The Swayback

The Swayback, a band of three named for that ultra-sexy curve of feminine spine (did you seriously think they were named for tired, overworked horses??), are self-described purveyors of "Songs that drool art and sex, slathered up on instinctual outsider world-views," and are very possibly on the cusp of "making it." With modern music now aged over fifty years, it's become damn near impossible to bring something new to the table. Like the best outfits fashioned from the scraps of last year, The Swayback pieces together sounds from times-gone-by (Most notably Joy Division and Dead Kennedys) and infuses them with threads of originality and a certain 'Je ne sais pas' which make them very much a band of now. I had the great fortune of spending some time with them at their practice space as they warmed up for their Halloween show. Here's what we talked about:

Let's start with some history... [To Bill Murphy-guitar] You came from L.A.?
B:I came from California, yeah. L.A. was the last place that I lived.

Bill Murphy
What did you do there and why did you come here?
B:I basically moved here to start the band with Eric [Halborg - bass/vocals]. That was the whole point/idea of me moving.

How did you meet Eric?
B: We met three or four years before in Breckenridge. I had moved there for six months and then we met and then we drove to Mexico for two months and lived down there. We drove from Breckenridge to Cabo San Lucas. We just hung out and surfed and ate tacos. Three years later we decided to start the band and I moved out here. He's originally from Chicago. We hooked up out here and we met Martijn [Bolster - drums- pronounced Mar-TINE], he's from Holland.

What brought you to the States, Martijn?
M: I was in Holland and a guy told me I could work here as an engineer and make lots of money so I did that.

Wow, any problems with visas or how do you..
M: Well, my wife is American.

Martijn Bolster - backlit
That's convenient
M: Yeah totally. I did an internship in Milwaukee in '98 and met her there and went to Holland for two years and then we got married and moved here and lived in Myrtle Beach, West Palm Beach and Raleigh for about four years total.

And what brought you to Colorado?
M:Same thing, company stuff. And then I quit to go tour over the summer. But now I'm back to make money.

So, you guys met how, where..instant love?
B: It was instant love. We saw each other from across the room. It was a three-way love triangle.
M: June 11th. It was a week after we moved here.

You have a date?
M: Yeah, it was my birthday, so I remember it. My wife took me to see Swayback and I was like, man this is the best local band I've ever seen in my life. So I went to see them again and their old drummer had quit. A week later I emailed them and...

[Eric enters.]

Eric Halborg
Well, maybe Eric can tell us some of his back ground... you're from Chicago..
E: From Chicago. Moved out here in, what was it, '95? Moved to Boulder for a little bit.

What brought you out here?
I went to the University and then took five years off and moved up to Breckenridge. Met Bill up there. And then came back and got a B.F.A. in photography

Things seem to be really taking off for you guys. You've gotten number 5 best band in Denver. How do you feel about that?
B: Didn't we get 4 last year?
M: We slipped
E: Yeah we're slipping

What are you guys doing?? You're going out of town too much and you're losing touch with the locals, that's what it is.
E: [joking] Yeah, that's fine. That would be OK.
Yeah, I suppose it's cool to get recognized by the people that go to see music and shows.

And then there was that thing with CMJ in August? What was that all about?
E: We played three shows in Manhattan in five days.
B: It's a very tough schedule.
E: Played shows on the way out there.
B: We played for SESAC, they gave me this T-shirt
E: SESAC, our performing rights company, asked us to come out and play the showcase.

Performing rights company?
E: They track songs on the radio and they track...

Oh, like on the college radio stations.
E: College radio stations would be the only thing we'd be on. So, they track that, and they give you your publishing fees for radio stations using your songs, either in film or on the radio. The band Vaux turned one of the higher-ups at SESAC onto us, and she was into us and she wanted us to sign up with them and said that she would get us showcases and on compilations and stuff like that.

So that's how it kinda came together, the band, Vaux...
E: Yeah, totally. And SESAC came and saw us at SXSW last year and right after SXSW we drove to New York and played a show and they came out and saw us there.

South by Southwest works then..
E: Yeah!

I hear of so many bands that go, and that's it, nothing happens
E: It's more like a calling card, like we exist in the music world and show up and take attendance. Certainly, you can tell with bands that had a huge hype machine behind them, but for a band like us, at this point, it's just kind of at an entry point.
M: It's totally cool to hang out for three days and you get to see all of these awesome bands.

Do you feel like things are taking off pretty quickly for you now?[They start laughing] Or... is it kind of like a stop and start thing? You just did a tour this summer...
E: I don't think it's quick-ly [laughs] it's kind of more like diligently, you just have to keep at it.

Well Eric and Bill have been playing together for four years as Swayback. That's a lot of dues to pay.
E: Then we had the Olivia Neutron Bomb for six months, forgot to tell you about that.

Oh yeah, what was that?
That was the Breckenridge band.

Martijn, on your bio online, you're described as "engineer precise drum strikes that come off tribal. How do you feel about that? ... I have to say, you play really frickin' loud.
M: Yeah, I like it loud because it makes the drum vibrate nicely and it makes you feel it when you play. It also kind of forces you to do simple things because if you do too much it just fills everything up and it becomes stupid.

How long have you been playing drums?
M: Oh yeah, I get to bring up the Metal Dicks... I used to play in a band called the Metal Dicks back in Holland. I started when I was fourteen or fifteen.

And you, what brought you to start playing guitar?
B: I started when I was a kid. It was like the day care solution. My mom got into an accident, so they put me in guitar lessons. I would go a ton and just like hang out and take all of the classes. I didn't really play in a lot of bands before this. I just wanted to play guitar.

How do you describe your style...tell me about your playing.
B: I definitely think my style is very emotional, it's a reaction to a lot of things. It's also combined with a deep love for different types of music. I have a really broad palette for music; I can switch from rock and roll to classical to dub and I like to incorporate that as well.

How do you guys write the music? Do you write it collectively, or does someone start something and bring it in, or what's the process?
B: Each song is different. They certainly originate somewhere, like, Halborg will come in with riffs or the whole structure and then we'll start to build our own parts. Lately we've been.. I don't know, how would you describe lately writing?
M: Just jamming stuff. Most of it, the melodies and the vocals, Eric comes up with, but then there are kind of two ways. Either somebody writes it or we just play and something comes out. The problem is, we've been too lazy to record things, but we've changed, we're going to record with that [points to a computer in the corner]
B: It's our friend, HAL
M: So we have all these really cool things when we're playing and we're like, Oh my god, this is awesome, and then it's gone.
E: A lot of the stuff that we do at the beginnings of practices, we'll rock out stuff and make songs up as we're going, but then we never capture them.

And you don't remember them?
E: And we don't remember them
B: DEFINITELY don't remember them.
E: At some point, when we have a little bit more time to be making music, we'll probably just have mics up and catch that stuff. The early songs, I would come in with a bass line and melody and Bill would put some interesting sounds over it and we'd go about chopping it into sections and editing it down. Now, it seems like with Martijn, there's more of the group writing process, where maybe I'll bring in a lick but it changes.

I've always had a really soft spot in my heart for power trios.. they're awesome... but do you guys ever feel like you want to add more people or do you want to keep it like this and why?
E: I think it's hard enough getting two other artists to motivate to do anything, so it makes it a little bit more efficient that way. Then there's the triangle dynamic where there isn't as many sounds, so you're sort of interacting.
M: And then we can't pull out and slack; we all have to be on our game 100%, otherwise it'll fuck up everything.
E: The only thing we've thought about adding someone else was more of a Mission of Burma style thing where they had a guy that would do tape-loops and sound effects, but he would do it from the soundboard.

Oh, so just a guy pushing the buttons.
E: Yeah, and we're definitely, at some point, going to need somebody to run sound for us, because we have so many different sounds from song to song. If we had somebody who knew the songs and was dialing it in and hitting a reverb or an echo at the end of a vocal line, that would be great. If we could get a guy that would be doing sound and even maybe have a guitar in his lap from the board and have an amp onstage. We're not actively looking for someone, but other than that...
M: It's nice in a band to not have a lot of people.

Tell me about your sound. How did it start, how has it evolved?
E: It definitely was more punk in the beginning, because [laughs] we were still figuring out how to play our instruments. And now, there's no plan, really. We're not like, we're going to be a post-rock band or post-hardcore...wouldn't it be great to sound like Cave In or Pink Floyd.. It's more like we are such music heads and vinyl collectors and audiofiles that we're just kindof letting it come out as it will and seeing what it sounds like. It seems that we keep changing and it certainly took a big swing for the different when Martijn came aboard and we're just letting it evolve however it does. We're Belle & Sebastian fans as much as we're Slayer fans.

Who are some of your top influences that you're bringing to the music?
M: Death

Death Metal?
M: No, there's a band called, Death, out of Florida.

B: I have definitely come from a ... well, I really like early punk and I also really like Kraftwerk and I'm a huge Love and Rockets fan, P.I.L. and stuff like that. That's where I come from.

E: I was kindof an indierock kid when I was younger. Like, I was all into My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver, Stone Roses, and I dug Dinosaur Jr. and the Misfits, but then love the Allman Brothers and Dead and Zeplin, so like a full range of stuff... the Smiths.. Then there was a period where we were total rock freaks and listening to things like Zeke and the Helicopters and The Murder City Devils. I just keep going through phases where I get obsessed with music for a couple months. What am I doing right now?
M: M.I.A.
E: Yeah, M.I.A. was awesome. And this last tour we listened to Dungen the whole time, this psychadelic Swedish band...
[and then names started flying about..]
Black Mountain
The A-Frames
Books on Tape.
Life of Pi... 27 hours back from San Francisco

What do you want to happen? Like, if you had everything you wished for, as a band, what would happen?
B: Solo career [laughs] My own bus. I would like to have a recording studio or at least have the means to buy decent recording equipment and make records and tour.
M: Do enough shows that we don't have to work anymore. Just get to the point where we don't have to do a day job. That's all I need.
E: If we could just make art as a living. That's all; that's always been my goal.

What do you do to feed yourself?
E: Graphic design for a place called, The Firm, in town.
[Bill bartends at the fabulous Hi-Dive/Sputnik in Denver and we already know that Martijn is a (not so) civil engineer]

Have you just toured in the States?

How was that.. you love it?
B: Yeah, it was good. It was really fun to be on tour. Get to see new places and play for new people
E: It's nice to be the entertainment for the night
M: It's nice to just crawl in your van an go to the next place. It's just like, you do nothing. You play, then you party and then you drive somewhere and then you pass out randomly and then you do it again. You eat bad food.
E: You sleep more than you do EVER.
M: It's awesome.
E: I sleep more on tour than I have since I was in preschool.

I never would have thought that.
M: The drive back from New York was like 33 hours, I think I slept maybe sixteen of those and after that you just kind of stare out the window.

I guess it wouldn't be so bad.
M: Oh, it's awesome!

What else is important that you want your public-at-large to know about you?
B: We'd like to do this full time.
M: Send us money.
B: We want to do it for everybody, all over. Europe and Japan.

Check out their beautifully designed website for music, tour dates, and sexy photos to pin up in your locker.

October 2005