Hailing from Vancouver, BC, Swank’s sound is part punk, part Canadiana and party rockabilly. Swank is wearing your studded leather to the barnyard, your cowboy boots to the piano bar and bringing your electric guitar to an acoustic jam. From this curious concoction, Swank releases Keep It Together March 2015.
Swank’s line-up has evolved since their first 3 releases: Campfire Pslams (2008), The Survival Issue (2004) and Pappy’s Corn Squeezin’s (2001). With the original line-up, Swank toured throughout Western Canada, including touring with Eldorado + Shiloh Lindsey (2008), gone on 2 UK tours, including a show in Brighton after escaping London bombings in July 2005 and have played a handful of festivals, including Folk On The Rocks (2010), after they were voted a festival favourite in 2009, Rhythm & Roots Festival in Kilkenny (2009), Sled Island (2009) and Acid Country Festival (2004). Things shifted in 2012 when Swank saw the departure of their lead guitarist and drummer, who were briefly replaced by 2 brothers of current member Phil Addington (bass), Paul and Simon. The new line-up was refreshingly loud and brash, sounding more and more like the Sonics and the early Kinks. However, Simon and Paul moved on shortly thereafter at the same time and Swank found themselves seeking 2 new members.
It is exactly this friction, tension and energy that brings Swank’s forthcoming album Keep It Together to us- keeping it together is precisely what theyíve done. Eric Lowe singed on as drummer and Gord Smithers joined on lead guitar, solidifying Swank’s current line-up.
With veteran producer Marc L’Esperance, the new lineup quickly learned material and L’Esperence smoothed out jagged arrangements and added some of his own guitar stylings. Guest musician Gordon Remple (The Beladeans, Big Top) layered punchy keyboards throughout. Fellow guest musicians Mike Van Eyes and Gary Fraser provided rollicking piano tracks, singers Teresa Marie South and Barb Wilkins added lush backups and departed member Doug Liddle performed a pedal steel track on the album’s slow track “All In A Haze”.
Keep It Together is a concise, fast moving collection of love songs inspired by early garage bands- loaded with hooks, crunchy guitar, swinging keys, sweet female backups and McKinnon’s unmistakable growl. This release marks seven years since their last release, Campfire Pslams (2008). With itís twisted and humorous songs about the devil, Campfire Psalms got the attention of music supervisors of American television series Supernatural, who placed 5 songs from the album in their show. In Keep It Together, Swank shifts their songwriting from “devilish” songs to songs of heartbreak and heartbreaking- almost in the same breath- all while raising a glass of whisky to the joys and triviality of the unraveling.
Keep It Together opener “Not Complaining” is the culmination of the album’s happy-go-lucky, despite the circumstances mood. McKinnon sings, “wearing a blindfold, singing the same old song, still not sure of the words, something about love and how it went so wrong, not complaining.” As he repeats, “not complaining” we believe that nothing’s getting McKinnon down for long. In the album’s most rockabilly tune, “Just Let Him Go”, McKinnon begs for his old love to leave- “Darlin’ it’s time to move on, can’t you see that it’s over, the romance is gone,” and in “All In A Haze” McKinnon is ready to ditch his own strife- “These cowboy boots seen better days, mutton chops and pawn chops, all in a haze, I’m leaving this behind.” Just as we’re moving on from the hard-done by days, McKinnon hits us with “Rockbottom Line” and brings us back to heartbreak and the bar room floor- “Got on board a whiskey train, don’t know when I’m coming back, I’ll pour another drink and I’ll cry over you,” all while fingers fly over the piano and knees are swinging on the pedal steel guitar to this percussive country jig. Electric guitar riffs open up “Kill Him With Honey”, the album’s most punk track. Well-placed harmonies, whistling and a grungy electric sound seem to nod at the Black Lips, but Swank cannot truly be compared. With a truly unique style, Swank makes a song about being down and out highlight the possibilities that such situations reveal. When life gives you an aching heart, Swank squeezes out the whisky and gives everyone a shot- all the better to