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SUICIDE SWANS ‘AUGUSTA’ Q&A

Suicide Swans Promo Photo

Hailing from Toowoomba QLD the Suicide Swans, a 5-piece alt-country/rock band have been strumming their way through South East Queensland since 2012. Now ready to prominently step out into the national scene, Suicide Swans release their new single “Horses” from their forthcoming album Augusta. Suicide Swans first self-titled release was firmly planted in their early folk/bluegrass/country roots, their debut album Ghosts We Forget saw the band paint with the broad strokes of what some may call ‘cosmic country’. The bands forthcoming album advances the their sonic experimentation. Augusta is ten tracks that represent a band confident in their own progression as they push their sound into new territories while keeping one foot firmly planted in their early alt-country roots. From the four part harmonies to the swagger of rock and laid back mid-tempo roots, the band have become a live show powerhouse.  The band plan on rounding out the year with more shows in the lead up to their album release on November 30. Suicide Swans vocalist/guitarist Kyle Jenkins took some time out to attend to a little Q&A for us.

You’ve recently released your new single ‘Horses’. What has the reaction been like so far and is it what you expected?
There have been a number of reviews on online Blogs and Roots’N’All Triple J has played the single. Overall to be honest who knows? We are happy with the single and the album and I feel after playing Big Sound and performing a number really good shows and receiving great feedback from these shows I believe people will be both surprised and also really receptive of the album because primarily we only played songs off the album at these shows. I think overall to answer your question I think the new album will surprise a lot of people in a really great way because it has really pushed out sound to a new level.

Collectively, what is your all-time favourite album and why is it so special to Suicide Swans?
For me it would have to be The Band ‘The Band’. An amazing album that echoes the ethos of what I love about country/folk and punk rock (music forms I love) – a sense of immediacy and creativity where the songs were not over played and recorded over and over again beyond their life where all energy/breathe was sucked out of them but instead were allowed to be really direct and just capturing the songs in the moment. This kind of clubhouse feel where The Band self-titled album has echoes of the Basement Tapes (w/Bob Dylan) is really similar to what we have set up for ourselves with the construction of our own studio ‘By The Living Grace’. We want a non-studio space that we could turn into a studio space where we could record at leisure without any ‘on the clock’ pressure of spending loads of money in a studio and instead could just allow the songs to have their own energy and have their own pace and not be rushed and hopefully this is evident and captured in the album ‘Augusta’ as well as future albums which we have recorded or currently working on.

If you could pick any dead or alive artist to work with, who would it be and why?
Artist in terms of engineer / producer etc. that would be Phil Ek from the US. He has worked with Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Band of Horses, Built to Spill, Mudhoney – all bands we really love listening to but also appreciate within their work ethic and aesthetics’ of their albums.  I feel the Suicide Swans would work really well with him because of his work ethic and his ability to really capture moments on records. We are a mixture of a really laid back but really focused band and this mixture I feel is captured in the music Phil Ek has worked on / recorded over the years.

What do you enjoy most, touring or recording and why?
For me recording and playing shows have the same excitement but in many different ways (obviously). Recording has become non-labored I feel for us since we built our studio. It allows us to record, deconstruct, re-record mess around with pace and instrumentation of songs and to just work on what we want to work on. So to answer the question we are buying new gear for the studio all the time and it’s always exciting to create new albums that have their own personality and give it a title and then release it. Playing live it allows us to revisit the recorded songs in different ways either through changing up instrumentation or also just the actual energy of playing live and really digging into the songs and revisiting them in that ‘moment’ type of way.

Who would you love to support on tour and who would you love to support you on tour and why?
Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Band of Horses, Built to Spill, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, The National, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The War on Drugs, Lucinda Williams – for all the reasons we make our music which is all these artists have constructed a serious work ethic of always writing and recording and capturing artistic and creative moments constantly within their own bands/acts and we really respect them for that and would love to share a stage with them. In saying that though we are more than happy to play with anyone because we just love playing live and making new connections with new bands and audiences.

What is the story behind the name ‘Suicide Swans’?
Suicide Swans is a term given to wild swans in Denmark who, in the center of Copenhagen there are a series of man made lakes, and every now and then some wild swans swim out into the lake and drown themselves. Scientists can’t work out why but they call them Suicide Swans. I just loved the colour and shade of something that appears to be beautiful / utopian and organic yet is completely destructive and traumatic. This for me mirrors the way I write songs where there is a dichotomy flipping back and forth in the songs between these aspects of subject matter.

Do you have a pre-show ritual before you go on stage?
We like to get to the venue early and have the gear stored and then we like to have a drink and really just relax and chat to people who have arrived early. We always like watching the other bands either before or after us. I think its important for bands to support each other and to at least watch each other because that type of positive energy amongst musical comrades I believe is a form of karma. Its so hard to play live shows in the sense of the lead up time of marketing/PR and then trying to get interviews in press or radio to whip up some information and awareness amongst people who may not know about you and then to get the gear to the venue and everything that goes along with that, that I feel its important that all bands are in it together and are respectful and supportive of each others form/s of expression.

What is your most memorable experience performing live?
It’s a number of things. This band with its eclectic line up of people is really exciting because everyone in the band has influences that are shared but then a wide range of divergent influences and this comes out in the way we collectively come together and interpret and play music. I’d have to say Big Sound and the two shows we played there were really great and incorporated the various types of music we are into (country rock/ indie rock / jam based songs) which I feel were really well presented at those shows. Overall we just love playing shows, we are built to tour and play constantly.

Do you still get nervous before going on stage to perform? If so, how do you shift yourself into the right headspace and what advice would you give to aspiring young talent?
I have never gotten nervous in my life. The reason I feel this has never occurred is I have always had the attitude of not trying to impress anyone. I am what I am and the Suicide Swans are what we are and that’s not going to change on the place, people or environment we are performing for or too. We never write songs based on current styles or trends and we don’t perform based on how many people are in the crowd or who they are, regardless of one or one hundred we will still put on a show and we are authentic and honest in our art.

For new and old fans, what should they expect to see at a Suicide Swans show? What do you want them thinking and feeling, as they head home after the show?
Authenticity, honesty, energy, fun and being in the moment. For us that’s what we engage in when we play live. For the audience I hope these things come through in the performances and they are able to feel these things while watching us. I’m into gigs not shows. I feel a gig is about collaboration between the band and the audience where you, in that moment, are sharing songs in an intimate way and that it creates a unique experience for everyone involved. With shows I feel you could be playing anywhere and the songs are played the same, the energy is always the same and in many ways there’s more of a distance between the audience and the band rather than any form of collaboration. Collaboration is really important to me because the way the Suicide Swans work is I write the songs as a foundation and then they are presented to the guys and we then construct it into something else far beyond anything I could every imagine. Thus when we bring the songs to the live arena the songs take on a new perspective and energy with the audience in that place, space and time and that can be very special and really allow us to look at the songs in new ways every time they are played. In many ways it mirrors the aesthetic of the Grateful Dead (one of my all time favorite bands) of presenting to people your expression and allowing them to give you energy back.

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