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Vocalist/producer/synthesizer player Rob Swire and the other members of the Aussie-born, British-based group Pendulum first established themselves as dance-savvy drum-and-bass practitioners — so when they infused more rock into the songs on their latest CD, In Silico, Swire expected some push-back from longtime supporters. As it turned out, though, the most venerable of their boosters have been more accepting than relative newcomers.
"I think a lot of our older fans understood the leap," he says, "and I found that a lot of young fans who were new to drum-and-bass were the most pissed off with what we'd done. They tended to be people who were just like us: As soon as they got into the scene, they listened to nothing but drum-and-bass, and it sort of shut them off. To them, anything else sounded like shit."
Such reactions have been easier to accept, and shrug off, given the success of In Silico, particularly in England. According to Swire, "It seemed like for every ten old drum-and-bass fans that were upset, thirty more people liked the new album."
In the beginning, building an audience was more difficult. Swire, bassist/producer Gareth McGrillen and DJ/producer Paul "El Hornet" Harding (currently supplemented by guitarist Peredur ap Gwynedd and drummer Paul Kodish) met in Perth, Australia, where each was involved in the community's modest drum-and-bass scene. But even after they combined forces and began earning attention from overseas tastemakers, they weren't a big draw in their home town. So they relocated to London and discovered the benefits of the conquering-heroes effect. "We found out once we'd been in the U.K. for a while and then we came back home, the crowds came out to see us then," Swire recalls with a laugh.
While Hold Your Colour, Pendulum's 2005 debut long-player, didn't stray far from the drum-and-bass gospel, In Silico heads in new directions. "Showdown," for instance, is an up-tempo slammer driven by big keyboard riffs, hyperkinetic percussion and on-point lyrics from Swire, who bays, "I know you thought I'd sold my soul/But you never told me to my face."
Of course, electro-rock that's connected with Brits in the past has proven to be a tougher sell in America; witness the Prodigy, whose "Voodoo People" Pendulum remixed. Nevertheless, Swire is optimistic about the odds of his band swaying the masses during its first major stateside tour, and he admits that he'll be disappointed if things don't go his way.
"I think it'd be a shame, because we've always made tracks on the principle that we hope anyone's going to be into them," he concedes — but "hopefully it won't be too difficult."
All he needs is more open minds than closed ones.