The neurotic obsessive compulsive weirdos pulled through quite impressively and way fantastically, and this October Switches release their debut album, Lay Down The Law, produced by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith).
Strangely, Switches, who now all live in London, came together naturally and easily. Matt grew up in Southend (a low-rent seaside town, something like the old Asbury Park neighborhood) and formed the band while at college: he just sent a group email and chose the people whose responses he liked best. Even if they didn't like the same music. Even if they didn't like the same music decades.
There's Ollie Thomas, guitar: the sixties throwback aspiring to psychedelic-tinged virtuosity ala Hendrix and Abbey Road. Jimmy G, drums: all sharp-dressed eighties, think Thriller, Vegas and Let's Dance-era Bowie. Max Tite, bassist: nineties and beyond, the most up on new bands who loves vitamins, cake and Sufjan Stevens with equal desire. And Matt: the seventies with a love for ELO and 10cc even though he wasn't born while they reigned, and a fully-fledged Child Of Britpop.
The varying influences are a natural for Matt. In his teens he wrote hundreds of songs spanning from pop, disco, piano ballads, Beck-esque hip-hop, glam, punk, hardcore and emo. His stacks of home-made tapes were typhoons of conflicting styles. However styles, genres, bin cards and such hadn't quite been established in pre-school – when Matt began playing at age three. By four he's bringing his dad's electric guitar to school (dad was a former BBC engineer), along with his own little Fisher Price recorder. Already Matt loved to multi-track and over-dub when he shouldn't have even known the words. It made for some funny photos of the weird kid – guitar almost bigger than him!
"At that age I only knew, like, two chords so it was mainly Bolan rip-offs," he says. "I had this kid tape recorder and my mum's reel-to reel."
While this didn't make Matt a child prodigy, the music obsession obviously continued and therefore so does this story and the band. Originally called Matt Rock and the Others, almost immediately they won a Battle of the Bands contest. First prize was a support slot for The Darkness.
"We didn't know who they were when we saw them backstage." Matt says. "Max was asking ‘when are Status Quo on then?'"
The only way to go from a battle of the bands contest is, um, up, and the first up move was changing their name to Switches. The guys quit school and dedicated themselves to the music that consumed them. They got compared to Weezer and The Vines a lot (Weezer for the music, The Vines for Matt's unpredictable behaviour). Switches toured for a year before being signed.
"When my publisher first approached me he was like ‘I've heard five tracks – one of them sounds like The Bee Gees, one sounds like T Rex, one sounds like Fugazi…'" Nice!
Rather than head straight into the studio to record a disjointed mish-mash of an album, Switches hit the road again. The band were on a mission to solidify their sound and present a coherent musical front. They returned ready to record their debut ‘Message From Yuz EP' for Degenerate Music – four tracks of handclappy glamstomparama that crystallizes the last decade of British pop excellence and stood as an introduction into Switches' world: Starts like Elastica kung fu-kicking and winds up in a three-way rock-opera face-off between ELO, Kraftwerk and Ziggy Stardust.
The band then released the single 'Lay Down The Law' which was immediately picked as track of the week by NME. Admired for its swagger, stomp and hooks galore – the song teases anticipation for the full-length with the same name to come Switches songs just connect, Bishop's voice alternately soars and stings, confidently owning you, and you want to be owned. Like swaying to Marc Bolan or snidely getting schooled by Deborah Harry, you are owned. Meanwhile, the music is busy tricking with enthusiastic, irresistibly-upbeat riffs. But lyrics betray these hooks, often swamped in the bitter sting of romance. They fill the music with an emotional deviance while delivering a smartly sour bite.
"The message is going to be of Love, but to be wary," says Matt. "Love songs that aren't quite happy endings… I really admire Ray Davies for writing songs that weren't involving him; he was just watching…"
Matt continues, "Rock music is still alive and kicking…I really hope we can take it into new areas. At best in a genuine connection between band and listener. Creating music shouldn't be a one-way street – empathy, creativity and passion are crucial to us eventually, hopefully, pushing boundaries."