Meet SWANIFANT: Dylan Chapple (songs, production, vocals, guitar, field recordings, synths, percussion, harmonium, loops), Ryan Huber (drums, percussion, clarinet, piano, melodica, harmonium, organ, synths, vocals, field recordings), Danny Echevaria (violin and guitar), Jon Giusti (trombone, synths, harmonium, organ, circuit bends, effects and vocals), and Jon Hrabko (guitar, percussion, synths, effects, vocals). we’ve been a band in many different capacities and lineups since the summer of 2005.
I had a chance to meet up with Dylan to get some inside scoop on the band, check it out:
How long have you been doing music and what have you done with it? What instruments can you play? You obviously have training, what has that been and who with?
I’ve been writing songs since elementary school and playing instruments since i was in middle school. I formed my first “band” in fourth grade despite the fact that i didn’t actually play any instruments. I had a steady band for the end of middle school and all of high school. We had a decent work ethic, and between the four of us, we managed to teach each other a lot about music. My only real musical training was a theory class i took my senior year of high school, which connected a lot of dots. I’ve only taken a few lessons, and nearly all of my technical ability is self taught. The other members all have varying degrees of training. Danny has a music degree from UC Santa Cruz, Jon H. and Ryan have minors in electronic music and Jon G has a self-created degree in sound design, which combines visual arts and music/sound.
Personally, the only instruments I would actually claim to play are voice, bass and guitar, although I dabble often in drums and keyboard instruments. There’s no bass in this band though. In a way, the songs that started this project 3 years ago were a way of shedding what I felt was a musical coat that I had been wearing but didn’t fit anymore. Until that point, I had almost entirely played bass, so I wanted to get away from all that. After some time off, I started playing bass with my friends in Daddy Crimbo, my other band, and it really started to feel good again. Music is pleasantly cyclical in that way.
All that being said, at this point I play drums more than any other instrument, because I get a lot more out of practice time when I feel like I’m fighting the learning curve.
Where do you live and where have you lived? What do you value about the community or scene in your area? Do you wish that somethings would change? What scenes happening in the world are you interested in and why?
I currently reside in the Fruitvale section of Oakland, which despite what most people seem to think, is a great place to live. We are not connected to many people outside of our space, but there’s about 10 of us who live in the building who do a lot of sharing of ideas, talents, and gear. I actually value the fact that the community that we live in isn’t based around a scene. It’s mostly working class people doing their best to get by, which is a great centering force. I am an observer by nature, and I tend to draw a lot of inspiration from absorbing what’s around me from a more transparent point of view. For me, that’s harder to do when you’re surrounded by a lot of people from the same age/background in your day to day life.
I tend to not think wishfully about things changing as far as scenes and things like that. Once you start expecting things from groups of people, you’re setting yourself up for a letdown.
We came of age as a band in Santa Cruz, Ca, during our time as students there. Starting in Santa Cruz was really good as a young band. It was easy to get free, all ages shows, which are my favorite kind of show. I think there’s only been two Swanifant shows that have cost money. For a small, slow town, there’s a ton of talent in Santa Cruz and greater Santa Cruz county, and a lot of really nice weirdos doing all sorts of stuff. People’s goals musically tend to be pretty humble, just getting a band good enough for your friends to like, which is something I admire and relate with. My favorite band from Santa Cruz is Captain Arab’s Taliband, who have got to be some of the most humble fucks I’ve ever met.
Are you apart of any sort of music collective and are collaborating with some people. If yes, what is the project and what is your hope to do with it? Who have been the most enriching artists you’ve worked with and why? Who did you connect with most on a personal level? Do you have any major influences?
I’m lucky in that the people i enjoy collaborating with most are my band mates. This band is an ever evolving project that depends on who of the five members are available for collaboration. Every album and live lineup sounds pretty different from the others, and the process is always different, meaning that I always have a new project to look forward to in the future, even though it’s technically the same band.
As far as other bands we’ve played with, Misty Mountain and The Broads, both from Santa Cruz county, have always been my favorite bands to play with and learn from.
In the early days of the band, Animal Collective was a major influence. Hearing Hear Comes the Indian for the first time threw the doors wide open for me in the realm of out music, and that album is still my favorite of theirs. Brian Eno would undoubtedly be the biggest influence on the band. Lovely songs and engaging soundscapes. The Boredoms. Ryan got the chance to drum in the 88 Boa Drum drummer event in la this summer, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so blown away by a live performance. Dadalira, an older gentleman I had the pleasure of recording in Madagascar. John Fahey. Sun City Girls. The American anthology of folk music. The secret museum of mankind, which is similar to the anthology, but for world music. I have between 6-7 hours of the collection, and have yet to hear a song off it i didn’t like. This year, I’ve been really excited about Group Inerane and Group Doueh, two guitar groups from Africa released on the Sublime Frequencies Label. In addition, I’m constantly in awe of the sounds produced by the surrounding environment, whether that’s nature or man made, and many of my favorite audio moments are field recordings. There’s this sweet sound that you hear on BART trains that sounds a lot like a monophonic synth being tweaked. Ground squirrels make incredible high pitch beeps, and if you stop to listen to a plane passing overhead, you can pick dozens of sounds out of the white noise. These things are a constant source of inspiration.
Your music is great, I’m really digging your sound, what can we expect from you in the future?
Our next album, wilder is in the process of being mastered, and will be done in mid January. It’s much more of a band project, and the basic tracks for all of the songs were recorded live, as opposed to the more overdubbed approach of our last album (LP2). Our next project is a seven inch of 5 country songs that we will record in January and February. Jon G and I will be recording our set as a duo soon, probably for a split with our friend Dannie Murrie. I just finished up a compilation of traditional music from Madagascar called Ranomafana Rhythms that’s available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I recorded the project during trips to the island in 2005 and 2007. All the proceeds from the project are sent through a non-profit directly back to the musician’s communities to help with education, cultural preservation and basic living needs.
Do you have any personal, political, spiritual, emotional or other views you specifically like to get across with your music? How do you plan to translate that to your audience, and how do you feel about their responses so far?
That’s a big question. One of the ideas that informs the way these songs go down is the idea that music is everywhere, and that it’s important to look outside of the realm of what is typically considered music for inspiration and enjoyment. I think it’s helpful to take that style of creativity into daily life too, trying to see the fantastic in the mundane, and the mundane in the fantastic. Always in a state of observation, always trying to find new aspects of things you’ve seen a thousand times. Allowing chance and chaos to form things is a big part of the reason why field recordings are so essential to this music. Recordings are often just placed over a song and left to interact with the instrumental parts in serendipitous ways. Serendipity fosters an understanding that as much control as we can think we have, the world around us goes on relatively unfettered by our individual thoughts and opinions.
It’s hard to say how much that comes through in the music, and it doesn’t matter too much to me if it does or not. One thing I like about music, is that once you make it, you release it to the outside world and lose control over it. It works itself into people’s lives in different ways than you could have imagined, becomes part of their personal geography. Among my friends, people have some interesting feedback, and I’m always pleased with how people interpret it. Amongst people who aren’t my friends, I’ve received very little feedback, so it’s hard to tell how people see these songs without context.
Where have you been on tour that you would like to visit again? Where would you like to visit? Where have you played that you like? Where would you like to play? Do you like touring or would you like to? What is the biggest obstacle you have when putting a tour together? Booking information?
Swanifant has never been on tour. Our members play in a bunch of different bands, and it’s hard to get people together to plan that sort of thing. Booking shows is not one of my strong suits. My experience is that you have to be persistent to the point of annoying to book most shows, and it’s not something I can do without feeling like an asshole. Oh well.
My friend lives in an old stagecoach house of highway one south of San Francisco, and that’s my favorite place to play a show. We’ve done a bunch of recordings out there too. I’m interested in playing anyplace that isn’t a bar, the weirder the better. Bars are fun sometimes, but I don’t spend any non-music related time there, and so it all feels a bit alien to me. That being said, however, we are not likely to turn down any show, since the opportunities seem to come very little. Contacting us through myspace is the best way to get booking info. Thanks!