You know, I have no idea how I found these guys. I am pretty sure someone on Twitter recommended them to me, but I couldn’t tell you who. I actually feel bad, as I did this interview a long time ago. I regret not posting it sooner, as the band has surely forgotten who I am! At any rate, when I first heard these guys I was blown away. It’s a very unique style that combines some incredible songwriting and some polished and mature instrumentals. Think Bon Iver meets Matt & Kim. (For the record, I don’t like Bon Iver but I LOVE Matt & Kim.) Anyway, I sat down with these guys for an interview to learn more about their sound, their inspiration, and what else they have been doing for the last few months. It’s fall now, but these guys had a busy summer. Anyway, I’ll stop talking so we can get to know the band. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Swear and Shake.
I don’t swear… nor do I shake. But tell me, where did the name come from? Do you guys swear? Or shake?
The origin is rooted from an old project called Let’s Kick Fire.
In the song Shake Me Endlessly, Adam McHeffey sings, “swear and shake me endlessly.” We really liked that line and decided it wouldn’t be such a bad name for our new project. Swear and Shake as a name has gone through a transformation for us too. We like to think that Shaun Savage and Tom Elefante are the ones doing the shaking, because they are the moving rhythm section. Conversely, Adam McHeffey and Kari Spieler are the ones swearing their faces off. (Kari has a mouth which is unfit for kissing mothers and small children.)
You are raising money to fund your next album. That is a great concept, and I have heard of other bands that have done that as well. You are using Kickstarter for this project. How much have you raised so far?
We kick started the album, documentary, and music video. It was officially funded on August 22, 2011! We went over our goal with a whopping 5,226 big ones.
What made you decide to use a service like this to raise money for your project?
We were all very excited to realize that we could fund our album by basically using pre-sales and the undying love of our wonderful fans. We also would not be able to do accomplish a project of such magnitude with only the money in our pockets.
Do you already have a studio picked out to record and master the new release?
Ben Goldstien is the producer behind our album and with him, comes his entirely mobile recording rig. He is able to record anywhere and so we’ve been doing just that.
Who writes all of the lyrics for the band?
Adam and Kari are the lyricists; Shaun and Tom are the strong silent type.
What’s the story behind The Maple Ridge? That’s the name of your new release, and I have no idea what that means!
Maple Ridge is what used to be an amazing bed and breakfast in Upstate New York. Maple Ridge is also the place where we recorded the bulk of the album. By bulk I mean drums, bass, and rhythm guitars. We recorded all of these at the same time in a huge barn on the Maple Ridge compound. We had an enormously fun four days filled with hard work, great food and a lavish lifestyle enabled completed by one amazing person whose name we won’t mention.
Where are you guys originally from?
Adam, Shaun and Tom are all from a small town on Eastern Long Island called Center Moriches. Kari is from Poughkeepsie. Adam and Kari met during their time at Purchase College.
I love how Kickstarter allows you to donate different amounts and then receive incentives for what you donate. For instance, if someone donates $1 you get a personal email from the band. Or if you donate $5 you get a personal phone call… or if you donate $4,500 you get a banjo that is signed in blood by all the band member. That’s pretty hardcore, signing a banjo in blood! (It says that there is only one of these in existence. Does that mean you have already signed the banjo?)
The banjo we are referring to is the one that Adam still uses live. I suppose if someone decided to donate that amount, he would have to buy a new banjo for performance purposes. And no, we aren’t going to draw our blood until we see that cash.
You guys are on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube… who manages all of these social media campaigns?
We all try to take part, but Adam is our Twitter maven. He has a very sensitive twittoris. We are all admins of the Facebook. The YouTube uploads tend to be Adam because he owns the flip cameras and little audio gadgets.
You have a few shows coming up, mostly in New York. But you are going a little bit west hitting Nashville and Little Rock. Any chance you can swing by Indy so I can see you guys play?
Please advise us on some good venues, and maybe we can make that happen! We’re very excited to play anywhere we can get some love. We have a great rapport with an Indy based blog titled Sounds That Matter, so be on the look out for a show collaboration with them.
You played with The National? I. Love. Them! What was that experience like for you? Are you as big a fan as I am?
YES! And they closed with my favorite tune, Vandelyle Crybaby Geeks. It was an experience we won’t forget.
How do you know Elliot Lobell? Does he do claymation for a living or is that just a hobby?
Elliot is a Purchase College grad as well, and yes, is intends to make a living off of animation and these sorts of projects.
Speaking of Elliott, he will be producing a video (in clay mind you) of your single Wrecking Ball. How did you decide which single to shoot a video for?
It just had the right energy, fun and rolling with a clear set of lyrics.
Let’s go back to the banjo. Not a lot of bands use a banjo. Was that on purpose or did that just sort of happen?
Adam plays in a lot of open tunings on his guitar, the banjo is traditionally tuned to open G, so it was just an extension of that musical sensibility. It adds this flavor that works well in so many genres, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t quite caught on in the NYC indie folk scene, but that’s soon to change.
Your genre is very unique… how would you describe it to someone who has never heard you guys before?
We are all inspired by Motown and indie records but that may be some of the only common ground that the members of Swear and Shake share. Our sound is an eclectic collection of influences because we all have such different tastes. If I were to generalize our sound, I would say we are “anti-boredom indie folk rock.”
Living in New York, I bet you never run out of places to play. Where do you normally play, and do you have a favorite venue?
It’s always great to come back to New York and we love our hometown. We love playing Arlene’s Grocery and Rockwood! On Friday August 26 we played at the famous Bitter End for our first time as a band. We are really excited to have our Kickstarter success party here, and release a few new tunes to the live circuit!
You guys have some pretty awesome photography on your site and Facebook pages. Are all those from one photo shoot, or do you just get them as they come in?
We are lucky enough to be good friends with some amazing and talented photographers. Allison Olszewski, Jessica Rose Lehrman, Christopher Weger and Michael Oshins are the ones behind the lenses. We often do photo shoots with these photographers.
B.O.M.B. Fest was FILLED with bands… some of the biggest bands on the planet including Snoop Dogg, Weezer, 12th Planet and many many more. You were on that bill. How sick of a show was that, and how did you guys get to be a part of that show?
Best performance went to Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, definitely an amazing show. There was an opportunity for local bands to be considered for the stage. Swear and Shake entered to win the local act slot, and won. We competed against 500+ other local acts and only 20 bands made it.
If I didn’t know any better, I would just say that you guys are having fun out there… you just look to be having the time of your lives. What would you be doing if you were not performing?
We all need to be doing music. There is no other alternative for us. It’s our calling and we will do it for the rest of our lives.
Do you guys have jobs outside of music or is this it?
We all have day jobs. We are still building Swear and Shake up as a business, and are hoping that someday soon, we can all just do it full time.
Tell me a little bit more about Extended Play.
Extended Play was a recording done by a producer friend of ours Jon Rick. We recorded drums at Acme Studios in Mamaroneck, NY and the rest at The Rick Room in Greenwich, CT. We set out to do some raw recordings to get an idea of our sound, but the tracks had a cool vibe and we decided to release it as our EP. The EP is cool because it shows those five songs only a couple of months after the conception of the band. We are currently in the process of re-releasing it with a bonus track titled Oh, How Things Might Change, which will blow your mind. You can click here to get a taste of that song.
What’s the best concert you have ever been to?
Rush when I was in 7th grade.
I know it’s a long time from now, but where do you see yourselves in five years? What’s the “five year plan” for Swear and Shake?
In five years we would all like to be doing international tours and working on our fifth full length album.
Let’s move even further into the future… when this is all said and done, and Swear and Shake are no more… what do you want to be remembered for? What is the S&S legacy?
We would like for our songwriting and musical eclecticism to be remembered.
Speaking of S&S, do people call you that for short?
We played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons in high school, and the abbreviation for that is “DnD,” so I typically sport the “SnS”, but yeah, we get both.
Thank you guys so much for sitting down with me. I feel like I could ask you questions all day long. In all of the interviews that I do, I always let the artist get the last word. Go.
Thanks for this opportunity to talk. We look forward to our album release in late fall. You never know where we could be playing next!