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INTERVIEW: Sway Wild

Pic by Laura Totten

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Dave: Hey Hey, VENTS! Thanks for the questions! We’ve been great and really, really, really busy rambling in every direction lately. We’re currently in the minivan heading to our final U.S. show of the year in Bellingham, WA tonight before leaving for a 6 week tour in Europe next week. Feeling grateful for it all.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Home”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Dave: “…and when you feel it, it makes you stronger..” Mandy had written most of the tune on San Juan Island where we live in NW Washington on New Year’s Day of 2018 and it came together in the studio about a year later in ways we could never have imagined. To back up a bit…the three of us had taken a sailing trip the previous summer up the Inside Passage through the remote anchorages of British Columbia on bass player Thom Lord’s 1972 36’ sailboat for a couple of months. We came across a Canadian beer called “Sneaky Weasel” and while I don’t really remember ever trying the beer itself, we sort of came up with a jingle for its clever name, which ultimately was inserted into “Home” as the instrumental melody that the electric guitar and horn section ended up riffing on.  Crazy to think back on how these seemingly random pieces and experiences found their way into this final composition.

Anyways… “Home” features Sean Hayes on guest vocals! We’d been big fans of Sean’s music for a long time and had the opportunity to open for him in Minneapolis in 2015. His band was so incredibly funky and we were really taken by what a genuine awesome person he was offstage. We loosely kept in touch over the years and caught some of his shows when he came to play in the islands where we live… Mandy even sat in with his band on lead guitar a couple of times. When we were making the record in Portland, OR over the winter we thought, “wouldn’t it be amazing to get some of Sean’s vibes on a track?!” Our engineer Justin Phelps had actually recorded Sean in the Bay Area in years past. We dropped Sean a line and he was down to give it a go from his home studio in Northern California. We gave him very little direction and when he sent the track back five days later, we about lost our sh*t. He laid down (and maybe even improvised, we don’t know) the most soulful and almost rap-like scats and lyrics over an already slammin’ bed of horns (from the members of MarchFourth = Anthony Meade-Trombone, Paul Chandler-Trumpet, Jon VanCura=Sax) that weave between Mandy’s electric guitar solo in the breakdown during the last third of the song. Sean elevated the tune even higher and brought it to its fullest potential. It is full of so much spirit and probably our favorite moment of the album. Sean joined us on stage at a recent show in the Bay Area to sing it with us an it was a total blast.

Can you talk to us more about your recent video for “Chimney Fire”? How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

Mandy: This video for “Chimney Fire”was filmed by our neighbor Peter Strasser from Aviva Films and is an exploration of some of the wildly artistic and creative spaces throughout the San Juan Islands (where we live up in the Pacific Northwest, just a few miles away from the Canadian border). The footage itself was shot in one long 15 hour day of racing around the island with our videographer and highlighting some of our favorite outstanding vistas/forests/mountains/seaside hangs, and doing our best to get goofy, improvise, and have fun while the camera was rolling. So much of our music is inspired by our sense of place living in the San Juan Islands, and we were excited to be able to share our island home with our listeners. The song itself was inspired after some of our neighbor friends had a chimney fire (friends were ok, house wasn’t)….I was spending some time writing in their art studio on their farm after their house had been damaged, and the song became a greater metaphor for making it through a tough time and coming out stronger on the other side.

These singles come off your new self-titled album – what’s the story behind the title?

Mandy: Sway Wild represents the path to discovering our truest essence of self, which is exactly what this band has allowed us to do. Dave and I had been wanting to dig in a bit more, and explore the idea of playing in a more experimental/rock group together, and when longtime friend Thom Lord showed up on the island with his bass, Dave got back on the drums for the first time in over 15 years, and the three of us got together and did exactly that…and soon enough, Sway Wild was born.

How was the recording and writing process?

Mandy on writing process: Many of the songs from Sway Wild were written in the middle of the woods while sitting on the ground/dancing awkwardly around/fishing for songs amidst the forests of the San Juan Islands of WA. These islands are a truly magical/gorgeous place full of lush forests and seaside trails, from which I draw a lot of inspiration for my writing. I would often go out in the morning either on my bike or out on a hike and take my journal in a backpack and record voice memos of melodies, thoughts, ideas…This has been the most prolific writing period of my life. I’ve felt more “myself” in my writing than ever before, mostly inspired by getting back to my rockin’/experimental roots. Every time a new song emerged I was so excited to try it out with the guys and to have the three of us explore the new music together.

Mandy on recording process:  Sway Wild was recorded over the course of 3 rainy months in Portland, OR at Hallowed Halls with Justin Phelps (Bob Weir, Cake, Galactic, Amanda Palmer + many others). The rain was pouring outside, the songs pouring out inside. We recorded 14 songs and worked our cans off and had an awesome time throughout the process and grew a lot as a band in the studio together. From the very beginning, Justin approached each minute in the studio with a smile on his face and an overwhelmingly positive work ethic. The studio, Hallowed Halls, is a beautiful, old historic Carnegie Library; an inviting place to get creative and hunker down for a while. One of our favorite moments of all of the tracking was when we had the horn sections came in to record. Members of MarchFourth (MarchFourth = Anthony Meade-Trombone, Paul Chandler-Trumpet, Jon VanCura=Sax) walked in the door and it was a real dream come true to hear them elevate the tracks to the next level, creating a slammin’ bed of horns for the tunes to groove upon. Also, a random tidbit of info: Justin and the guys would eat those dark chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joe’s (I don’t do the caffeine thing) to help get them through the long days. It’s important to have tasty snacks around while you record an album. Really, really important.

What else is happening next in Sway Wild’s world?

Mandy: 2019 has been a very exciting and transformative year for us, full of growth and exploration. The first next step is eating some chicken waffles at a local diner in Anacortes, WA. Yes, Chicken Waffles with honey butter. After that, we’re headed on a 6 week tour of Europe playing shows in Holland, the U.K., Spain and Portugal. We’re really looking forward to returning to Europe and getting to debut these new tunes/new sound in some beautiful, faraway places for lots of folks who have been on this ride with us for a long time…(as well as for some new ears!)  We’ll continue to tour hard, already booking summer festivals for 2020, but also looking forward to some down-time this winter at home to reboot, spend time with family, and do a lot of writing.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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