The endlessly mercurial, maverick Bristolian quartet PHOXJAW are here with their debut full-length record, Royal Swan, set for release on 3rd July 2020 via Hassle Records.
Born from a cabin-fevered recording experience at Devil’s Bridge in Wales, Royal Swan harks back to a fantastical medieval England. Without being overtly political, Royal Swan also details the tension inherent in modern day Great Britain – the sense of isolation and resentment the United Kingdom has fostered versus trying to retain a sense of pride in one’s own country. Listen out especially for the title-track and opening track for this.
To this end, and in classic PHOXJAW style, Royal Swan enlists a range of local musicians and sound-experiences, adding to the band’s core unique sound. Devil’s Bridge Cottage leaves its mark on the record, fostering PHOXJAW’s claustrophobic recording experience and physically shaping the sound, with each band member recording in separate rooms (and guitars in an airing cupboard).
Chance meetings and collaborations are dotted throughout Royal Swan, especially the inclusion of William Blair, formerly of psychedelic 80s group Apple Mosaic, who met the band in a local pub. Bonding over a love of classic prog, Bill’s collection of 60 keyboards persuaded the band to invite him to play, and finally feature on his first record at the age of 50-something. Listen out to ‘Bats For Bleeding’s searing organ solo around three-quarters of the way through for this glimpse into the past.
In the words of the band, “Wales is a place of ancient history, with a pagan, mythical feel, and that spirit is in the record.” This mythic, Alice-in-Wonderland ambience naturally adds to PHOXJAW’s previous sound, noted for their unique, infectious, off-kilter approach. Never a band content to rest, PHOXJAW’s collaborative, collective mentality is also heard in their highly unusual music. Beyond William Blair and others, notable too is the inclusion of Tom Haskins, on saxophone (‘Half House’, ‘Triple A’, ‘Royal Swan’). Listen out also to PHOXJAW guitarist Alexander Share’s Bowie-esque lead vocals on ‘Bats For Bleeding’, a swaggering, belligerently raucous masterpiece.
Self-produced, with drums recorded by Lewis Johns, Royal Swan marks PHOXJAW’s step into the limelight following two highly respected EPs (2018’s Goodbye Dinosaur… and 2019’s A Playground For Sad Adults). A rare group who combine humour, quirk, intrigue, a huge range of influences, and power, PHOXJAW are a band who’ll never stop having things to say.
Sometimes dreamy, sometimes operatic vocals weave their way intricately over a shimmering haze of warmly threatening guitars and pummelling bass and drums. This is the core of PHOXJAW. Beyond that, unconventional instrumentation and a collective sense of cooperation come fully into play in Royal Swan. On display are a fine collection of heavy, progressive rock songs which also manage to flirt with the mainstream – a rare and difficult feat. Possessing a unique identity and eccentric charm PHOXJAW are for the most part indefinable sonically, but with a fascinating brain and a highly-relatable emotive heart.
Having toured with Black Peaks, Pagan, Zakk Sabbath’s cruise, Loathe and plenty more already, PHOXJAW have begun making waves in the UK underground rock scene. Solid support from Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Dan P Carter’s BBC R1 Rock Show, Total Guitar Magazine and more has earmarked this band as ones to watch, and rightly so.