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Interview: The Big Sway break down inspiration and process behind their second album

"We Made This For You" releases on October 28 as a full video album

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The Big Sway are releasing their sophomore album “We Made This For You” this Friday. The best part? It’s a full video album! That’s right, all 9 songs have their own music video. 

The Big Sway are a trio out of the Boston area. Mike Grenier (drums), Joe MacFadzen (bass, vocals, art) and Tim Zucco (guitar, vocals, art). It is difficult to put a genre to their music, which pulls elements of noise rock, psychedelic, garage, and punk together into a central, driving force. Along with their music, The Big Sway also produces their own videos. Their songs, all relatable, fun, and catchy, match with self-produced videos that are aesthetically rich and creative, with striking color schemes. 

Before their new album debuts this Friday, the Hassle got to sit down with the trio for an interview about their process and experiences.

 

HASSLE: WITH ALL THE SONGS HAVING VIDEOS DID YOU HAVE MULTIPLE DIRECTORS OR WERE YOU ALL A BIG PART IN THESE?

JOE: The concept of turning ‘We Made This For You’ into a full video album was my own idea that formed at the beginning of the pandemic. It seemed like a fun way to collaborate with a variety of artists while being stuck at home. Essentially, I produced the entire video album aspect myself by hiring eight different directors, and working closely with each one to develop the eleven unique videos. I even made two of the videos myself which was a fun exercise in learning a new skill.

Tim’s contribution to this album is mostly on the musical side. He wrote most of the music on the album, and without him, The Big Sway would absolutely not have the signature sound that we do. I consider Tim to be one of the most original and bold rock guitarists I’ve ever met, and I definitely feel lucky to have played music with him for as long as I have. 

There was, however, one video that Tim helped create, and it was the only one we made after pandemic restrictions were lifted. It was for the song “Within My Reach.” Tim helped write the story line, scouted the shooting locations, and also starred in the video alongside Mike and I. We made this video with our friend Carissa Johnson of Fuel Heart Productions directing, and it was very fun to finally do a group collaboration in person after two years of pandemic life.

 

HASSLE: DO YOU HAVE A TOUR PLANNED AFTER THE ALBUM IS RELEASED? 

JOE: We do not have a tour planned at the moment. Basically just playing local gigs where we can find them for our friends and family because that’s what fits into our lives at this point in time. Tim and I have had many late night conversations about the nature of our band, and we always agree that it is something that should grow and change along with its members, as to always remain a source of positivity and fun in our lives.

After 15 years together, we’ve learned how to let things ebb and flow, treat the band as something that enhances our lives, and to not let it cause us stress. We’ve done many tours over the years, but for now, especially after the pandemic, it feels better to just keep it simple, and keep it local.

(Photo Credit: Carissa Johnson)

 

HASSLE: WHERE WAS IT RECORDED?, HOW LONG DID IT TAKE? DID YOU HAVE ANY SETBACKS ASIDE FROM COVID?  

JOE: We recorded “We Made This For You” in the Spring of 2018. We rented the studio at The Record Co. in Boston, MA for a week of twelve hour days, then did a handful of overdubs at Q Division Studios in Somerville, MA a few weeks later. The recording and mixing process was smooth thanks to our good friend and engineer, Sean Cahalin, so there weren’t really any setbacks there.

But when it came time to organize the video album, that’s when the setbacks began. I realized once I started production on the video album how massive the task would really be, and that there would be a long road ahead. There were a few instances where I started working on videos with directors and for one reason or another, it wouldn’t work out. So, each time that happened, I had to re-think the video, and find another director to work with. Each one came with their own style of working, and for me it was an exercise in learning to be a good collaborator.

 

HASSLE: WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION OF THE ALBUM? 

JOE: Yes, The Big Sway as a group produced the songs from start to finish. Our engineer was our good friend Sean Cahalin, and we pulled in the accomplished artist Bob Weston of Shellac and Mission of Burma to master the final product. We are really happy with the way the record sounds. It’s not overdone, and it feels true to how we sound live.

TIM: Yea, we definitely had a hand in the production process. Various mixes were being sent back and forth in different states of completion and we’d make notes, try out changes, make more notes, until the songs got where we liked them.

 

HASSLE: WHAT IS YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LIKE?

TIM: I like to think we have a couple of writing processes. One being Joe or I bringing in a mostly complete idea and then arranging and putting the final touches on it with Mike. The other being songs born from improvisation. At the beginning of most of our practices we start off just jamming and a lot of times there are a nugget or two in those that can be expanded upon and turned into complete ideas. As far as lyrics go, I like the music to happen first and let the tone of the song help point me in the direction of the lyrics.

 

HASSLE: ARE YOU CURRENTLY WRITING YOUR THIRD ALBUM? 

TIM: Currently in the very beginning stages of coming up with new ideas for The Big Sway.

 

HASSLE: ARE THERE ANY THEMES TO THIS ALBUM? 

JOE: There are a couple of themes to this album. Some were conscious decisions, and others seemed to emerge just through the process of creating. We decided to title the album “We Made This For You” as a tribute to our friends, family, lost loved ones, and basically anybody who reads the title. We think of it as a gift to anyone who would enjoy it, and to that end, we wanted to be sure that this album was available for free to anyone who wanted it. It’s definitely a coming of age record for The Big Sway where we got more serious about songwriting, and dove into some much more emotional topics in the lyrics. Things like personal growth, sobriety, loss, loneliness, fear and hope are all represented, alongside some more social topics such as politics and climate change, both of which have been present in our lyrics since the beginning.

 

HASSLE: WHAT HAS CHANGED PERSONALLY AND MUSICALLY FOR YOU BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND ALBUMS?

TIM: Quite a bit has changed since the last album! Personally, I went through a physical transformation, decided to take my health a bit more seriously, and lost a fair amount of weight.

Which incidentally led to me feeling better mentally as well. Musically, my tastes have changed quite a bit. Whereas I was very influenced by funk, Zappa, and a lot of prog and improv-heavy music at the time of the first album, by the time we started writing songs for this one I was very much getting into a lot of psych rock/garage rock. I feel like musically things are coming full circle and I’m getting back into the music that first got me playing; punk. Albeit, more post-punk this time around.

MIKE: After seeing the process of recording the first album and hearing the final product, I spent more time considering my parts for the songs during the writing sessions for this album. Always thinking “How can I better represent my style of playing through these songs.” As a group we are more mature both personally and musically, and more thought and consideration were put into the writing of the songs off this album.

 

(Photo Credit: Joe MacFadzen)

HASSLE: WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PLAY MUSIC? 

JOE: I first got into punk rock by watching BMX videos in middle school and junior high. When I was in high school, I went and saw our school’s one punk band – Staple Sore, play a show at a soft-serve ice cream place in town. That’s when I knew I wanted to be part of that world. Then I went along on tour as a photographer for my friends’ band in 2005, and once I saw that playing punk rock could be a ticket for getting out of Massachusetts and seeing the world, I was hooked.

TIM: I come from a guitar playing family! My grandfather, father, uncle, brother and cousins all play. My father especially inspired me and introduced me to a lot of great music I wouldn’t have known without him. Both my parents have always been really supportive which has been excellent.

 

HASSLE: WHAT’S YOUR BEST MUSICAL EXPERIENCE?

JOE: There were a few years where we were doing regular shows at a skydiving spot in Lebanon, ME called Skydive New England. They paid us in jumps, and by playing rock’n’roll, I was afforded three opportunities to jump out of a plane and experience freefall and parachuting. Each time was unique and totally invigorating. I also very much cherish the memories of all the places we’ve toured, and the friends we now have around the world.

MIKE: I’ve had many great times with my brothers in rock that I would never have been able to experience if not for this band. For one, I never would have skydived if I hadn’t been playing in this band, although the two don’t really seem to correlate. Skydiving in the daytime and playing music for the skydivers that same night was an unforgettable experience. Traveling to cities I might not have had the chance to see is also a huge plus. Driving through Canada, flying to Puerto Rico, shows in US states I’ve never been to, and some great parties! I feel blessed to be a part of this band with my best buds.

TIM: We’ve had quite a few! But for me, it was a while back when we opened up for The Bernie Worrell Orchestra. After our set, Bernie caught me walking into the back and pulled me aside and asked me if I was the guitar player from the band that just played. After saying I was he pulled me in for a hug and told me that we were excellent. It was really validating for me and  I will never forget how kind Bernie was to me.

 

HASSLE: WHAT WAS YOUR WORST MUSICAL EXPERIENCE? 

JOE: There are times when the band can feel like all work and no play, and it’s important for us to remember to build in a reward for ourselves every once in a while. As far as specific bad experiences, I guess I’d say that one time we showed up to play a house party about an hour south of Baltimore and the place was a total drug den, with some super shady characters trying to get us to load our gear into the house, and acting really creepy towards us in general. We called a fast band meeting, and got the hell out of there as soon as we could.

MIKE: Equipment failure! Always learning to roll with the punches.

TIM: Outside of some off nights personally and the usual under-attended show that most bands deal with I can say I’ve been pretty lucky with the shows The Big Sway has played.

 

Check out the Big Sway at the following links:

www.thebigsway.com

http://solo.to/THEBIGSWAY

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