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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 and stuff.

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 last one?

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 stuff

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 describe it?

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 newer stuff.

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.

-Adam Clair

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