Æ: Aglet Eaters

This Was Tomorrow – An Interview With Sway

Posted in Album, Discover by R on July 1, 2011

Back in 2010 when Sway first released the followup to the now classic Millia Pink and Green EP, I offered to review it for him on this here blog. Many a draft was started, but I wasn’t quite able to express the everything about This Was Tomorrow that made it so special. This Was Tomorrow‘s USP is its complete and utter departure from The Millia Pink and Green and this has, unsurprisingly, left a few of the old-school gazers confused. Me, I see Millia Pink and Green and This Was Tomorrow as entirely different, uncomparable pieces of work. However I think think the poor purists would like an explanation. So putting my electrogaze tendencies aside I decide to ask The Man Himself (hi Andrew!) a few Qs about the album so we can get all your perplexedness cleared up.

I’m quite happy I took so long to get around to this because just last month, Sway signed up to Saint Marie Records and so This Was Tomorrow had a fresh release on the 7th of June this year. That’s enough excitement and goings-on in the Life of Sway to make up an entire interview, I thought. So here you go:

The St. Marie Records signing was something like 6 months after you independently released This Was Tomorrow. What’s the story behind that? Is TWT going to be out in many formats? CD, Vinyl, tape, 8-track… Also what would you consider the official release date?

This Was Tomorrow was initially intended to be a “digital only” release via iTunes, Bandcamp, etc. I really only wanted to have it out in that format as I’m very much on-board with the idea of digital distribution of music. I love it. I totally understand the desires of many music fans that want a tangible copy of an album, but for me the most important thing is getting people to hear my music in the easiest and most convenient way possible. I really kind of feel that compact discs are on the way out. The album actually was released as a download only in November of 2010, and a couple of months after the release Saint Marie Records hit me up to do a CD release of the album. I had received so many emails asking about when TWT would be released on CD that I was planning to do a special limited run, and the Saint Marie offer came just in time. So, for now, you have TWT as a digital download and a CD. I suppose I consider June 7th, 2011 to be the official release…

TWT is totally different from The Millia Pink & Green EP. I know there’ve been some “you’ve abandoned us!” reactions from the purists because (I think) it’s far more electrogaze than classic shoegaze. Much more digital than analog. I’m just speculating it was the 8-bitter in you that compelled you to make the record. You know better so tell me – what were you thinking about when you made each record?

Well, when I guess it’s pretty obvious that my influences are bands like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, etc. When we did The Millia Pink and Green, I wanted to do a very swirly album that would set us apart mostly from a lot of stuff that was going on locally here on the West coast (US). At that time, there really weren’t many bands doing the kind of stuff we were around here, and I really wanted to do something that would be just a million miles away from all of the other albums coming out.
I have always been obsessed with things that sound lost and blurry in music. Things that sound beautiful but strange, that’s why I was drawn to dreampop early on. I always loved Enya and ethereal sounding stuff, and I like my pop music that way too.
With The Millia P&G, I was just looking to make a blurry, floaty, windy EP that would be a reminder of what Sway was doing live at the time. When people came to our shows (we played a lot back then, believe it or not) they would usually be somewhat confused by the sounds we were putting out and I’m sure wondered if most of it were intentionally done, you know? So, this was like a reminder or proof that, yeah, we actually made music that sounded that way, and meant to.

I’ve always been a gamer. All of the Sway kids were. We all grew up with Atari and Nintendo stuff. There is something about 8-bit sounds and all that, that really gets my nostalgia machine working. For me, part of the whole dreampop thing is this weird nostalgic daydream feeling that’s induced by swirly guitars. I realized a few years ago that those retro game sounds also have the same effect on me, perhaps even more so, so I had to squeeze them in there. In my opinion, it totally works. I’m not trying to abandon all of the people that are faithful to the textbook shoegaze sounds or anything, I just feel there’s room for new sounds in this “genre”. I’m actually kinda bummed that it’s far easier for most bands these days to more or less emulate Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine twenty years later and have people eat it up. That bugs me. I honestly love the classics and steal from them all day long in my own way, but I constantly feel pressured to not go too far when it comes to borrowing from them and their sounds or songwriting. TWT is a dreampop album that uses plenty of my influences, and adds some new stuff that you might not expect for this kind of music. It’s good to mix it up a bit. I think if people give this album a real listen, they’ll appreciate it more. I made this for the listeners, the people that put on headphones and like to lose themselves in the music.

What is a day in the life of Sway – are you a rockstar, an oversized kid, or just a normal 9-to-5-er?

Definitely as far from a rockstar as can be. I’m a dad, a husband, and I have a full time job at a place that is totally unrelated to music, art, or anything remotely creative at all. I’m older now, and I’m very busy and tired. I don’t love music any less than I used to. It’s torture to not have many chances these days to just create music the way I used to and took it for granted, but I still find time every now and then, and that’s fine. It will never let me achieve any huge popularity or fan base from touring and doing all the promo work that “successful” bands do, but I think I’m okay with that. I love the fact that new people are always finding out about Sway on the internet and from friends.

Even the most dedicated shoegazer likes more than just shoegaze. What completely different music does your alterego(s) like?

I honestly don’t listen to much “nugazer” stuff these days unless I’m exposed to it by friends, or people I meet or whatever. Most that I do hear though, I really like a lot! I don’t actively seek out new shoegaze bands. I do listen to all the classic stuff from time to time to feed my cravings. As far as other styles that I like, I know it may sound cliché, but I do listen to tons of jazz. My first instrument was the saxophone, and I still play every now and then. I love the freedom of jazz improvisation. I love the experimental and sometimes dissonant chord progressions of avant-garde jazz and “new thing” jazz. I also love modern “classical” composers and electronic art stuff. I like crazy Japanese noise/electronic stuff. Anime soundtracks. Minimalist classical, anything experimental and pretty. I’m not into that much electronica unless it’s ethereal and not too…electronica-ish. I grew up in the 1980s so I kind of have a soft spot for late 70s and 80s pop stuff. I have very fond memories of being a little kid and listening to my walkman all night to some of the top 40 stuff through out the mid and late eighties. I mention it a lot, but one of the reasons that I’m drawn to dreampop is memories of falling asleep with my headphones on, and waking up late at night, in a sleepy haze and hearing Pet Shop Boys or Lionel Ritchie or Swing Out Sister or something, whispering to me in my ears. I love the Beatles. I’ve always loved Michael Jackson’s music. “Human Nature” is one of my all time favorite songs. The older I get, the less I like hip, cutting edge “alternative” and “indie” music. It’s all starting to sound like noise to me now, and not so much in a good way. It’s weird but true. Is that sad, or what?

Do you want to know how I first heard about Sway? It’s not super-interesting, but I thought you might like to know since it was not thru the internet (shock!).

Sway: Hmmmm… not through the internet, huh? I’m very curious! I doubt that you took a leap of faith and bought a Sway CD from Tonevendor without a recommendation or something… or did you? A friend?

Me: Well I guess it was indirectly the internet. But I think it’s cool because I wasn’t a part of the Shoegaze Collective at the time (because it didn’t really exist to the extent it does now). I only knew a handful of shoegazers from the internet and one of them I’d known since I was in India and he lived in Australia. So a couple of years after I landed in Melbourne we worked out we weren’t too far apart and decided to meet for the first time. He’s like shoegaze bourgeoisie. I don’t know where he gets his info from but even the most thorough scouring of the internet doesn’t reveal to me the stuff he knows as soon as he knows it. He left me with a few names on our first meeting and was positively RAVING about the Millia Pink and Green. Till This Was Tomorrow I always associated Sway with “Fall” and, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s a classic now. Anyway, I think it’s pretty cool that the first time I heard about Sway was via FACE-TO-FACE CONVERSATION omg.

This Was Tomorrow needed a bit of creator input so that listeners can understand it better and see it as less of an abandonment of the classic sounds of shoegaze and more of an evolution of Sway’s own work. I called it Chillgaze when I first heard it, can we make that a genre? See if you think otherwise and pick up This Was Tomorrow here.

7 Responses

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  1. Jim said, on July 1, 2011 at 3:55 am

    This is 1,001 kinds of awesome (because 1,000 just wasn’t quite enough). One of my favorite writers/blogs meets one of my favorite artists/musicians.

    Very/cool/indeed (and/I’ll/stop/with/this/now)

    To me, “This Was Tomorrow” is to “The Millia Pink and Green” as “Pygmalion” was to “Souvlaki.”

    (Of course, there’s NO WAY that I can possibly be the first to make such a comparison, so I’m under no delusion that is the case?)

    Any unintented plagiarism aside, the comparison certainly holds true for me in that both works are quite different in style, yet not all that different in substance; and both are amazing in their own right.

    I hear tell (from Sway’s own Facebook page, if memory serves, so I’ll not pretend that’s some sort of “insider scoop” there or anything) that the next Sway album will be going back to the more “swirly” style of “The Millia Pink and Green.” That would make me giddy as a schoolgirl. Please don’t let that be a deterrent, however, as I promise to not expose anyone but myself to that admittedly disturbing prospect.

    In all seriousness, though, I have been simply awestruck by each and every release thus far by Sway. It’s great to see an interview with Sway by none other than the world’s foremost Eater of Aglets. 🙂

    • Radhika said, on July 2, 2011 at 5:59 am

      Well I’m glad, and somewhat relieved, to be your favourite eater of aglets because you are easily my favourite commenter and it would be a bit awkward if all this favouritism was one-sided and unrequited. It’s also good that it’s mutual because if it wasn’t then I’d be all envious of your ability to make me lol and then things could get ugly.

      anyway – AHA so I HADN’T imagined that! I too remember hearing somewhere that Sway record #3 is going to be more like Sway record #1 and I am totally not reacting to this for precisely the reasons you mentioned. I’m just happy I wasn’t the only one who noticed, and registered and hasn’t forgotten

  2. Keith Frampton said, on July 1, 2011 at 4:42 am

    Nice interview! Thanks for the discussion and conversation about the differences between Sway now & then!

    • Radhika said, on July 2, 2011 at 6:00 am

      Hallo GazeElite – I thought you might find this so I made it a point not to say anything bad about you 🙂

  3. Anna Bouchard said, on July 1, 2011 at 5:53 am

    I think This Was Tomorrow is a really great album. If you listen, for instance, to “palos verdes” — the churning, swirling intensity of the song, the guitars that seem to run backwards — all that is really classic shoegaze. If there are some 8-bit sounds, if there is crystalline snowfall of clashing drums, a zip of static that runs right down my spine, that’s all good, IMO. I love that when I listen to Sway all my genre expectations are fulfilled, and yet I get to experience some novelty and surprise as well. Yeah, the danceability of “running in circles” blows my mind a little. But, the title track “this was tomorrow,” starts out with this almost quaint 8-bit motif and then just explodes into the most beautiful, dreamy guitar track. Thirty-Seven Miles Behind The Ocean is pure gaze to me. Mad props, bro. Do something new.

    • Radhika said, on July 2, 2011 at 6:03 am

      See, I don’t even need to attempt a review. Yours is pretty accurate, I agree with all of it – your descriptions etc, and most specifically your point-out of Running in Circles as almost a dance track. Totally different Sway but likeable for totally different reason to Sway of Millia P&G

      Man, I should have asked where that name came from. What on earth is a Millia Pink and Green?

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