As part of BestFan’s Canadian Music Week coverage, our blogger, Mallory Chate, got a chance to interview Dave Lang from Current Swell. Dave and Mallory discussed the band’s favourite moments, Canadian musical inspirations, and their journey as musicians up until now.
M: So to kick things off, my first question was where did you guys come up with the name Current Swell?
D: It’s a pretty lame story actually. Right when we were first starting to jam together, and right when first started to do open mics and stuff, someone was like, “You guys need a name! I’m gonna book you a gig, you’re gonna open for somebody.” We’re like, “Oh yeah, great.” He’s like, “What’s the band name?” and we were like, “Oh crap. We need a band name.” The guy who was playing the bongos for us, he was the token sort of Victorian bongo player guy, and he was like, “Oh yeah! We’ll get back to you.” He just came up with Current Swell. Some people had been calling us “The Swell”, so he just put Current Swell on our website and that was it.
M: Cool, very interesting story. You guys are all about sticking to your roots, and you’ve got an interesting folk sound. How have you maintained keeping your sound all these years you’ve been active as a band, in this industry?
D: Well, that’s a good question. One of the things we have, we have a manager. You know? You’ve got your manager. He takes care of most of the business stuff…you know we have a label now. We’re with Sony in Canada, and last year we were with Network in Canada- who we still work with, so they’re sending him requests all the time for things they want, or things they have noted, and we just get him to filter out all the shit. We just want to create and perform. We don’t want to be influenced too much in that respect. I think we all just gravitate towards the same likes. The things that we all agree on are similar sounds and tones. We all agree on blues and good folk music, and we try to let that be the core of what we will create off of.
M: How do you think, since you first started, and since you released your first album, that you as a band as well as your music has shaped and changed?
D: Since the first album?
M: Yeah, just over the years.
D: I think that we started off when we really didn’t know anything about songwriting. We were just like, “We’ll throw some words on some chords.” It doesn’t really matter if it has a chorus; we just didn’t care at all what it was. Now when we write a song, we learnt over the years that our favourite songs from some of those times, they did have a chorus, so maybe we should write one with a chorus. It’s definitely grown from being acoustic. Definitely started as sit down acoustic music to about things that you’re seeing and places you’re going. It’s definitely got more of an electric edge now, and I think that we’re not afraid to get more personal with people we’ve known or the relationships we’re having. I think some of the lyrical content is deeper, for lack of a better word. In a good way though, I think, back then, we would have felt comfortable going in a different direction.
M: Do you think your new album, Ulysses, will reach audiences on a more personal level with you guys?
D: I think so. I think the hope is to always gain a connection with a listener. You know, you always think about the hypothetical listener, and what they might think of when they get to this part. That’s always the hope. I think that’s the key to success in music, getting a connection and trying to find yourself on the same ground emotionally or on some level. I think there are definitely a couple songs that’ll do that, and I’m proud of those.
M: On that note, what are those songs?
D: I knew you were gonna ask that. As I was saying that I was thinking, “Don’t say couple songs because she’s gonna ask what couple songs.” I think “Bad News” and the song “Flesh and Bone” both have something in it. “Bad News” started off as that thing where we felt as younger men, when you’re a single guy and you find yourself waiting around for someone and there’s mistrust in the relationship. It turned out to be, as we were writing it, a story of addiction and being with someone that was an addict, and some of those struggles that you would face. I think it’s so easy for anyone to put themselves in the position of fearlessly believing in someone and fearlessly believing that they can improve. If anyone’s ever been in a relationship you always think that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you gotta have hope. So, that’s got a dark subject matter, but I think it was a real connection piece because it’s a nightmare for some people.
“Flesh and Bone” is a timeless piece about just really missing someone that you love. I think it’s just a basic song. It’s basic in terms of we all feel those things, and at the time that’s what I was feeling. So yeah, those are two examples.
M: Who influences your sound, musician wise, and any Canadian musicians?
D: Yeah, I mean, every time you go to a festival or something, there’s somebody where you’re like, “Wow! Did you see what they did? Did you see that? That was terrific.” Then you’re like, “We should try that sometime” and it creates a little cesspool of creativity; going to festivals. So, I guess before we made this record we were listening to lots of rock music, and we would talk about what we liked about it. I’m not so sure they would have influenced any of the writing, but definitely in some of the tones and the vibe we were going for, I remember hearing Zeus , one of their albums recently. About a year and a half ago, and we would just talk about it, and talk about it. So some of things they were doing with tones and vintage sounds they were using, we were really interested in doing. In the last year, there’s been everything from Tame Impala to Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite to…I don’t know. It’s hard to say, hard to pin down.
M: How do you make your music stand out? You’re in Canadian Music Week, you’re playing at the Rivoli. So how have you made a name for yourselves?
D: That’s a tough question. You either just have a little bit of luck in that respect or you don’t, I guess. For us, we’ve always put ourselves out there. We’ve always been like “Let’s be a touring band. Let’s go out there and meet people and play live for them.” I think just never letting up on that, we’ve always travelled the world and toured, and that was important to us. Just getting the direct contact with people have been our recipe for growth. Let’s write some songs, and let’s take them as far as we can and as wide as we can. Being within the band, it’s so hard to think…you’re way too inside of it to really analyze what makes this band’s music better or different than other bands. We would have no idea. I think that everyone that writes can write a song and have the chance for their song to be, even if it has the same chords or same melody as some other song, you can create something original. We’ve always just tried to create something that’s our own and that we love.
M: Well you guys have done some pretty huge things. I was reading that you guys have opened up for The Beach Boys, and artists like K’naan. What are your personal goals for the future and what have been some highlights of your career so far?
D: I think that we really want to continue taking steps that a year ago we didn’t think that we would take. We’re growing a little bit here and there, and it’s really rewarding. It’s clichéd, but what do they say? It’s not the destination, it’s the journey? You know that saying? For me, it is a lot like that in the music game, because every time you have a goal, you set your sights somewhere that you think you can make it, and you just make that goal. Then you’re like, “Well what’s my next goal?” and you don’t have a goal for a little while. It’s always, like, the pursuit of the goal is what’s fun. Trying to do this together, and we have this brotherhood in the band and it’s real fun to do this together. Things like, the band went to Brazil about a year ago. We walked out on the stage at our first show there, there was like 2 or 3000 people there and they were singing along with all the words. It was so bizarre to think that wasn’t even a goal of ours at all, there was never the goal like, “Oh, we have to go to Brazil and be a band there” That just landed on our doorstep. Definitely the things I said before, it’s the pursuit and journey along the way and the unexpected things that happen are definitely where you reflect on being your best memories.
If you’re interested in Current Swell, keep up with them on Twitter (@currentswell)! And keep up with Mallory (@malleycatz) and the rest of the @BestFan crew for all the latest entertainment updates.