New York’s Swear and Shake are a rare band that actually live up to their rarely-found catchily clever moniker. They identify as “Big Hook Americana.” Their sound rings of an amalgam of popularly sun-kissed folk and the most elegantly spirited take on Southern rocking (“Southern Rock” would be far too cheap and crass a characterization of something that, at its greatest moments, actually sounds like the gospel.) They’ve released one EP and one LP and are currently on tour, anticipating a new LP, whose songs are already familiar in the ears of their fans. The project began with Adam McHeffey (guitar, banjo, vocals) and Kari Spieler (guitar, vocals) at SUNY Purchase, but quickly expanded and currently also includes Shaun Savage (bass) and Benny Goldstein (drums). Swear and Shake will be appearing at our very own World Café Live on February 5th and the four convincingly-pseudo-Southern Yankees were kind enough to take some time to chat about their career thus far and where they’re planning on taking it in 2014. (Oh, and they’re also apparently big fans of a number of Philthy’s, i.e. my, favorite artists of recent years…)
Izzy Cihak: So Swear and Shake is still a relatively new project. What have been the highlights, so far?
Kari Spieler: At Mountain Jam 2013, we played right before Amy Helm and her band. We had been doing a cover of The Band’s “Don’t Do It” and she happened to hear it. After that she listened to the rest of our set.
Adam McHeffey: She ended up inviting us to a “Midnight Ramble” show at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, NY. It was the sort of auspicious night you see in movies and hear in stories and always hope for.
Izzy: And what do you feel like is most important to know about Swear and Shake for those yet to hear you (or maybe even those who have)?
Adam: You gotta hear it! That comes first.
Izzy: I’m curious as to your thoughts on the current state of “music.” There are actually more people doings things sonically similar to yourselves that are gaining widespread exposure than there have been in quite some time.
Benny Goldstein: Music is one of my absolute most favorite things in the world, (along with animals, breakfast, and women), although I’m not convinced there is a “state of music,” since we all feel differently about it. There is certainly more of it being written, recorded, and shared than ever before, for which we all should be grateful for, and weary of. And there are certainly a lot of people making a decent living in the music industry, for which we should be grateful for and weary of. I’m listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony right now in my headphones, and I’d say that it’s in a beautiful state.
Izzy: For that matter, do you have any favorite contemporary acts?
Adam: To name a few more well-known artists, my favorites are Dr. Dog, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (and Alexander Ebert’s solo project, as well), Arcade Fire, and Delta Spirit. We’re also very much inspired by lesser-known independent acts.
Kari: Lucius out of Brooklyn, NY.
Shaun Savage: The Mynabirds from Omaha, NE.
Benny: Three bands that I’ve watched in the last year with my mouth hanging open are: The Traveling Suitcase based in Appleton, WI, Butter the Children from Brooklyn, NY, and Moon King from Toronto, CAN.
Izzy: What do you consider to be the band’s biggest influences and inspirations?
Kari: My mom.
Adam: We listen to a lot of roots music. The Band is our band’s collective favorite band. Their favorite artist was Ray Charles, so now we’re onto him.
Izzy: You’re currently on tour and are going to be appearing here in Philadelphia at World Café Live next week. What can we expect of the live experience?
Kari: Some woman said at our last show: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’s better than Cats!”
Shaun: It’s nice to be headlining in Philadelphia after so many support gigs in 2013. We’re excited to get into a smaller room and play for our fans again.
Izzy: And finally, what are you planning and hoping for the rest of 2014?
Kari: We’re releasing a new record called Ain’t That Lovin’.
Adam: We’ll be doing a few more music videos.
Kari: We’re going to continue touring, hitting the festival circuit come summertime and touring everywhere else before and after. We’re hoping to see the west coast this time around.