Manchester band Swiss Lips might just be the band to save pop music. Big words, we know, but this is no ordinary band.
Despite looking like your average indie-wannabe five-piece, Swiss Lips are instead masters of gloriously synth pop, mixing guitars with pop hooks and drums with stunning radio-friendly pop masterpieces. The band's new single 'Danz' is out now, and we caught up with frontman Sam Hammond about the bands secretly-sexual name, discover the dark side of the Manchester music scene and discover why this pop band would rather support Kasabian than Girls Aloud...
This is a terrible question we admit, but where did your name come from?
The honest truth? Bandnames are one of the hardest things to come up with. Every band name is terrible I think, you rarely get a good one and all the good ones are taken. We were thinking of our name for ages. It was tough. We were arguing about it and we all had different opinions. One day, I was just driving and two words, 'Swiss Lips', just popped into my head. I had no idea what it meant but I just liked how it felt. Then, it rolled off my tongue and I spoke to a few other people about it. Some people didn't like it, some did, some still don't like it. Later, someone Googled it and found out it meant vagina. We thought it was pretty funny so it just stuck. It's not the greatest name in the world but it suits what we're doing and it feels right.
I think we can guess what was going through your head when you were driving that day.
Subconsciously, yeah. I guess so.
You make pop music but you don't look like a pop band. Why is that?
We play our instruments. We are a real band. Everything we do is done by us. We write the music, we pretty much do everything. It's not pop in the more modern sense. We just write pop songs. It's all very feelgood, catchy. We just want to write things that stick with people and they remember.
How far off is the debut album?
It's actually pretty much finished. We're mixing it now. We've done 15 tracks so we'll be picking the best from those. Because things have happened so quickly for us, the label wants to take time and build our profile slowly. There's no point throwing it all out straight away. I think the album will be out later in the year or at the start of January but in that time we'll probably release two or three singles, maybe an EP or something. We're working it out.
It's rare to have a label willing to take that time and not just give up after the first single...
We've been surprised, to be honest, in just how much they have believed in us. It's a big pop label and we're surprised at how much leeway they have given us to do whatever we want on the whole thing and the belief they have in us. We only got signed in January, so it's not like it moved that quickly anyway. We've just finished the album, which we only started recording two months ago. To just throw it out in August would be a bit early because nobody knows who we are, you've got to build that and build your profile.
Watch 'U Got The Power' below
Which other pop artists on the scene at the moment do you rate?
I was listening to that Swedish band Icona Pop the other day. I thought they had some good songs, really great songwriting. Obviously Swedish producers are making a lot of really good pop songs and have been for a long time, but going a bit more alternative that us, there's Niki & The Dove as well. I saw them playing the other week and they blew me away. I already love their album and seeing how they put the show together it was like classic Fleetwood Mac style pop, the best. I like Rihanna and Lady Gaga as well, of course.
You have yet to appear in one of your own videos. What are you hiding?
The first video, for 'U Got The Power', we did before we got signed. We had no money and we wanted to make a video. The inspiration came from Lana Del Rey's video for 'Video Games' where she just put herself in it now and then. We saw her do that, found old film, started chopping it up and that was that. The second video, 'Danz', we were honestly too busy to do anything more than that. We were stuck in the studio making the album and we had no time to go and be in the video as well. Someone came up with the idea of using that guy and it just worked out. It was perfect because we didn't have to be involved.
Watch 'Danz' below
What's the music scene like in Manchester at the moment?
There's always been so many bands in Manchester and so much competition. It used to be that bands were trying to follow in the tradition of the great Mancunian bands, legendary Mancunian bands like The Smiths or Oasis, and then in recent years that died out a bit because a lot of people who live in Manchester aren't from Manchester any more. It's as diverse as anywhere now. We don't sound like we are from Manchester at all - and we're really not, only one of us is from there originally. We're a Manchester band but we don't sound like we are, we don't sound like Happy Mondays. I think now, there's always good bands coming out of Manchester and there always will be because it's such a big part of the culture there. No one helps each other out though, everyone is against each other in Manchester. It's not like in Liverpool where the bands sort each other out. In Manchester everyone is a rival and there's a bit of a mean spirit.
Do you have a nemesis? Or just everyone...
We've got mates in other bands, and that's normal, but no one in Manchester is doing what we're doing at the moment. No one is making the kind of music we make - no one that I know anyway. Not that we're doing anything unique, just that Manchester is not on that page at the moment. We're just getting on with our own thing.
Everyone is scared of pop music at the moment because what is in the charts is quite rubbish.
There's a difference isn't there. Bands like Niki & The Dove and Icona Pop are very forward thinking and it feels great to be around musicians like that.
If you were offered a support slot with Girls Aloud or Kasabian - who would you pick?
I think Kasabian. Even though I'd much rather listen to Girls Aloud. I rate Girls Aloud, at least, I rate their songwriters, they've had some amazing pop songs. But we are striving to have some credibility and they are a completely manufactured pop band. If we lump ourselves with someone like Girls Aloud from the start I think we'd be making people think things of us that aren't really correct. If we played with a more credible artist, but with our more pop side, we could push through. I don't love Kasabian by any stretch of the imagination but I'd love to play with either of them.
Have you ever killed an animal?
I was brought up vegetarian, and I've been vegetarian all my life. I've killed some wasps and some spiders. Probably killed a fish. I was crab catching when I was a kid, I would catch crabs, play with them and then put them back. I caught a fish on my line and tried to get my hook out of where it had gone through the fish's head. I tried to get it out and it just died in my arms.
Have you ever saved an animal's life?
Hopefully. I have a really bad memory. I have been to a cat sanctuary a number of times in my life and saved a cat. Once I went to get a dog with my mum, it was due to be put down the next day. We got it even though we didn't want it. We felt too bad. So I've saved animals in that sense, and occasionally I've contributed to wildlife charities. I've not had any heroics moments where I've been cradling a deer.
'Danz' by Swiss Lips is out now.
Below: Swiss Lips, Icona Pop and more pop bands worth listening to in 2012