OEB’s 5 SXSW Q’s – Swear and Shake
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
OEB 2013 SXSW Review
Brooklyn’s Swear and Shake are a great example of a young and eager SXSW band, evolving their music not just year by year, but even month by month. The songs from 2012’s Maple Ridge have already naturally been growing new leaves on stage and 2013 has quickly shown some personnel changes as Maple Ridge producer Ben Goldstein has taken a full time position behind the kit. All four members of the band – Kari Spieler, Adam McHeffey, Shaun Savage and Goldstein – took a few minutes out of their week to share some SXSW thoughts with OEB concerning interpreting inspiration from the folk greats of the past, the visceral feeling of their first national tour and how SXSW will allow their music to reach “new audiences and new markets”.
For a debut, Maple Ridge has a huge sound, especially considering the folk traditions your music is steeped in. Has that been the case with Swear and Shake from Day 1?
Ben Goldstein (drums, producer): Although I’ve been playing drums in the band for only four weeks, I’ve loved listening to Swear and Shake since the first bedroom demo. Adam and Kari’s songs have always had huge emotional impact for me, but the sound of the band changed a lot when Maple Ridge was recorded. You can attribute that to any number of things: the 150-year-old barn it was recorded in, the addition of yours truly as producer or the band’s natural (and hopeful) growth as musicians. There are new songs already, not yet released, that have the huge sound of Maple Ridge, but with the intimacy of the bedroom recording I first fell in love with. Stay tuned…
Folk rock in general has had a huge impact on the music scene in the last few years. What is it about breaking music down to its raw elements that has been able to connect so widely as of late? Where do you see Swear and Shake fitting into this movement?
Adam McHeffey (vocals, guitar): I think it’s the importance we put on the craft songwriting that connects us to the new folk insurgence. I never thought we were the folkiest band, but our writing is definitely inspired by the folk greats, and the way their songs are direct and clear and full of meaning. The songs are emotional, personal, somehow universally understood. All of our songs start with just an idea and a few chords on a guitar. I dare not compare us to Cash or Dylan or Guthrie or even Blind Willie McTell, but you think about the way that their songs get covered and reinterpreted over and over again. They can be built up, stripped down, and no matter how it’s performed it, the song will always be the song.
How’s the tour going so far? Have the crowds been growing since the release of the record?
Shaun Savage (bass): The tour has been going great so far. G. Love’s fans have been very kind to us and we’re happy to be able to play to them every night. It’s hard for us to gauge how the release of the record has affected the size of our crowd since this is our first national tour, but I can say it’s an amazing feeling to look out into a crowd in a city we’ve never been to and see a number of people singing along to our tunes. We’re really looking forward to coming back to these cities on our next tour now that we’ve been sort of introduced and our record has been floating around.
Do you have any gigs lined up for SXSW yet? Is there anything particular you are looking to get out of the trip to Austin this year?
Kari Spieler (vocals, guitar): We do have a few gigs lined up and have a few more in the works. It’s been a goal of ours to participate in SXSW since the band got together. Just like many bands going to the festival, we’re looking to bring our music to new audiences and reach new markets. Personally, I can’t wait to get hit with music at all hours of the day, meet new people and hear new music. It sounds like a big ole’ party to me.
Have you had a chance to check out the SXSW roster yet? Any artists you are hoping to catch yourself while in town?
Adam: I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the artists that we’ve met over the past year. Austin is going to be a bit of a family reunion for us. I’m really excited for the sets of Tumbleweed Wanderers, The Last Bison, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, Haim, Pearl and the Beard and Ambassadors. Also, Shaquille O’Neal is speaking, and I’m stoked for that.