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Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: Swallow the Rat

We get to know Swallow The Rat, a New Zealand band looking to impress in 2024 and beyond

Swallow the Rat


Let the cathartic noise rock of Swallow the Rat envelop your eardrums.

The trio – Brian Purington, Hayden Fritchley, and Stephen Horsley – merge their Aotearoa and Austin roots to forge a powerful concoction of post-punk, shoegaze, post-hardcore, and psychedelia.

Their second album, South Locust, released last September via UK label Shifting Sounds, really impressed with standout tracks including “Terra Nullius”, “Redactor’s Dilemma”, and “Chain Mail”. And fans won’t want to miss the menacing “Mind”, with its newly unveiled evocative red-soaked visualiser, fresh out today (watch below).

“It started off as a fingerpicked acoustic pattern but changed pretty significantly once introduced to the band. Parts were chopped off and added, and a bassline from Hayden created the outro, along with Brian’s guitar line,” explains Horsley about the track. “Lyrically, ‘Mind’ is a series of images of being out in the Waitakere Ranges, hiking down towards the black sand beaches; far more abstract than some of our other songs.”

Swallow the Rat’s 2024 kicked off with a whirlwind 17-date US tour, including a notable showcase at SXSW in Austin. “The tour was great: 21 shows in 17 days, 5000 miles and only one flat tyre,” Horsley says. “Cities covered included Chicago, NYC, Atlanta, Austin, New Orleans and St Louis.

“Highlights included driving eight hours and playing three shows in one day on three hours sleep, staying at the Death by Audio/A Place to Bury Strangers HQ in Brooklyn, playing at a bursting to capacity Hotel Vegas on the last night of SXSW, and sharing the stage with a bunch of incredible bands. Many tacos were eaten and Modelo is the worst beer on earth.” 

With their band synergy at its peak, they’re gearing for an upcoming show at Auckland’s Whammy Bar on Friday, May 17th alongside Vor-stellen and Dictaphone Blues. Tickets are available now here

But before all that sonic blasting, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Swallow the Rat to find out more about them, which you can check out below.

Swallow the Rat’s “Mind” is out now. 

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How did music influence you in your early life?

Hayden Fritchley: Pretty much everyone in our family plays an instrument. Mum was a piano teacher but I gravitated to drums at about 13 and bought a kit off a kid at school that had one tom cut in half to make two toms. Then I started trying to play along to dad’s Led Zeppelin LPs. My folks played records all the time and I liked looking at all the album covers.

What artists influenced you growing up?

Fritchley: Raised in Tauranga as a skate rat, I used to thrash this dubbed VHS copy of a Santa Cruz video called Streets On Fire which had an amazing soundtrack of SST bands like Firehose, Sonic Youth, and Minutemen. This was obviously pre-internet, so exposure to new music was mostly through a friend’s older brother who would mail order punk tapes in. I remember listening to Big Black for the first time and being floored by the minimalism and rawness. Later in my teens I was going to 3Ds and HDU gigs which proved inspiring.

What are some other career highlights so far?

Fritchley: Being able to release records on our own terms seems like a highlight. Also toured the US, not a lot of bands from here get to do that. Played a sold-out show with Sebadoh, I lent my kick pedal to their drummer Bob, and we helped them drink their rider after the gig.

As a band that plays around New Zealand a lot, what’s your favourite venue/city?

Fritchley: The Crown in Dunedin would be up there. It’s iconic. So much gig history and the owner Jones Chin is a living legend. Playing there you feel like you are part of something special.

Tell us about South Locust. What’s the album about?

Fritchley: Weirdly for this one we had the title before writing any of the music. We took a wrong turn late at night one time, trying to find our way to a crash pad in rural Texas, and this road sign kind of lurched out under the headlights. Felt cinematic. We were all like, ‘Ok, that could be the name of the next record.’ That kind of set the tone for the album but I wouldn’t say it has one overall theme.

What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music industry?

Fritchley: Maintain a healthy dislike for manufactured TV talent shows. Treat music as a creative outlet, and not a way to make a living.

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

Fritchley: Noise rock.

What are your goals for 2024 and beyond?

Fritchley: Where possible, try to get eight hours sleep.