Interview: Swelo

Swelo is a one man act based out of New Orleans whose day job is as a teacher. He leads quite an interesting life outside the classroom, however; he has produced a genre-bending album that captivates the listener and can be found here: http://swelo.bandcamp.com. Without further ado, here is our interview with him:

Swelo

First off, how would your students react if they discovered your music?
Honestly, I think they would just laugh. I’m a pretty goofy teacher, so they would probably think this whole thing is pretty funny. I would hope that they secretly like my music though.


So many songs have such different vocals. Are all of the vocals done by you? 
All the vocals are me, except for the spoken word verse in “This Step”. That’s by Jose Cotto, a good friend of mine who is an artist, poet, and and entrepreneur. Check him out at jccotto.com.


How did you begin experimenting with your genre-bending style?
The genre bending is really just a representation of all the types of music I listen to. My aim was never to really create a new genre or anything; I was just combing the best aspects of all the genres I like.


At points throughout your album, it sounds like you’ve been influenced by Cage the Elephant (Country Road), The Limousines (Brighton), Jack Johnson (Not Like We Used to Be), and Kid Cudi (2 AM Interlude). What genre/musician had the biggest impact on defining your style?
Huge question! That’s pretty tough to answer. I would say overall, hip-hop has influenced me the most because of the mindset that comes with it. It’s a genre that’s incredibly open to experimentation and boundary testing. Wu-Tang Clan and Kid Cudi are both considered hip hop, but their music is wildly different from one another.


What do you hope to achieve with your music (a career, fame, time killer, etc.)?
It would be great to be able to make this a career, but I’m honestly not sure at this point. If the current response I’m getting stays consistent, a career in music will start to seem more realistic.


Other than music, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy teaching, of course. And eating. And generally being outside, if it isn’t too oppressively hot. And watching Doctor Who (David Tennant, obviously).


What/who is your favorite musician/band?
Today, right now, I’m feeling Stevie Wonder. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll give you a different answer.


You can find Swelo on:
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Interview: Aaron Gabriel

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve become acquainted with Aaron Gabriel, an under-the-radar singer-songwriter. He recently released his debut album, An Uninvited Guest. This week, I asked Aaron a few questions about his band:

An Uninvited Guest

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Growing up in a house with a lot of older brothers, I was exposed to a lot of different types of music.  As a result, I’ve been influenced by a rather wide range of bands and musicians: Don McLean, The Replacements, REM, Van Morrison, Todd Snider, Great Big Sea…the list goes on.  I’ve done some time in bands in the past, but I decided I wanted to make my own music the way I wanted to make it.  True, it doesn’t always go the way I play, but it’s nice being the one in control.  Sink or swim, it’s all on me.

 Who is your biggest musical influence?

Don McLean, for his poetry.  Paul Westerberg, for his honesty.  Chris Trapper, for his sincerity.

Describe your style.

I think the best way to describe my music is alternative folk with hints of acoustic pop here and there.  I am a big fan of harmonies, because I love how they fill out a song.  I also have a strong emphasis on songwriting — I want my songs to say something.  The way I see it, every song is meant for someone, even if we’ve never met.

Who is the most interesting current artist/band in your opinion?

While she isn’t exactly current, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Loreena McKennitt.  She is an amazing singer and musician, and has made a successful career without compromising anything on the way.

What is your biggest goal for your music?

I’ve never expected to go far with my music.  People who have heard it, for the most part, really seem to enjoy it.  And while it would be nice to make a little money, I’m just as happy playing small shows and meeting that one person who had never heard me before but who walks away a fan.

How do you feel about the new-found appreciation for folk and Americana music in the public’s eye?

Personally, I’m thrilled.  Good music, good songwriting…popular music on the radio really starts to sound the same after a while.  It’s a nice change!

What can we expect in the future from you?

The future looks like it could be busy for me: I’m in the process of entering songwriting contests, working on a Christmas album that’ll (hopefully) be done this summer, finishing my next solo album, writing a musical based on a horror movie that was made in my hometown, and trying to come up with A Prairie Home Companion-type radio show for my local radio station.  There is a lot of scary good talent in my hometown.

Would you rather tour or be making new music?

Both, really.  I’d love to go to new places and meet new people — it’s a great way to expand my music, and it’d be a great way to get fresh ideas and inspiration for writing new songs.

Any plans for touring?

I live in Chewelah, which is a tiny town in northeast Washington state.  There aren’t really a whole lot of touring opportunities around here.  And since I work full-time (the sad reality of the independent artist), I can’t afford to take time off to tour.  But what I’m hoping to get started doing is a series of house concerts: small, intimate performances in people’s homes to friends and family.  That could be a nice avenue around these parts.

You can find Aaron Gabriel on:

His website

Blogspot

Amazon

Facebook

Interview: Light the Air

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan, the brains behind Light the Air . Evan is also involved with another project, The Analog Affair. You can download his music for free right here: http://lighttheair.bandcamp.com/.

Tell us a bit about your background.

My name is Evan. I’m 27 and live in Washington D.C. (by way of small-town Wyoming). Light the Air is my solo project.  I started Light the Air about a year and a half ago as sort of a musical ‘free-association’ exercise to experiment and learn to play the guitar (I never played an instrument growing up – I think it shows).   I actually began writing music though about three and a half years prior with a buddy from back home as the Analog Affair.  We were at a party one night in college and realized that we both had coincidentally started messing around with Apple GarageBand.  So we began collaborating, sending files over Skype (even when I was living in China – for a year and a half studying Mandarin) and still do to this day.  It’s something like the poor-man’s version of the group the Postal Service.

Light the Air is where I’ve spent a lot time recently though.  It’s great because the creative process behind Light the Air versus the Analog Affair is just different.  It’s a little more organic and allows me to quickly throw something together on my guitar.  It forces me, and this is something eternally useful in music, to keep it simple.  For the Lay Down EP, and for all my folk stuff, I try to write songs that I can play at an open mic – just me and my guitar.  Conversely, my alternative stuff and the Analog Affair stuff is a little more elaborate and allows me more freedom to layer things, to expand, to explore more melodies/instrumentation – to develop a different part of the songwriting craft.  It’s the best of both worlds.

What is your influence for the Lay Down EP?

The EP is a collection of songs that I wrote over a 9 month period from when I first started Light the Air.  I was really influenced by popular folk artists like Iron & Wine, Damien Rice, William Fitzsimmons, Bon Iver, and Dave Grohl’s early acoustic stuff.  I wanted to write songs that could be stripped down and effective: simple folk for simple people.  I wanted to keep it lo-fi and as analog as possible because I think there’s a certain warmth to it but mostly I wanted it to warrant multiple listens.  I definitely think that these songs will grow on people, the more you listen the more you will like them.  Songs with that quality are a lot more personal and rewarding that way. Hopefully people who listen to them will feel the same way.

Who is your biggest musical influence?

I have three big musical influences: Andy Hull, Justin Vernon, Sufjan Stevens.  They all have a soulful quality and such unique styles.  They’re all also amazing/ poignant lyricists.  They weave intricate, involved narratives and are so adept at drawing you in and making you feel, it’s a really visceral thing.  You can tell it’s a passion for them and not just a revenue stream. Three of my recent favorite albums: Andy Hull [Right Away, Great Captain!] – The Bitter End; Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago; Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz.

Describe your style.

At the moment my style is a two pronged approach that balances between folk and alternative/electronic.  I love the simplicity, strength and raw emotion of just an acoustic and a voice, as well as the saturated melodies and lavish production of electronic music.  It’s a yin/yang thing.  I think both styles offer different but equally satisfying experiences.

Though the Lay Down is purely folk, I also write a lot of alternative music.  I think that’s something I started doing after listening to Sufjan’s Age of Adz.  He’s known for his acoustic/folk songs, then all of the sudden he busts out this epic album that was so complex and layered.  I love that dichotomy – being able to fully articulate yourself and incorporate yourself in totally different styles in totally different ways.  To me that is true talent.

Granted, I’m no Sufjan – not by a long shot – but my goal remains the same: to broaden my musical skill-set articulately.

Who is the most interesting current artist/band in your opinion?

Justin Vernon.  The way he colors and twists conventional melodies/arrangements into something that is raw and ethereal, it’s amazing.  Every song he does compels you to listen, even if you end up not liking it.  A lot of people made a fuss about Beth/Rest on Bon Iver’s newest album – they didn’t like the horns and 80’s pads, but I loved them because they colored the sound so interestingly – like a neon bar sign above a rainy dark alley.  He also has done some really neat collaborations and has his fingers in everything across different genres which is refreshing.  Most genres have all these commonalities that people don’t realize and so some people may be shocked when an artist ventures outside their ‘comfort’ zone.  It’s refreshing if done with respect for the music.  I have his jagjagjuar live session with Sean Carey on a loop in my head all day.

What does music mean to you?

Lately I’ve come to realize that music is everything to me, in a positive way.  At first it felt like an addiction and was something that I heavily relied upon to express myself (which is a stage that I think a lot people constantly go through), but now I’m starting to view it with a little more acceptance and love. So it’s less a dependency, more a passion.

It’s a great compliment to our experience as humans. I love music because it helps me cope, it helps me bond, help me mitigate life’s lows and punctuate life’s highs etc…  Get 10 different people in a room and get them to sing along to the same song and you can’t tell me it’s not a beautiful thing.  Basically, it’s such a nebulous topic that has been described far better by people far smarter than I.  I hope to do it as long as I am breathing.  So to me it means living.

What would you be if you weren’t a musician?

Truthfully I don’t think I’d consider myself a musician yet – I forget the lyrics to all my songs and mainly perform in my bedroom for whoever is listening (usually no one), but if I had to pick something to pursue besides music I’d want to be a pro photographer/all-around nice guy, someone like Chase Jarvis.  Either way I’m going to be poor. But hey, that’s what the blues are for. That rhymed… niiiiice.

Is there any place to purchase your EP online?

I don’t want anyone paying for my music.  I’m not anywhere close to the likes of U2 or the Stones where I could justify charging people so they could watch me entertain them.  If that was the case today it would probably be a very half-assed puppet show behind a bowling alley in Hoboken – refreshments would include malt liquor and twizzlers, with a 5 minute intermission to make sure that wiley homeless guy over there is still breathing.  But until that day I just want people to hear the music I write and share it with everyone they know.  I want to that next undiscovered artist that your friend passes on to you because they feel bad for forgetting your birthday, or just because they know you’ve had a shitty/hectic day. You can download all of my music for free on my soundcloud page: www.soundcloud.com/lighttheair. You can also find me on facebook as well: http://www.facebook.com/Lighttheair1.

What can we expect in the future from Light the Air?

I’m up to a lot actually.  I’m working with my buddy Cody on a third EP for our two-man band The Analog Affair.  I’m also working hard on two solo EP’s for Light the Air.  One will include some new acoustic songs I’ve written since Lay Down as well as an electronic/alternative EP that I’ve been piecing together for the past few months.  I hope to release them all very soon but even if I don’t there will still be plenty of new music on my Soundcloud page. With the way I work I have a new song up about every other week.  Also, if you like Light the Air then I would recommend checking out the Analog Affair. Cody and I are getting ready to start releasing some new tracks very soon.

You can find Light the Air on:

Bandcamp (you can download his stuff for free on his page here)

Soundcloud

Facebook

Youtube