Local art-band Swoon stokes curiosity
Quick—name your favorite bands formed by artists. Maybe Talking Heads or Roxy Music come to mind, and on the local scene, your soon-to-be favorite just might be the new, up-and-coming group Swoon (swoonswoonswoon.com)—often stylized as S W O O N.
Its music is turbulent, swirling and invigorating, drawing flavors from sources like grayscale post-punk, saturated drone-rock and sparkling indie-pop, even utilizing the driving motorik beat sometimes heard in ’70s Krautrock. However, the most prominent style at work is the complicated aural syrup of shoegaze, at times bringing to mind the sugar-avalanche of My Bloody Valentine, down to the overloaded whammy-bar note-bending dives of MBV guitarist Kevin Shields.
The band itself offers a more enlightening yet bewildering list of influences, including groups like Black Sabbath, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, The Microphones and Joan of Arc, plus offbeat and misanthropic entries such as “being poor, feeling awkward, bad vibes, glitches, kitty kats, VHS and delay pedals.”
Swoon’s most prominent performance so far was its enthusiastically received set at Track 29 as part of the MAINX24 festival earlier this month, opening for Rigoletto and Behold the Brave; the band made more than a few new fans that night, stoking curiosities sound-wise and performance-wise. The looming question among the audience that night was, “Who is that bearded guy sitting on the stage in front of the drum set?” Band member Robert Parker took the time to answer that question and others for The Pulse via email, in advance of Swoon’s Jan. 3 show at Sluggo’s North.
The group’s performing lineup includes vocalist and guitarist Andy Goodner, Robert Parker on drone guitar, bassist Noah Dobbs and drummer Charles Stevens; Goodner, Parker and Dobbs are all visual artists, in the media of video art, photography and others.
“I think maybe our art-minds are what draw us to shoegaze-like sounds,” said Parker, when asked how the members’ visual art attitudes might affect their musical work. “Sometimes it’s more fun to make sound that’s interesting or evocative rather than something that’s ‘good’ or particularly musical.
“And of all the genres out there, shoegaze is the most friendly towards dissonance and drones and noise and uncertainty,” said Parker. “That’s an area where Jason Reeves’ tutelage is essential.”
The aforementioned bearded stage-sitter, Reeves is Swoon’s fifth member and more akin to being a sage, while not assigned with a specific musical instrument. He is also a painter and known as the force behind Baby Magic, responsible for some of the most unusual and provocative local performances in recent memory.
“Jason is our spirit animal and advisor,” said Parker. “He’s kind of like our Maharishi Yogi. He also helps us out with our non-musical art projects.”
And what do you feed a spirit animal?
“To keep his mind sharp and his body able, we feed Jason a homemade mixture of chorizo, chopped-up pieces of VHS tape and Tecate,” said Parker.
When asked what the group wants people to get from Swoon’s music, Parker cheekily responded, “Tinnitus!” with the immediate goal of wanting to “keep getting louder.” However, with more prodding, Parker revealed that the band’s ambitions are more interesting and involved than merely going to eleven.
“Eventually we’d like to become more of an artist collective than a proper band,” said Parker. “For now, the most obvious example of this would be our live visuals.
“If you see us play and there’s a weird, glitchy projection blasting behind us, that visual is generated live,” said Parker. “It’s not a pre-recorded video or DVD. Noah is an ace video bender, and he builds the machines that make the lights and fury happen.
“Since Andy is such a great visual artist, we usually have him design our show fliers whenever possible,” said Parker. “We also prefer to make all of our own merch. For our shirts and patches, we’ll troll thrift shops looking for promising candidates and then take them back to the laboratory to paint and modify by hand.
“If it’s something we don’t have the resources to make ourselves, we’ll seek out our friends and talented locals to help us out,” said Parker. “The one time we broke D.I.Y. and ordered something online, the package was stolen off of my porch, so maybe that’s a sign from Allah or something.”
With Sun Dale and Tir Asleen
Saturday, Jan. 3
501 Cherokee Blvd.