PAWS: Smells Like Something Else

While <b>PAWS</b> might conveniently fit the bill for a grunge revival, the Glasgow trio have a few more tricks up their sleeves

Feature by Jason Morton | 31 Aug 2011
  • PAWS

A raw combination of the ethics of punk rock and a bubblegum sensibility; a relentless touring, gigging and recording schedule; a distinct influence from the classic Sub Pop sound; and a record crafted in part by Bob Weston – it all sounds like a page ripped from the indie rock 1992 playbook.

But this is not Seattle, these are not the 90s and this ain't grunge.

This is 2011, we're over in Glasgow and talking to PAWS (yes, they enjoy a good caps lock).

Though recently cited in certain quarters of the music press as Scotland's best representatives of some growing grunge renaissance, the term simply doesn't jibe with the band or what they're trying to do.

"I keep reading about this ‘Grunge Revival’ happening in Glasgow and that we are the flagship," says guitarist and vocalist Phillip Taylor when asked about the phenomenon. "What horseshit.

“Sure, I love bands like Melvins, Fastbacks, Coffin Break, The Thrown Ups, Nirvana, Dinosaur, Built to Spill. But I don't love 'Grunge'. 'Grunge' is a label that restricts. It was a movement that changed youth culture forever. But it happened in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago. It's not happening now, in Glasgow."

So let's call it 'Haribo Thrash', as the Glasgow by-way-of Inverness upstarts describe it in interview. Though perhaps intended as just a clever and – sorry, guys – cute summation, it can actually be fanned out to encompass the band's softer pop hooks, but, combined with its harsh, guitar-rock aesthetic and nearly impenetrable vocals, PAWS certainly give listeners something to chew on.

Combine that with the teenage, sugar-rush intensity of their recordings and live performances, and you can see why these lads decided to take their dreams of being full-time musicians to Glasgow from the backwaters of the Highlands.

Taylor met drummer Josh Swinney in his school years in a small town called Tain and they bonded over a love of loud guitar-rock records and a desire to alleviate boredom in the sleepy Highland hideaway.

"We just jammed in my room because we both shared the same interests in music," Taylor says. "If you live in a town like Tain up north, it's virtually impossible to find anyone that even likes what you like, let alone someone you can get along with enough to want to even spend time with them.

"We share an unmeasurable love for punk rock. There was a drum kit in my room that belonged to my friend Nikita, I had a guitar... so we just bashed out music."

Bassist Matt Scott came on the scene shortly thereafter, filling out the low end for the bedroom-thrashing duo. Though he fancied himself more as a guitarist himself, a mutual friend provided the link that saw Scott handling four strings for PAWS, even if, as he put it, the move was a bit sudden.

"I discovered one morning that I'd agreed to play bass the night before. Months later I found out that Nick had sold these guys on me, telling them I was amazing," Scott recalls. "And so I found myself in a log cabin north of Inverness, faced with these chumps."

It seems a long way from that cabin to what the lads have been up to in recent months, sharing stages in Glasgow and beyond with rising names from the US rock underground, including Black Lips, Wavves and No Age, as they toured the UK. The band's certainly received a boost from their stage-mates, but the following they've maintained long after the house lights came up can only be attributed their own hard work.

"Dum Dum Girls was our first show. Then, after that, we seemed to slowly gather a small group of people who came out to shows and brought new friends each time," says Taylor.

The band's growing fan base hasn't gone unnoticed by those scheduling both gigs and festivals, as PAWS have fielded invitations from Wickerman, Belladrum and T in the Park alike, laying waste to a crowded tent at the iconic Scottish festival.

"T in The Park was cool," Taylor offers. "A lot of kids came to see us; it was super busy. It was nice because it was really sunny outside while we played, so they were in the tent by choice... which felt weird. Instead of them catching a band in the closest tent because it's pissing rain out."

In addition to returning to the band’s gigs for another fix of infectious, balls to the wall power pop, fans of the group are also treated to an energetic – if not slightly mischievous – live performance, the spirit of which often transcends to the crowd.

Speaking of his favourite gigs, Scott makes it a point to note: “There was Aberdeen, with its human pyramid, human jump-rope and synchronized rowing, and our recent Glasgow show with an attempt to recreate the human pyramid, and then, on its failure, crowdsurfing in the Captain's Rest.”

So it’s clear that PAWS succeed in connecting with their audience, but the band have also connected with like-minded artists across the region, finding kinship (and subsequently, a split single on Gerry Loves Records with) with fellow New Blood alumni Lady North of Edinburgh.

While Taylor joked of the big-business hook-up between the three parties, they each share the ability to produce intense, visceral music, a pride in their craft and a driven work ethic.

It’s this ethic that has seen PAWS penetrate the London music scene this summer, and should guide them through recording a planned new EP and full-length album in the near future.

And that’s precisely what this band are looking toward – the future. Rather than descriptors like ‘Grunge’ that imply a reverence for all-things past, PAWS are faced forward and looking to shake it up on their own terms.

The T Sessions: Paws performance and interview from The Skinny on Vimeo.

Playing: Glasgow University Union on 12 Sep Loopallu Festival, Ullapool on 16 Sep Admiral Bar, Glasgow with Male Bonding on 29 Sep Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh (with Mazes and Milk Maid) on 5 Oct

PAWS split single with Lady North is out now on Gerry Loves Records