PAWS have long been one of the Scottish music scene’s greatest perpetrators of creative angst, frothing fun, and scintillating sadness. The band have been inactive under the name for a number of years, with Phillip Jon Taylor working on other musical and artistic projects up north and Josh Swinney focusing on culinary talents down south, from a Central Belt point of reference.
This year, October saw their return with a new self-titled project. We spoke to them in the days following their energetic and intimate set at Connect Music Festival – their first live performance since their return – in aid of mental health charity Tiny Changes.
How does it feel to be back?
Josh Swinney: It feels great – it’s been a real treat. It’s been so long that it feels refreshing.
Philip Jon Taylor: We spent so long focusing everything on the band that it was nice to reset a bit – even before the pandemic we decided to do stuff with our personal lives. To be able to now be doing this is so exciting; having an album coming out is more than we thought could’ve been happening.
The reset has brought you back in top form, but in a new way. It’s interesting that this is your self-titled album – why’s that?
JS: I don’t know, it just seemed like a good starting point.
PJT: PAWS, being Josh and I as the remaining original members, has been making music since we were in school (or just leaving, or dropping out), and we’ve been doing it for so long, albeit under different guises, it just made sense for it to be PAWS. It’s us doing the project as the two songwriters. We made the record, we did the artwork: it’s the most 50/50 thing we’ve ever done.
It’s unfiltered and unrefined, raw and naturalistic. It’s fallen right into place. How did the album happen?
PJT: The room that I’m in now, in this tiny little cottage, is my home studio. Josh was up north visiting his family, who stay near me, so we had a weekend of hanging out, going for walks and stuff. In literally the last two hours before he had to go back down south, we thought, let’s have a wee jam for a bit of fun, and it just came naturally – suddenly there was a song structure. Just a bass and drum jam turned into what ‘Disenchanted’ is now. I recorded vocals and sent it to Josh, then there was a little back and forth – our label really liked it. We just got into it – basically the whole album was recorded in a week, or maybe less.
JS: Not just recorded in a week – we wrote it and recorded it in that time together.
PJT: It was like intuitive improv. I would pull up a little riff recorded on my phone, of scratchy electric guitar, not plugged into anything, and suddenly we would turn it into a full song. It was like a cutting room floor: if we liked it, it stayed; if we didn’t, it went.
It’s really raw and energetic.
PJT: I really do think this album feels like the first two records but with the energy of the following two. It feels like we’ve gone back to how we started and how we wanted it to be: doing it ourselves. Not that we didn’t love working with folk like Mark [Hoppus, of Blink-182] – it’s just Josh and I have a great relationship and understanding at this point.
JS: There was so much energy that we were talking about writing a new record within a week of finishing this one.
Is this the noisiest PAWS record?
JS: It’s certainly an interesting exploration into having a little more influence on the production. Phil’s electronic stuff comes into the production, which I really like, and I’d agree it’s definitely noisy. Though I don’t know if it’s noisier than our other records, it’s definitely the music we always wanted to make.
PJT: It’s noisy in a Sebadoh kind of way. It was recorded in a crofter’s cottage; we don’t have ridiculous amounts of equipment. We kind of just made a punk record.
JS: I think it’s the most grown-up record, in a weird way, like the musicianship and the lyrics. Not grown up like they were immature before, but it’s a nice package as a whole. It all makes sense together.
PAWS is out now via Ernest Jenning Record Co.
Main Photo Credit: Nicky Murray