Matt Swann is no stranger to Calgary’s nightlife both as an accomplished musician in bands like Extra Happy Ghost!!! Gold and Hot Little Rocket and as a witty bartender. More recently however he’s made waves outside of town thanks to his latest endeavour Astral Swans.
The project’s origin story comes with a ridiculous convoluted story from Swann — he tells me that he lived in Los Angeles and dated famed tabloid actress Jennifer Aniston. When they moved in together she bought him two swans as a gift related to his last name and frequently referenced that they’d be together “throughout the astral plane and beyond.” Swann says he then got caught up in the temptation of drugs and models on the road at which point he cheated on poor Aniston and they broke up. “I wanted her to remember that first year and those swans together forever.”
It’s all a big ruse but where Swann has an abundance of lies for interviews his music is absolutely bullshit-free. Stripped down with sparse arrangements he spins timeless forlorn indie pop songs often anchored by just guitar and voice.
“I can’t say the same for guitar playing or singing but writing songs has always been somewhat second nature” says Swann. “Truthfully I just get inspired and something comes out. I certainly would never say that I write a lot of ‘good’ songs — whatever that ultimately is. Maybe I’ve never written a ‘good’ song but I definitely do write a lot. I am not a person who has necessarily come by happiness particularly easy but I am very frequently inspired.”
As Astral Swans Swann completed his debut album All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson in late 2013 (the American spelling of “favourite” is intentional). Though the final result makes for one cohesive whole it was recorded piecemeal at various locations including Swann’s bedroom a warehouse Gold’s practice space and Lorrie Matheson’s studio. Swann played most of the instruments (“for better or worse” he says) with Distance Bullock on drums.
The majority of the LP was recorded by local producer Brad Hawkins. “He has high-quality portable gear and a lot of patience ability and a heart of gold” says Swann.
The resulting album was so affecting that it inspired Vancouver pop impresario (and folk fest sweetheart) Dan Mangan to form his own label. Madic Records a boutique imprint under Arts & Crafts was effectively willed into existence by Astral Swans.
“The dude has been so supportive and so chill” says Swann of his working relationship with Mangan. “There is no pressure or expectation of following in his footsteps creatively or in terms of his success or pressure to suck industry dick. The dude just liked my record and happened to have some connections and personal experience.”
Madic released two songs from the LP “You Carry a Sickness” and “Park Street” earlier this year but the label has held off on releasing the full album until early 2015.
Though Swann admits he’s a little tired of the album he’s already looking ahead to future releases. Like way ahead. “I really just want creative sustainability” he says. “I want to be able to make records my entire life and tour without accumulating too much debt. Then when I’m an old man I’ll run off and grow old alone in a cave and sing my death songs and go mad.”