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'Eclectic' is a term synonymous with the music press. Depending on the writer, it can mean anything from slightly out of the mainstream to downright odd. Here at Under the Radar we love eclecticism, but even by our standards How to Swim are perilously close to the 'odd' end of the scale.
To confirm, the band's MySpace claims they write songs about "corpses in underground stations, the disadvantages of partial blindness, love, death, sword-swallowers, deliberate disfigurement, anxiety and happiness".
Having played in various forms for nearly a decade, the Glasgow band have a revolving door policy on membership. Currently encompassing nine permanent members, their tune-making artillery includes trombones, cellos and even a glockenspiel.
As one Edinburgh promoter recently commented, "There are enough of them for half the capacity of the venue". Presumably splitting the pay after a gig requires a keen grasp of mathematics.
Of the band's early work, 'Bones' is an unequivocal highlight. Rousing and suitably bizarre, with roof raising vocal work, the cut finishes off with a minute of screeching mechanical noises. Taken from the brilliantly named 'It stings when I' EP, this is How to Swim in a nutshell.
Of course, the band are aware their style may be a hindrance as much as a help. "We've been playing in one form or another for almost a decade now, and it could be persuasively argued we've achieved remarkably little," says vocalist Gregor Barclay. "We feel that it's a compliment to us that we're still about when so many of our turn-of-the-millennium contemporaries are dead and buried."
The band's latest material gives cause for great optimism. The release of 'Genesis P and Me' and 'From here to Dundee slash Eternity' signalled some of their most focused and accessible output and both now feature heavily as live set crowd pleasers.
A new album, called Retina (or More Fun than a Vat of Love), is due for completion by the end of the summer. Barclay says: "To be honest, we've been saying 'Next year is our year' for so long now, the phrase is beginning to lose all meaning, but with Retina, we feel we've got a record that can pull its weight."
As a stark reminder of the challenges facing bands across Scotland's musical spectrum, Barclay is realistic enough to know a long term goal is "to be able to make a record with someone else's money".
For those who have caught them live, How to Swim are already a cult favourite and their 'eclectic' sound gives reason for celebration. As Barclay happily puts it, "as a live act, when we're good, we're really good".
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