Photo by Todd Zimmer
KC Deli Writer/ Editor Michelle Bacon asked us a bunch of questions about what we’re up to and what it’s like now that we’ve been based in KC for a while. You can check out that amazing article right here: Schwervon! explores its identity in Kansas City. (For an added BONUS scroll down for our extended answers to Michelle’s questions.)
DELI: You two have been in KC now since what, 2012? Now that you’ve established some roots, tell me a bit about what your experience as a KC band has been like compared to being a New York band. Advantages/challenges of having a small music scene? Anything like that.
Matt: Yes we moved here Spring of 2012. Most of the aspects of moving from NY to KC have been positive. We’ve been able to afford to tour in the states a lot more. We can practice for free in our basement. We’ve made a lot of new friends and I can keep tabs on my Dad. There’s been a lot of wonderful local support.
I think the hardest part about moving has been more psychological. There’s some great stuff to do in KC but we’re more isolated here, at least when it comes to the sort of DIY, arty, pro feminist, community that we love and kind of favor.
Things that are not so great: restaurants and stores closing a lot earlier than we are used to, the excess of chain stores and chain restaurants, and the more conservative local and state politics and the trickle down effects of that. Of course NY has its own issues with that stuff too. This sort of cultural landscape can’t help but affect local markets. And that includes the art markets. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in KC if you look hard enough. But sometimes it feels like you’ve got an intense amount of competition for a piece of a much smaller “art” pie.
It’s tricky for us because in NYC, we were very much about being connected to our local “indie” scene. It pretty much supported us. It consumed most of our energy. Part of the motivation for moving here was to look a little more outward. We’ve done a lot of US touring and a lot of growing as a band since we’ve moved. I don’t think we could have managed this while living in NY. KC has provided a soft landing for us to engage in, a vibrant local art scene, while at the same time motivating us to get out there and to grow.
DELI: You’ve been a band for several years now. Do you think your music has evolved over time? As you’ve each become more acquainted with the other’s musicianship, have your songwriting processes changed?
Nan: I think we’re a band always in development…..when we first started the band our songwriting method was more straightforward. Matt would come up with a riff/ I do a beat/ we trade off who’s gonna write the verse, chorus, etc. Now we write songs all sorts of ways..I have a couple on this new batch of songs where I had a rudimentary guitar riff we used as a starting point to write the song…then Matt took over on guitar and we arranged it from there. Then there are songs we make up as we go along having just a guitar riff or a beat and collaboratively writing line by line. One thing that I’ve learned over the years about creative work is that there’s no mystery…I don’t think ideas fall out of the sky…sometimes you do write a song quickly from an idea that hits you but many times you don’t….and all of it takes crafting and revising. Showing up for the process is the important thing. My skill level at the drums has definitely evolved over time too which allows for more options in songwriting…sometimes too many! I sort of envy my younger self who just knew how to play one beat so that’s what I did and the song was written quickly because I only knew one beat!
DELI: Whose idea was it to incorporate poem/interpretive dance in your shows? And why is this a cool thing to do for the audience?
Nan: It was Matt’s idea. I was scared to do it at first cause I thought “oh no I’ll be so exposed tap dancing which hello! I don’t really know how to do.” Then I realized duh, I love improv dancing and of course performing, so then I started going for it. I love Matt’s poems too- it’s exciting to me to create something spontaneous to his words that exists only in that moment.
I think the cool thing for the audience is that if you haven’t seen us before – they’re watching this theatrical thing in the middle of indie rock songs and whether they love or hate it…it’s unexpected and just lives in that moment.
Matt: We can’t really afford a big light show or to hire back up dancers, so I was trying to think of something that would make us stand out a little. We both have roots in theater. The idea was to give the audiences that actually came out to see us something unique that was just for them. Nan is very spontaneous and into improv, and so I thought it was a nice way to incorporate something that she loves. The poem is also a nice thing to keep my mind occupied during the day while we are on tour. Sometimes the poems turn out to be accounts of what happened that day or what I see in all the different cities we get to visit. The poems motivated me to start my own poetry blog. I post the poems there as well as the Schwervon! website.
DELI: Your last album, Broken Teeth, was your first (as far as I know, at least) acoustic album. Did that change the way you play at all? And do you plan to do something like that again?
Nan: My playing got a little tighter and I liked using hot rods. I learned about the less is more thing with the cymbals too… Our vocals and harmonies got better too, maybe because they were more exposed. As a two piece band – you often hear the space in and around our songs. We’re not afraid of space. And clarity. Which I really like. But to play softer and acoustically – it’s even more eagle eye focus on the song skeleton, and you notice quickly what works and doesn’t.
For the future? Maybe we’d do it again….it was a fun experiment fun to pare down our sound. But right now we’re really enjoying electric!
DELI: What does the future look like for Schwervon!? More touring, new music, tap dancing?
Nan: The immediate future/ this fall- is about honing our new songs and then recording them. After that, touring. Always more dancing. I might have to track down Mr. Tim for more tap lessons. And prancing. It’s very underrated.
DELI: Why should people come to a Schwervon! show?
Matt: You’re going to get a unique experience pretty much every time. At least with a new poem and new dance. Sometimes I think we ask a lot of an audience. The shows are so much better when people engage with the music. I think the more you know about us the more compelling the show is. We work a lot of our shit out through our music. We try to make it fun and inspiring but we also try to say things. We like to rock out but we also like to sing. You don’t see a lot of guy/girl vocals without a mandolin or a banjo in the band. I think we’re a good band to bring a date to.