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  • Swallow the Rat - Gig Review: Swallow the Rat w/ Ripship @ Valhalla, Wellington - 8/12/2022

Swallow the Rat - Gig Review: Swallow the Rat w/ Ripship @ Valhalla, Wellington - 8/12/2022

10 Dec 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark

Swallow the Rat and Ripship’s seven date North Island tour had landed in Wellington. Despite the anticipation for the event, including how people attending were talking about the event and online discussions, I entered a rather empty Valhalla bar on Vivian Street a little late for the advertised starting time. On stage, a two piece of drums and bass were rattling through a song, rumbling the few drinks left on table tops; but it was only a soundcheck for opener, Pillow Princess. They vacated the stage, leaving their bass and multiple pedals ready for when they would begin the show.  

A full hour passed, until the bar suddenly was inundated with colourful characters bearing all manner of unconventional haircuts and clothing items. Pillow Princess began their set with a little extraneous noise and a good dose of funky basslines punctuated by jazzy drums. The crowd lapped it up, cheering on each and every song with unbridled enthusiasm. The singer/bassist turned away from the crowd for the entirety of the set, choosing to turn more toward her bandmate who played light and breezy fills at odds with her deep and distorted basslines. The audience loved the set, but I would perhaps say their stage presence was not confident and the singing was a little shyly delivered. “This is our last song,” she mumbled before the end, “thank God.” Still, they were to bring the largest crowd in the night. It was, I was later to discover, their first public performance.

Adult Friends then came to the stage and began without any crowd present at all. “Quiet night, huh?” asked singer Jackson, before launching into the abrasive, high energy punk the band is known for. Within a song, an audience had formed, with curious listeners from Pillow Princess’ fan base adding to the crowd. The band played furiously and passionately. “This is our new single, it's out tomorrow,” Jackson added before beginning their most recent song, Brittle, a song that describes their intense sound while defining something fragile.

Their songs covered topics like rent, debt, self-doubt and car accidents. An incredibly post-modern approach to song writing, with one foot in the past of punk and grunge, the other searching for grip in the unsure contemporary world. The band played with a shocking energy, nearly hurting each other on stage and damaging their equipment during songs played at a speed and ferocity barely under their control. Guitarist Daniel threw his instrument above and behind him, all the while making a terrific noise that floated above the din of punchy bass, thrashy guitar and lightning fast drum fills. Thoroughly entertaining stuff and a short set that none the less had the band disembark from the stage covered in sweat (and perhaps a bruise or two).

Ripship took a while to set up their stage, which involved a keyboard, three mics and a complex pedal board setup. This was to be the second two piece of the night, with a gender reversal from Pillow Princess. Callum, the guitarist, used his vocal effects to great use to begin the show with some ambient noise, before Eva-Rae added some impressively fast drumming whilst singing and entertaining the crowd with some good-natured banter.

The band was heavy, hypnotic and melodic. They played through their set with a professional attitude, asking for sound to be tweaked to improve their performance and for the audience to get involved. Switching between keyboard and guitar, and vocals and drums, the band filled up an imposing sound that could be doom-like one second, then intricate, psychedelic and poppy the next. Lyrics seemed to be inspired by sci-fi content, but I could be wrong. Massive sound from a two piece.

Finally, Swallow the Rat came to the stage. Featuring only three members now, the post-punk headliner played their brand of rock with a remarkable volume creating a wall of dense sound. Somehow, vocals from both drummer Hayden and bassist Will penetrated the sound. Brian, the guitarist, utilised this many effects, a capo and a slide in some songs (like New Cross) contributing his fair share to the noise.

Swallow the Rat seem to always add one element of chaos to an otherwise harmonious situation; sometimes this can be a chord sequence with one odd choice at the end adding tension. Other times it is a slide that ends a riff, sliding up toward infinity while involving chronological and discordant notes. On occasion, the bass and guitar would end on different notes creating a strain that would dissolve back into harmony when the next section began.

The band played through much of their catalogue, including songs from last year's Leaving Room and their most recent split EP with New York City’s Clone. On the final few songs, feedback had become a feature introduced to many of the tunes, but still the melody persevered, fighting the chaos until eventually, guitars squealing in delight, the band let the chaos win. They came down from the stage, exhausted but happy to have played with the balance of tension once more.  

Photo Credit: Nicholas E. Clark
Swallow The Rat Photo Gallery
RipShip Photo Gallery
Adult Friends Photo Gallery
Pillow Princess Photo Gallery


About Swallow the Rat

Swallow the Rat formed in late 2017 when guitarists Brian Purington and Sam Vercoe began jamming with drummer Hayden Fritchley. Will Waters (Kerretta) was recruited on bass and in early 2018 the band recorded 3 songs with acclaimed engineer Nick Abbott, all of which charted on New Zealand's Alt Charts and Student Radio, along with receiving air play on KOOP (Austin, TX) and DKFM (CAN). Mid 2018 saw Stephen Horsley take over bass duties and a NZ tour commenced.

In 2019 a self-titled 7" was released which coincided with several showcase performances at SXSW in Austin, TX. A string of shows across New Zealand followed, including opening for No Age, Gang Of Four and Sebadoh. Subsequently, they signed to US label Shifting Sounds.

March 2020 they performed at New Colossus Festival in NYC as part of a US tour. Meanwhile back in NZ the singles Bird of Ill and Cold Moon both went to #1 on the 95bFM Top Ten. 24 April 2020 saw the global release of the LP Leaving Room.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Swallow the Rat


South Locust
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Year: 2021
Type: EP
Leaving Room
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Swallow the Rat
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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