Photo by Dany Naierman
Critical Questions: Schwervon!
Doing it D.I.Y.
For a long time, the obligatory move to New York has been an integral part of the narrative of emerging indie rock bands. Not Schwervon!; after gaining a following in NYC, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Louis Roth and drummer/vocalist Nan Turner decided it was time to share Schwervon! with the entire country. They packed up their lives, bought a Suzuki Hatchback, and headed to the heartland (via Kansas City, Kansas) where they devoted their lives to what they liken to an "Indie Rock Band University." Prospective D.I.Y. acts take notice; Schwervon! have a thing or two figured out about the fabled lifestyle.
CM: Your Memphis, Tennessee sessions with Doug Easley started off as some singles streaming on your Bandcamp page, eventually becoming the new LP Courage. What made you want to tackle the full album format again?
M: In a word: money. As a touring band we still manage to sell quite a bit of hard copies of our music at shows. Often, it's a substantial amount of what we make each night. It was always our intention to release a full length. We released the streaming singles to sort of give people a heads up to what we were doing. Our original idea was to release four seven inches of the first eight songs and then release a full length that included those singles and the rest of the material we recorded. Then we started looking into how much four seven inches would actually cost to produce and we came up with the streaming idea as sort of a good compromise. We also decided some of the stuff we recorded didn't quite fit on the album. We didn't want to just add filler. We were more picky with the songs for this record. I think it turned out pretty good. Nan was still able to do some artwork for each song and I was able to scan it and post it onto Bandcamp. We released a song a week for six weeks making each one a free download for the first week it was up. It also felt like a nice little gift to the people who follow us on a regular basis. All this happened to correspond to us moving to Kansas so it was kind of a nice "going away" project that helped distract us from the pressures of moving halfway across the country.
Schwervon! started off as a local New York act. Then you moved to Kansas City, Kansas to try to become more of a touring act. How's the move been treating you so far?
M: It's been great. We've had to make some sacrifices. We live with my dad in his basement. We had to buy a car. Most of the good food is like a 20-minute drive away. But the other side that is that we've gotten to tour all around the country and get to know dozens if not hundreds of towns that I never thought I'd see. We never could have done that if we still lived in NYC. This country is pretty fucking amazing. I mean, New York is an amazing place, there's nothing like it, but there are a million other fucking cool places all around the country. Is there anything bad about becoming better acquainted with new people and places? I feel like it's the most life enriching thing one could do. We also get to focus on the job of being a band, every day. It's almost like going back to college or something but but it's like a big self-taught course. I think the last time I was this poor I was in college. It's like every day you wake up and go to Indie Rock Band University.
N: I like KC! It's about creative focus for us here, which is awesome. It's definitely a change in lifestyle to live in the midwest after 15+ years in NYC, but I really love having more space and all the nature here. I also cook a lot which I'm really getting into. But most importantly, being able to get on the road and tour so much is a dream. We're living the dream.
Do you think the change in location affected the sound of the album?
M: Honestly, the album was finished before we moved. The change in location definitely affected the way the album is going to sound live because here we can practice every day and that has made us a much better band . And we prepared more for this recording than we ever had before.
N: Yep the recording was done before we moved, but specific plans to release the record didn't evolve until we had already moved to Kansas. It's like that had to happen for us to finally get it out into the world.
Can you picture yourselves ever moving back to New York?
M: Never say never. We often miss New York. A big part of moving had to do with the fact that we simply couldn't afford to live there and do what we wanted to do. But, I've gotta say KC is a pretty cool. This is a very up and coming city. I feel like we discover something cool here almost every day. It's also very nicely located for touring. A cool thing about NYC is that it's pretty easy to sublet a place for a short period of time there so if we wanted to go back and work a little or record or something like that it wouldn't be too difficult.
Your touring vehicle is a Suzuki Hatchback named Waylon Jennings. How's it been holding up throughout your American touring? Have you been getting attached to it?
M: We got really lucky with Waylon Jennings Storm Trooper. I got it off Craigslist and I think the guy needed to unload it fast so I think he under priced it a bit. We've been very lucky with Waylon. In just four months we've put about 10,000 miles on him. During some really hot like 100+ days during the summer he was acting a little sluggish but once things cooled down a bit we've had no problems. Knock on wood.
You've got a pretty impressive European tour set for this fall, with a lot of dates in the UK and Germany especially. Is this your first time touring Europe?
M: We've been to Europe many times. Sometimes, we joke that we know the German geography better than we know the US. Last year we did two opening tours in Europe with The Vaselines and Belle and Sebastian. This is the first time in a few years we're doing a headlining tour and the first time we've been back there since we moved to Kansas. So, I'm looking forward to talking to our friends over there about all the changes.
Are you still self-booking your own tours?
N: Yes. I do a lot of booking. It takes up a lot of time....we are really at a point where a booking agent would be really helpful, so we could spend more time on music!
What have you found to be the greatest challenges of being a DIY-minded indie rock act these days?
M: Booking I think is the toughest. Luckily, Nan has a real knack for it. But I can see the toll it takes on her sometimes. Of course not having much money can be difficult but I think the thing the thing that is a real challenge is the amount of work that you do just to get a gig somewhere and to get people to take you seriously, and then you are often surrounded by people who don't take any of it seriously.
N: Booking. Keeping a sense of humor while booking. Staying positive on the road. Those are real challenges when you're in the thick of it.