will often prefer to have an empty unit than put their hands in their pockets to support a business that might need just a bit of help.

There does need to be more help from the central Government though but they seem to have little drive to do so. Like back at the start of lockdown when their guidance wasn’t explicitly closing pubs so there didn’t have to be any support in a legal sense. You see it now too – on a Friday night if the Hope didn’t have a gig on upstairs that’s half the capacity gone, and now, we have that same issue, but with the downstairs capacity reduced too, it’s impossible.

You’re recording music at the moment, how is that going?

We have recorded in a bit of a weird way where we have gone in one at a time into the studio and worked one-on-one to get it done. Kim (Jarvis, Gaffa Tape Sandy) came down to a practice with a bag of mics and we recorded all the drums live, but since then it’s all been at his studio in his flat. He’s only just moved in really so I don’t think his new neighbours were too pleased when we started doing vocals and gang bits. It was an interesting way of doing it, but it’s worked really well. Definitely keep eyes out for something before the end of the year.

We have taken a bit of a weird approach to remixing some of the tracks. Instead of straight remixes different members have taken tracks, deconstructed them and rebuilt them in their own way. So like, The Cowboy is doing an Irish-trad version of one of the tracks, there’s another more pop-orientated version from Annabel and Leila, and then I’ve been working on some versions that have more of a glitch-pop and dub focus respectively. 

We really wanted to showcase all of our individual backgrounds, inspirations and tastes. We’re exploring all our influences and trying to make it more encompassing of the band as a whole and all the different people within it.

I think progression comes, as a person or as a band by accepting all these things and embracing them. That’s something we really try to champion in WifeSwap, we all dig these different things and we all bring it together, I mean, I love bad music, like straight up pop bangers, no one should be ashamed of that.

Do you think that accepting these things is not only crucial in the sense of writing music for a band, but just as a general person?

Yeah exactly. I think that accepting all these different inputs is so crucial and I think a lot of people get it twisted. There was an argument a few years back that grim was the new punk and it got a lot of people’s backs up, but like, just because it’s not two guitars a bass and some drums doesn’t mean that it isn’t punk. You see the ethos of these artists, they’re doing things DIY, speaking on important topics, resonating with the youth, and scaring the established order – if that’s not punk I don’t know what is.

I think that some people see listening to rock music as a personality trait and that leads to being closed off from things. It might be a bit out there to say, but I really rate DJ Khaled, for real. From what I understand he doesn’t write, play, or produce any of the music, but has the ability to bring in the right people to make it all work, and if you look back through history that is what a lot of bands that are considered super-authentic were. If you look at someone like Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols, he had these contacts, brought the band together, decided on an image and it worked. I don’t see how it’s any different. 

A lot of bands now that get labelled as super authentic were the pop bands of their day, I mean, look at Status Quo, I’m sure some of their fans get their backs up when rap artists play Glastonbury or whatever, but Status Quo are the biggest straight up pop band ever, you know.

Do you feel like some of this is born from just straight-up elitism? How do you think people can kindl of break free of that? What’s the message?

It is about catching yourself, holding yourself accountable. It’s the hardest thing to do but it’s something that we try to do in our music. One of our big themes that runs through the band is accountability and acknowledging hypocrisy. Instead of maybe being like “oh I can’t sing about that as it would make me a hypocrite” it is about acknowledging that and taking that on the chin. When we are playing we are taking the pissout of ourselves as much as anyone else. We are acknowledging our faults as well as ripping on society or whatever, instead of standing back and saying society is that, it’s that, it is more immersive, it is accepting that we are part of it. It is not about being a narrator, we’re an extra if anything.

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