PAWS released an EP early last year that was mastered by Shellac’s Bob Weston, and their scrappily melodic, garage-rock approach wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a vintage episode of MTV’s 120 Minutes. But drummer Josh Swinney quickly rejects the idea the Scottish trio is part of any kind of ’90s revival. “It’s just music that young people are making that’s evolving,” he says. When you consider that similar comparisons have been leveled at some of the acts PAWS have opened for – No Age, Wavves and other bands who’ve been playing since the ’00s – it’s hard not to be receptive to Swinney’s position.
It doesn’t hurt that PAWS’ debut album, Cokefloat!, happens to be an expertly-crafted contribution to Glasgow’s rich indie-rock lineage. Detuned guitars and lacerating feedback might be decades old, but PAWS – like recent European tourmates Japandroids – express their present-day angst with such specific passion that will make even crankiest ’90s-indie-rock curmudgeon feel the urge to pump a PBR-clutching fist.
Before sitting down to a dinner of Thai green curry while on tour in the Netherlands, Swinney talked over the phone with eMusic’s Marc Hogan about unexpected meetings, rock-band skateboarding tricks and the band’s perhaps-surprisingly tangential relationship to ice-cream beverages.
On touring with the Japandroids:
It’s been brilliant. The first gig we played with them was in Switzerland, and it was an absolutely amazing place. And yeah, from then on it’s been really fun. We’ve done two other gigs without them in Europe so far, as well. One in Ghent, in Belgium at the start. And we did one in a gallery in Amsterdam on Saturday night, which was absolutely crazy. It was really good. Everyone was just like moshing – it was mental. It was chaos.
On the other bands they’ve opened for, and fortuitous body art:
We’ve been really lucky to play with loads of different bands that we really like, but I think that one of my favorite bands that we’ve played with was the Babies. The gig they played where I saw them was just amazing. And it was cool playing with Wavves, because I really, really, really loved them before, and then got to actually play with them. And then I found out that the drummer who played with Wavves when we played with them he used to be the drummer for a band called the Mae Shi, and I’ve got a Mae Shi tattoo on my arm. I was like, “Oh my god, you used to be in the Mae Shi!” So I lifted up my arm and showed him. And I had a [Mae Shi song] “Run to Your Grave” tattoo. And he was like, “Oh my god.” He couldn’t believe it. I got that tattoo when I was like 16.
On making the album in a floating recording studio:
We recorded it on a boat that’s mired on the Thames, called the Lightship95, and it’s a recording studio in London. The novelty of being in a studio and being in a boat combined was pretty fun. We had never recorded anything in a studio before so that was really exciting in itself. And then also being on a boat, it was pretty cool. There were times when I was playing the drums and the tide would come in on the Thames, and the boat would start rocking back and forth, so we would record drums while i was rocking.
On the source of the title Cokefloat!:
It’s basically because our friend Jessica [Penfold] did all the artwork for the album, and the comic strip that she drew [for the artwork] was already called Cokefloat!. It just seemed like quite a cool thing to have both these two aspects: music, and a comic strip to look at as well. It’s a nice, succinct, short name; rolls off the tongue…
On the source of the name PAWS:
What happened, basically, is that we were thinking we wanted our band name to do with some sort of creature of something. We were thinking a big Canadian creature, something scary. But then we just somehow stumbled on PAWS. I don’t know why, but it seems to have worked so far.
On cats, which appear often on the band’s Tumblr and on one of its T-shirts:
Philip really likes cats. And I really like cats. But we’re not weird about it or anything like that. I just think they’re cute.
On skateboarding, another theme of the band Tumblr:
Phillip skateboards, not me – I wish I did! The other day, on the first day of tour, he ollied over Brian [King] of Japandroids, who was lying on the ground. We got a video of that, so it should be pretty funny.
On the stories behind the lyrics, described by Phillip as “pretty much a documentation of the past two years”:
It’s just things that have affected him [Phillip], things that he had fun doing or things that made him sad over the course of a period of time, and he just vocalizes it. It’s a good way of expressing your feelings, I guess.
On PAWS’ other influences:
Lots of different things. Kind of a Death Cab [for Cutie] influence, I’d say. I find them to be quite influential. Nirvana, I like. I take a lot from that drumming style, for me personally, just hitting the drum as hard as you possibly can at all times. We all like loads of different stuff. I like old hardcore and stuff like that, and Matt likes lots of country.