As you may or may not know, Scranton, PA, is home to a great many
original bands, including The Sw!ms, a pop band whose live
show has to be seen to be believed. We spoke with Sw!ms frontman Brian
Langan about what the future holds for his band.
Hybrid Magazine: So you just finished a full-length, eh?
Brian Langan: We finished it and it's mastered. I'm working
on the artwork and all that. We're going to start sending it out and
shopping it around in the next week to labels, sending it to blogs
HM: How did you fund it without signing with a label beforehand?
BL: Our friend Mike [Nordberg] records all
our stuff in our practice space. We just sent it out and got it
mastered. Mike mixed it. We're just doing promos now until someone
can pay for the pressing and the PR and all that stuff.
HM: Any leads?
BL: We have a list of people we want to send it to that have
said, you know, 'Send us some stuff when it's done.' As soon as we
got a manager a few months ago, he introduced himself to all these
labels and said he was managing the Swims and gave some of our old
stuff. But nothing is 'in talks' yet.
HM: Any specific labels you can mention?
BL: We're definitely going to hit Park the Van, and we heard
Kindercore is back, so we're going to try to talk to them. And we're
definitely going to try to hit some major stuff, too. Our manager
has a lot of good contacts. I don't keep up to date with all the label
stuff. I leave that to him. It's pretty much your standard larger
indie labels that everybody is on or wants to get on that we want
to try out. We just need somebody to pay for good distribution and
good PR and tour support and all that stuff.
HM: How does the album sound?
BL: I'm really happy with it. I think Mike did an awesome
job. We're already starting to record another one. I like it better
than the last one. It came out really good.
HM: What are the main differences between this one and the
BL: The last one took even longer. This one, we went through
member changes too. We were just recording with Mike in the middle
of the recording, we were just like, 'We could use a second guitar
player.' So he's on a bunch of them. It's simpler in production. Like,
we didn't go all out and do 75,000 tracks for each song like we did
the last time. Last time, some of the songs were like 70 tracks and
four guitars, and it just kind of got muddy. You lost a lot of stuff.
So it's a little simpler, but I mean, we used a bunch of different
instruments and stuff, too, so it's not going to sound just like our
live show, but we tried to make it sound a little more like our live
HM: What stylistic changes did you make, if any?
BL: I try to do more like I used to do when I did my solo
stuff. There's a little synthesizer and stuff in there, but it's more
stripped down. I would never use the term 'bare bones' by any means,
but I guess I just did. It's packed. We try to get heavy at times
and try to be fruity at other times. There's a fiddle on this album.
That's a new addition.
HM: To speak a bit more generally, if you were to explain
your music to someone who had never heard it before, how would you
BL: Definitely pop. We try to make folks happy, try to be
positive. You could say psychedelic pop or fantasy pop, but you know,
we rock at times, too.
HM: Any specific influences you can mention?
BL: I like a lot of specific late 60s stuff, like Juli, The
Hollies. Obviously The Beatles are my favorite ever. A
lot of that kind of stuff is what I listen to most, and I always find
myself going back to that when I get bored with what's going on with
HM: You said your album is going to be more like your live
show. What about your live show made you want to make your record
truer to it?
BL: I think just realizing we don't need all those guitars.
Less is more sometimes. Things stand out more when there is less going
on. Stuff like that. We were just doing one guitar live forever until
we got Mike, and now we're doing two. It thickens it up, but on the
last album I was doing three or four guitar tracks. It sounded okay,
but I decided it would definitely sound better if I did less.
HM: Where do you see this going? As far as your overall ambitions,
where do you see this headed?
BL: Hopefully, we do some good tours or something like that.
I definitely want to do a lot with licensing, maybe even do some soundtracks
and stuff. I'd like to be able to do this for a living, but who knows?
I think that's everybody.
HM: In the few years that you guys have been doing this, what
is your proudest accomplishment?
BL: I think we got some pretty good songs together. I'm pretty
happy with them. I can't really think of any that I'm cringing over,
embarrassed of. We've done pretty good locally, and we don't really
play any shows out of the area where people are like, 'This band blows.'
We generally tend to impress just a couple people. It never feels
like things are starting to suck. It always feels like things are
getting better. It just keeps adding on. There's never any time where
we're like, 'Man, it used to be so much better.'
HM: Let's talk about the Scranton music scene. How does the
abundance of good music there impact you individually?
BL: I've been really good friends Mike and Pat
(Finnerty), who are in the Moneynotes and were in Okay
Paddy. It's really motivating when your friends are really good
competition, when you see your friends kicking ass. It keeps you in
check. We've been supporting each other forever, playing together
a bunch, going into each other's bands. Pat played with us for a while
and we all have our side projects and stuff. It's really good to get
to talk to other people. It's refreshing.
HM: What do you think is the most unique aspect of your band?
BL: We tend to appeal to most people. We're a pop band, but
we're not annoying and really stale, and we're a like a rock band,
but we're not too overbearing. I feel like parents could listen to
us, but like, cool parents. We know dads who'll listen to us, and
they're like, 'Hey, you guys are okay.' Unless you really, really
hate pop music, I think we're really accessible. We don't try to do
crazy stuff or be pretentious or anything, but we also don't just
do the same old stuff everyone else does. I don't want to do a song
and say classic, clichéd things, like rhyme 'baby' with 'maybe,'
you know, talk about 'hit the ground running,' 'writing on the wall.'
You know, just generic stuff. You have to keep it fresh.
HM: How do you maintain that balance between being inventive
without being pretentious or showy?
BL: When I do stuff with art or music, I try to think of what
I would think if I saw it. Would I be really annoyed? I have a weird
idea of like, if I saw a band doing this, would I be like, 'Oh, god.'
I just try to look at it like, what would I think of it? The whole
point of it is you dig your influences, like I'll listen to a Hollies
song, and I'll say, I love this, but I can't do it because they already
did it, and I'm not them. Most people have all these crazy ideas in
their head, but it's all influenced by something. I forget where I
was going with this.
HM: So what else do you want to talk about?
BL: Well, we got a new drummer. His name is Lee and
he's really, really awesome. He's real versatile. He can totally shred,
but he can also play really simple. That's been really great.
HM: Where did you guys find him?
BL: Of all things, I saw an ad looking for a band, and if you ever
get the chance, you should read those because they're kind of hilarious.
I saw it and I was like, 'Wow, that's a nice drum set' and he had
all the same influences as I had. I saw a couple guys at the record
store and they were like, 'Yeah, that guy comes in here all the time.
He seems really cool.' When I called him, I found out he knew my friends
from the Mishaps down in Baltimore, because that's where he
was from before he moved up here. He learned like, ten of our songs
in two practices. He's a pretty cool guy.
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