Interview: Endless Swarm

In terms of strictly grindcore and powerviolence, there’s nobody specific for it. I feel almost like it’s a duty of ours to continue to nurture that thing as well.

Endless Swarm have just released their new album Manifested Forms and it is a relentless collection of forward thinking and thoroughly lethal blend of grind and powerviolence. Echoes and Dust had the pleasure of talking to Endless Swarm vocalist Gray Caldwell about Manifested Forms and all things Endless Swarm including their recent live shows, upcoming touring plans and taking powerviolence into shopping centres. 

E&D: Your new album Manifested Forms has just been released. What has the feedback been like for it so far?      

Gray: Really good so far. I was kind of taken aback by some of the feedback to be honest. I think the production was a step up, so we knew that we were gonna get good feedback on that but in terms of the writing and stuff like that, yeah, I’m really, really happy with what everyone’s saying so far.

E&D: Was the creation of the album a smooth process?

Gray: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s unorthodox, but we don’t tend to jam stuff. We’re quite structured when we write, so the writing process is pretty easy. Our bassist writes the whole thing, and then we meet up in a room and play along to what he’s done and I’ll do the lyrics. The recording process, we had little hiccups in the studio for the day before we were due to start recording, and then when we were recording, our computer died as well, but generally, we got through it quite quick.

E&D: This is the first new Endless Swarm album in five years. Was the pandemic the reason it has taken longer for a new album?

Gray: The last album was 2018, in between we did a couple of split seven inches so our last material would have been 2020. Through the pandemic, we’ve done nothing, we weren’t in a room together for been almost 3 years and we don’t live near each other to do anything at all. Alex was writing in the background, but we didn’t do anything really.

E&D: What was it like when you got back together to work on this this material and do you feel reenergized with this new album?

Gray: Yeah, I can’t explain it but going off our streaming, there seemed to be a small growth of the band through the pandemic, but as I said, we weren’t doing anything. So when we came back, we thought we were going to have to kickstart from where we were before the pandemic, but it seemed to be almost the opposite. As soon as we got going, we noticed that there was an interest still there. I think that spurred us on to be like, right, let’s kick off this album and just get as many shows as we can booked.

E&D: What was the first show you did after things got going again like?

Gray: We played in Leeds last year and it was really stressful to be honest. Leeds is the Mecca for our scene really and it was jumping in to playing to a lot of people and meeting a lot of people. I was quite overwhelmed cos I live in Whitburn and I didn’t see anybody for a long time so coming from to a room full of a couple of hundred people was quite nervewracking to be honest! After that, it started to feel normal again quite quickly.

E&D: Are you looking forward to playing the new material live?

Gray: No! It’s not too much of a step up, but it’s enough of a step up! It feels like it’s gonna be a wee bit harder to play live and I always get stressed out. I think I’m the worst person of all time to be the vocalist of the band! Anyone who knows me will tell you when I’m singing along to songs, I quite often get the words wrong. So for me, it’s quite a labour intensive process to get up to speed as we write a lot of words. I think it’s gonna take a while to get there. We’re going headfirst into it, our first show playing all this new material is in Bologna, and then we’ve got a festival in Rome the next day. I think that’s quite a lot of people that one but it should be all right.

E&D: You’re also playing at Dreadfest and supporting Wormrot in Glasgow. Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road and playing these shows?

Gray: Yeah, for sure. I think Wormrots gonna end up being our biggest ever Scottish gig. I’m really looking forward to that one. Dreadfest is sold out and that’s alawys a good time. We’ve played it twice before. I think Dreadfest was one of the first times where, I don’t know if it’s an imposter syndrome or whatever, but I’ve just seen our band as quite a small time thing but we played Dreadfest a few years ago and it was like, “holy fuck, people like our band!” It was a bit of a revelation playing there and we were on the main stage and it felt like a big turning point for us so it’s nice to return to that as well.

E&D: How important is an event like Dreadfest for the UK scene and a band like Endless Swarm?

Gray: Yeah, it’s great and one of the things I really like about it is, Meg pushes a lot of inclusivity in the bands and she really puts a lot of time into thinking about the bands that she’s she’s working with and stuff like that as well. I’ve noticed the genre, it seems to be quite male dominated a lot of the time so I would to see more inclusivity with lineups and Dreadfest really pushes that. It’s good to be part of something like that.

E&D: Are you looking forward to playing the European tour as well, which includes a show at the Obscene Extreme festival?

Gray: Yeah, I’m looking forward to this one. We’re going to push further East than we’ve ever been before because we’re playing Obscene Extreme. We usually drive into Europe so we have to always have a few gigs before but because we’re flying out and to start the tour in the Czech Republic, it means that we can cope with the timescale that we have, and we’re able to go to more faraway places. So we’re going to Romania and Serbia and I’m looking forward to playing some new places.

E&D: Endless Swarm have played gigs in America, Mexico, Japan and South Korea, How was the experience of travelling and playing gigs in the scenes in those countries and how do they differ from the UK?

Gray: Japan was surreal on so many levels, we had a really, really good time there. We didn’t have a van over there which was different to what we’ve ever done before and we just travelled by bullet train which is quite a nice experience as well. In Japan, all the venues are well kitted out to provide some full backline for the bands playing which we weren’t used to with doing DIY shows. It worked well just travelling light and jumping in the train so I enjoyed that experience. The only downside to Japan was the work culture there means that the weekday shows were quite quiet and everybody was waiting for the weekends and some promoters were almost kind of discouraging even playing gigs during the week so we noticed a big difference. We played in Tokyo on the first night to 250 people and then by time we got to Gifu on the Tuesday or Wednesday, we played, there was literally less than 20 people that turned up. All the other shows were pretty good but that was definitely the worst attended but it just made things more interesting. America is a strange one, they just don’t seem to have quite caught up with the kind of the European standards of how to kind of treat bands in the sense that there’s no expectations for food and somewhere to stay when we were touring. A couple of times we were left in the lurch and were having to feed ourselves and find hotels after the show. I remember driving about Hollywood at 4:30am in the morning with nowhere to stay, looking for a hotel, and we haven’t been fed or anything where in Europe, it’s just this standard, even if you’re a small band that nobody’s heard of, you’ll get your dinner and somewhere to sleep and have a case of beer waiting for you. In America, you kind of felt like you were fending for yourself a bit more. We’re going back again so I’m hoping it’s slightly improved in the past seven years since would have been there last.


E&D: Have you got live dates planned going into next year already?

Gray: We’re wanting to up the ante because normally every year we do one or two week tours and a couple of fly outs and then stuff round the UK. Tentatively, we’re looking at doing a longer USA tour, about 2 to 3 weeks next year, and also going back to Japan in the same year. That’s the hope anyway, we’ve kind of got a couple of things for an East Coast of America tour and Canada as well. We’re hoping that we can get them more solidified because we were going to be touring the USA in 2020, we had a full West Coast tour booked but obviously the pandemic took that away. We ended up losing quite a bit of money with the flights and stuff like that, so it kind of put us off a wee bit. Europes do easy to book with the flights and everything and there’s a bit less risk.

E&D: You did an in store at HMV in Livingston last year. How crazy was that and how did it come about?

Gray: It was just a chance meeting, our guitarist was out, totally unrelated to the band, in a bar somewhere and he was just talking to someone and Sheila the manager of HMV Livingston was sitting near them and overheard Matthew talking about Endless Swarm and she ended up getting speaking to him about HMV starting this new incentive with instores from local artists and having their vinyl and CDs sold in store and would we be interested. Matty pitched it to us and we were like, I don’t know but then we thought it might be quite funny, it wasn’t wasn’t like a serious thing. I’m actually originally from Livingston and I thought, I’ve got clients that are going to be down in the shops with their kids, it was right before Christmas, and thought this could be a bit weird, but then then we started thinking the weirdness could be the fun side of it. So we were like yeah, let’s do it and let’s see if we can get a good number of people who can travel and are open to watch us play and stuff like that. Up until that point, it was the most well attended one she had put on with a lot of people that ended up turning out for and also a good mix of casual shoppers and people who would have never, ever have seen a powerviolence band before. It was really nice actually, I had a good time and there was quite a few young kids there because we took the punk approach and printed out flyers and we were out flyering in the centre before so there were a lot of younger kids that were obviously just getting into music that watched us and were totally sold on powerviolence and asking for autographs and stuff! It was a really fun experience in the end. We were booked to the 40 minutes but we’ve never played a set that long before so 20 minutes in and the centre management came in because there had been a noise complaint from the perfume shop. They asked us to stop playing but we only had 4 minutes of music left to play so we managed to get a full set out of it.

E&D: Going back to to your live shows, what bands have you loved sharing the stage with the most?

Gray: We’re lucky in the sense that quite a lot of the kind of pioneers of our genre have had a longevity to them. Infest and Siege have been going since the genre started so to play with them has been unbelievable. One of the first fast bands that I got into, well there was 2, there was Trash Talk and there was Weekend Nachos, the 2 of them. Weekend Nachos were a really, really big influence for me wanting to play in a powerviolence band and obviously the you can see the influence on my vocal style as well. We got to play with them on out first European tour, we got put on a show with them in Budapest. It was a surreal experience just playing out of Scotland but also playing with this band that totally inspired me to even start the band, that was probably one of the best things I’ve got to be involved in, that was really cool.

E&D: What are your favourite memories from running the Mind Ripper Collective label?

Gray: Probably doing the Spazz tribute. That was an idea that me and the old guitarist from Endless Swarm had when we’d done our first UK tour. We had an idea of speaking to bands we were meeting on the tour to maybe do like a wee split 7” and just doing Spazz covers. Then that idea kind of grew and got legs, and I ended up meeting so many other bands through that. I still think that the networking that went around surrounding that LP has been a massive kickstart for Endless Swarm because it grew so quickly. I mean, even the show that we’re playing in Rome, the contacts were formed through that LP. Our whole European tour was built off people that I met through that do it was hugely important. This is one of the things that I’ve been saying to a lot of people when they start bands and ask how the band can grow because I did Mind Ripper, which started as Mind Ripper events putting on shows in Edinburgh and then grew to Mind Ripper collective, putting out records as well. The whole experience of doing that has been just as important, if not sometimes more important, than being in the band itself. It’s been the formation for a lot of contacts and getting shows throughout the world.

E&D: What were some of the most memorable gigs that you put on through Mind Ripper?

Gray: Full Of Hell was the first ever show that I put on in the Banshee Labyrinth and it was sold out. I think it was overbooked because I don’t think Banshees has ever done a headcount properly. It was pretty relaxed with the capacity but I think I was told sixty people and I remember selling about eighty plus tickets, plus all the band members and stuff. So it was pretty chaotic and it was really good. I also put on a show with Nothing Clean, The Day Man Loss, Lugubrious Children and Famine. Through that, we toured the US with Lugubrious Children, we toured Europe with Nothing Clean. It was genuinely just one of those shows that everybody that I met I went into have formative relationships with them. It’s been a really big thing for the band so for me, that was one of the coolest things to be involved in and met so many sound folk through it.

E&D: Have you had any plans to put on gigs again or releases on the label at all?

Gray: With the shows, I kind of feel like as long as Endless Swarm exists, then I’ll always be booking shows because I feel there’s not many people putting on shows like that, especially in Edinburgh. People will, but in terms of strictly grindcore and powerviolence, there’s nobody specific for it. I feel almost like it’s a duty of ours to continue to nurture that thing as well. As I say, I contact people on a regular basis asking them to put on Endless Swarm and most of the people doing that are involved with bands, so to do that, and then not offer the same at home it just doesn’t feel right to me so I’ll always want to be involved in some aspects.

E&D: How healthy is the powerviolence/grind scene in Scotland?

Gray: It’s a tough one and hard to say as I’ve not done a show here post-pandemic but before we were doing pretty good. I booked a few shows and we were still getting fifty plus people a show in Edinburgh which is a full room basically. I really rate Gendo Ikari. I’m really looking forward to their new album. It’s super original and I hope more people pick up on it as they’re doing something completely new. I would like to see more new bands forming, that would be good.

E&D: What other bands from the UK are you rating at the moment?

Gray: Ona Snop are probably my favourite fast band from the UK, I regularly listen to them and think they put on a really good show. They seem to be taking off, they got a 7” put out by Nerve Altar who are one of my favourite labels. I’ve been helping them book a Japanese tour for later in the year. There’s a new band out of Leeds called Fixer as well, they’ve got a member of The Afternoon Gentlemen in them as well. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out of that city. Nothing Clean as well but they’re sadly splitting up.

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