It’s never enough when you have artist-on-artist interviews, that’s why we’re featuring the extended content online. And, it’s never enough when Peter Black (Analog Space DJ) gets down to brass tacks with The Swayback‘s Eric Halborg (bass & lead vocals) and Bill Murphy (guitar). Check out the printed interview and see them ALL LIVE, May 15th at City Hall during the Summer Music Festival. Tickets available at 303Magazine.com or at the door. And see more show dates for The Swayback and Peter Black following their interview.
PB: What has been your most memorable moment in your career so far?
EH: I’d say recording at Capitol Studios.
BM: Yeah, I’mm still between that and actually meeting Andy Johns in the first session. And, just kind of gaining an emotional connection with him and talking a little bit about music history with him was really exciting, but also because we’re at Capitol, and we’re doing the same thing that [other legendary artists] are!
PB: How does the reality of being a musician compare to the fantasy? Is there a fantasy?
EH: I think there’s a clichéd fantasy of what people think it’s like, and maybe people are drawn to that, but I think the reality is probably groovier cause you get better at your instrument and bond with some dudes and create and write these songs that mean something to you, as opposed to a motley crew caricature of what people think it is. For me, it’s definitely more about progressing in the art of it, and that wasn’t necessarily what I thought about getting into it. I don’t know that I thought about anything, I just kind of did it, you know?
BM: I think a lot of people start out initially thinking of some rock and roll lifestyle, maybe, you know what I mean? It seems that way to me, the way younger kids do, ‘Let’s get a band, how cool would that be?’ And then once you get into the art, it maybe is what you’re saying, you know?
EH: Yeah, that it just gets more soulful and more righteous than any of those clichés, and I think Swayback definitely indulges in some of those things, but I think we’re wired that way regardless of some sort of rock cliché. I was like that before I was ever in this band, that’s for sure.
PB: Bill, were you a bit wild?
BM: I was playing guitar at seven, so before I even knew about stuff like that, I just already liked playing. For me, it was just playing. If you follow the thing you really like to do, then you’re going to come out okay at the end.
PB: Any pre-show rituals?
EH: Being there, in the venue is kinda nice, for quite a few hours and acclimating to the environment, I think is a big one for us. Kinda us just hanging out together and vibing off of each other.
BM: And Eric, we’ll do vocal warm-ups together, sometimes Adam will, sometimes Bill will, a lot of us in headphones, playing, getting our hands warm, drinking a little.
PB: You’re pretty used to this already at this point. How many years have you all been playing together now?
EH: We’re coming up on nine.
PB: Best song to listen to on a road trip? Touring? Working?
EH: Song or album?
PB: How about both? Either or?
EH: Modest Mouse, Sword Driver.
BM: Sword Driver, I had that shirt on today, that’s pretty open-road driving music.
EH: Open road distortions, landscapes?
BM: Some of the early Cure albums. Pornography, you know, some of the singles.
EH: American classic rock radio, in any town, tuned in is an awesome relief of what you have in the van. You go through all that stuff, and you know, it’s like five in the morning, and I don’t want to listen to this cool music anymore. I want to listen to whatever they give me.
PB: Who do you say? Bruce Springsteen, Bill?
BM: Well, he’s driving music, you know?
PB: Early stuff?
BM: Yeah, and all those artists kind of have texture and stories woven in, so it kind of keeps your brain alive, something to focus on.
PB: You know how I work at the store, Twist & Shout. It’s interesting to me. We’ve seen a physical records revival and people freak out all the time. People used to say, a couple years ago, even ten years ago, that the record would die, and you’d be surprised at the sales right now, are higher than ever, and right now people are predicting that the CD will be the one that becomes a dinosaur. And, nearly every artist and label has reissued new printings on 180-gram virgin vinyl of classic recordings. Also, nearly every band is starting to issue vinyl with either a CD inside, which costs fuckin’ sixty cents to make, you know, or a download card. So, it marks a return to people actually wanting to own recordings, like twenty-somethings are the biggest customers of wanting record collections again.
EH: It [vinyl] sounds better, again.
PB: Yeah, you guys pressed a 45″ (7-inch record) recently, so you have to have either some sort of nostalgia or belief in it. Why’d you press the 45″?
EH: I think it sounds better, you know, it just has a warmth and it has a magic of ritual, putting it on. Anyone who collects records would say the same thing.
BM: It’s pretty impressive to have, like a big wall of records.
PB: Yeah, but it’s even more impressive to have your own record, right?
PB:We’re moving on to silly questions now. Create an all-star band with no more than four members who you’d like to see perform live. I’m guessing from both of your answers so far, it’s going to be old school cats.
BM: Goddamn, my natural instinct would be to pick, maybe it would be some odd pairing like of, uh, basically I’d be placing Robert Plant with Tom Waits.
PB: On vocals?
BM: Yeah. If I could add another member, I would pick James Brown’s drummer. That would be a weird lineup.
PB: That’s a great lineup. Eric?
EH: I would go Hendrix and Marley on guitar, passing vocals back and forth to each other, and then, who on bass?
BM: Maybe Cleveland from Family Guy?
EH: And then? Drums!
BM: For drums, get what’s his name from Suicide.
EH: No, and then Bonham on drums.
PB: Bonham, alright.
BM: You can’t have Bonham!
PB: Well can we have some synchronicity between you two? Eric you’ve said Bonham, Bill said no Bonham, but we’re pairing James Brown’s drummer [Clyde Stubblefield], with Bonham. Alright, that’s a good one.
PB: Favorite vice? Any vice that we want to talk about?
BM: Computers, technology.
PB: Drinking? You like drinking?
EH: Sure, we like drinking.
PB: How do you feel about pirating, and illegal music downloads?
EH: I think the floodgate’s open already, the dam’s broke, so you can’t stop it. You can’t try to plug the hole or have threats like: We’re going to put [security] codes, or [digital] protection on the music or sue you! None of that works, so you’ve just got to figure out something else. Like a different business model.
PB: You release your music through online services right? You’re on i-Tunes?
PB: Earlier, you guys had a darker sound, at least to me. It seems like now, even in this conversation and your 45, you’ve moved toward a more straight forward, muscular rock and roll.
EH: The dark and the minimal stuff is still there. Working with Andy, he just opened the palette a little more. I think the dark is still there, it’s just not so obvious any more.
PB: But, I also think it’s like phases of stuff that we’ve been listening to. People can describe the different shifts, like Tom Murphy in Westword reviewed that 7-inch and said something to the effect of, it’s so much different than their punk rock beginnings, and then he talked about, there was sort of a post punk, still with a dark strain, but the new stuff has a more refined darkness, I think then the early stuff. And, when me and him first got together, we were looking into groups like, Stiff Little Fingers and, um, American Steel.
EH: We were garage rock.
PB: And now you’re American rock?
EH: We were all about the low-fi and having that sound.
PB: How Important is professionalism? Seems like you take your art pretty seriously and you probably expect everybody else that you’re working with to.
EH: Yeah, I think it’s pretty important. I think it definitely lets you move freely within the game if you keep it tight, keep it together, people are going to respect that, I think.
BM: I think it gives good mutual ground when working with sound people at different venues.
EH: Yeah, I think when we first started we were a bit rowdy. And, as fun as that is at times, I think if you get wise and can turn it on and off at will, you’re going to get away with more.
BM: For me, the worst thing is people that never get their act together: don’t return calls, show up late, you know, at one point, I was doing two or three bands every month for the party [at Rockbar] which doesn’t seem like much, but you know how it is to play even one or two times a month when everybody shows up late, doesn’t do their sound check, I think those are things that are important.
PB: Wrapping it up, any favorite spots or haunts?
EH: We’re planning on DJing at 3014 on Colfax.
PB: What night?
EH: We’re kind of switching around, but Mondays. And, I think they’re going to have shows there. And then Lost Lake right down the street, that’s right by my house. Sputnik, of course. Probably Lost Lake. We were doing that Wednesday night RockBar, every Wednesday. Free for all, three hours, I just want to play. And, we really, we just gelled with Adam, the new guitarist, at that. At Rockbar, did like an open free-for-all jam. Adam came to every one for like a year.
PB: Is that how that came about? Cause I was asking Bill in the car how long he’s been playing with you. About a year then?
BM: Well, if you include the Rockbar stuff, much longer, but we’ve known Adam forever because he kinda tried out as a drummer, too, and we played with him, recorded with him and made little songs. He’d been around and once he was at Rockbar playing every Wednesday he started busting like [imitates guitar picking], you know, he could bust Swayback licks, and we realized that he knew all the songs, and that’s how we invited him down to practice. We were like, Dude, come to practice, you know all the songs.
PB: Sounds good. That’s it, guys. Thank you.