Interview with SWEAR AND SHAKE (full band); Headed to @SXSW in March! @swearandshake @kickstarter


Brooklyn, NY indie/folk quartet Swear and Shake have only been a group since 2010, but when something great makes an entrance onto the music scene, it cannot, and does not, stay a secret for very long. Currently on the road opening for G. Love and Special Sauce (a great gig to have, folks!!!), Swear and Shake are supporting their latest release, Maple Ridge, an album fully funded by fans via Kickstarter.

And don’t expect the group to slow down one bit… They have an EP planned for a Spring release, a slot on the Rock Boat, and are a featured act on this year’s installment of SXSW in Austin, where they’ll undoubtedly make some huge strides and connections on a wide scale! I got in touch with the band during their travels to talk about how the tour has been going, what it’s like making the jump from hometown to national spotlight, and what they have planned for 2013.


G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! You guys (and lady) are making some serious waves in the music world right now, and you’ve really only just started as a band… If you could, please introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?

K- Thank you for getting in touch! Swear and Shake is Adam McHeffey: Vocals, Guitar, and Banjo. Kari Spieler: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar. Shaun Savage: Bass. Ben Goldstein: Drums. Both Adam and Shaun grew up on the east end of Long Island, I am from Poughkeepsie, NY and Ben is from Baltimore. Adam, Ben, and I went to SUNY Purchase College just outside of New York City. Even though we’ve just started as a band, each member has been performing in different capacities for many years. 

G- Swear and Shake got started in 2010 and haven’t looked back since… How did everyone get together and when did you first get started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”

K- It all started when Adam asked me to sing on his song Johnnie. We’d known of each other through the singer-songwriter circuit at Purchase College though, It wasn’t until the last few weeks of school that we starting working together. We spent the day working out harmonies, arrangements and recorded a demo in my bedroom. It was instantaneous. Something felt really right about our collaboration. Almost immediately, we started writing more songs, booking shows, and assembled our rhythm section. Everything evolved from there.

G- You are currently touring in support of your latest release, Maple Ridge. How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record?

Adam: It’s funny, so many people have different favorites, which I think is a good thing, because we set out to make a diverse and colorful record, and I think it worked. People definitely love “These White Walls,” probably because the video has reached more people than the record as a whole. Lots of people seem to gravitate towards “Marbles.” It’s really exciting when someone comes up to us or emails us and tells us they like the deeper cuts on the record like “Humming to a Sea Snail,” or “The Light.”

G- What was it like watching the numbers go up on Kickstarter and realizing you fully funded a release fan-direct?

Adam: It was so much fun. For a second there we weren’t sure if we’d make it! But our fans wanted the music recorded enough that they were willing to spread the word and help us reach our goal. For that, we owe them, and that’s exactly why the record is dedicated to them.

G- Tell us about the recording process for the album. Where did you record it, who was behind the boards this time around, and how long did the release take to record and get ready for release? Are you pleased with the final product?

Benny: At the time Maple Ridge was recorded, I was not a member of the band, but had been asked to produce and engineer the album. I thought they’d never ask! The recording process began inside a 150+ year old barn, with Swear and Shake playing live underneath its 80′ ceilings. The overdubs for the album were recorded in a number of different locations, ranging from my house in Baltimore, MD, to my apartment in Brooklyn, NY, to inside the band’s touring van. The album took almost exactly one year to complete. Am I pleased? Yes.

G- What should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys hit the road? Since you are just now getting exposed to a wider audience, what should some of the first time listeners expect to see when you take the stage?

Benny: Thrills! Suspense! Climax!

G- Do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could offer 1 song to someone who’d never heard of Swear and Shake before, to make a new fan, what song would you offer them ad why?

K- My favorite song we’ve written is Moving Parts. It’s a desperate love song about trying to make someone everything you want them to be. I think it showcases everything Swear and Shake has to offer, a driving rhythm section, melody and harmony, and character play between Adam and myself. I’d be proud to offer that to a first time listener.

G- Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? If you could curate your own feasible 3-band dream lineup to be a part of, who would you like to go on tour with and why?

Shaun: There are a million artists and bands I’d love to share a bill with just to simply see them perform but some of the best experiences I’ve had in the past and the ones I most look forward to in the future are the bills that include friends’ bands and fellow “on-the-grind” artists. There’s a certain special feeling about meeting another artist you really dig at an open mic, establishing a connection, getting involved in each other’s ideas and showing up at a soundcheck with the mutual intent of putting on the best show possible for every person in the crowd. That being said, my 3-band dream lineup/tour would be that which includes good friends and hard workers Cult Fever and These Animals.

G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?

K- A career highlight for me so far was opening for The Lumineers at The NorVa is Norfolk, VA. A few days before the show, I had gotten a terrible cold. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t walk, and could barely sing. It was my worst nightmare. I did everything I could to clear up my throat but nothing seemed to work. On the day of the performance, I looked out into an endless sea of people. I have never been more nervous in my entire life. Everyone assured me I’d be fine, and sure enough, they were right. We played great and the crowd was supportive and enthusiastic. Turns out the only cure for a clogged nose and sore throat is a little adrenaline.   

G- Lastly, as a group that is currently paying dues and working very hard to make your mark in the music industry and touring circuit, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?

Adam: Haha, ask us that in a couple of years when I hope to give you a better answer. It’s a struggle for us day in and day out. Every time we feel frustrated or stressed out (which happens on a daily basis), you just need to think about that feeling you get on stage during a great show. When the drummer’s right foot is locked in with bassist’s right hand and everything sounds together, when the lighting guy nails the outro to a song, when the audience is singing along for the last chorus of the set, it makes it all worthwhile.

Also, McDonalds doesn’t keep overnight, and Pennsylvania is way longer than you can possibly imagine!

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