Interview With Swirl the Band

A few months ago, I made new friends: Swirl the band. It started with my review of their new album and continued on Facebook. They turned out to be really nice guys, so I decided to invite them to an interview. So, today’s tall talented guests on my blog are:

Bass guitar player Shane Carlson (6’2″):

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And guitarist Duane Jones (6′):

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The full audio recording of this interview is now on SoundCloud, but if you prefer to read the highlights of this ever so interesting conversation – scroll down!

How It All Started

Do you want to tell us a little bit about the band first, how you got together?

Shane: Well, I’d like to say that there was no Swirl before me, but that’s just not the case! I found Duane, and Duane happened to have a brother. I had a singer, Al, we formed a band and we were looking for a guitar player, so we caught up with Duane through a mutual friend Claude Schnell, keyboards for Dio, was working with our band. That had some issues and started to lapse in its direction and its desire at the same time. So DT said, hey, I’ve got my own thing going on, it’s called Swirl. He recruited Al first (Alfred Ramirez, vocalist) to do some lyrics just for himself. They asked me to come on board and, listening to their music, I was all for it. It’s probably about 2008 when that happened and it has been a pretty cool roller coaster ever since for me.

Featured In A Movie Soundtrack

How did you make it into the movie business?

Duane: I give my brother Brian, the drummer, all the credit for the movie deal. He tends to networks with people, and it’s just so happened they were people in the movie industry. He was playing in a band outside of Swirl and the singer of that band was married to the writer of the film “Ditch Day Massacre”. So he took a demo of some material we were working on, showed it to the writer Dan Coughlin. Dan liked it, so he took it over to the producer of the film, Megan Waters, owner of Water Tree Media, who liked it as well, so one thing led to another, and we ended up with three songs and the band being the featured artist in the film. It’s been an incredible experience, it stars Bill Oberst Jr, an EMMY award winning actor, and won Best Feature Film Award at the Burbank International Film Festival. That was back in September 2014.

They are still trying to work out distribution for the film, but clearly it has been viewed by industry people because the film has been getting 4/5 and 7/10, high ratings. It’s a very good film, the reaction is very positive, now they are just trying to get it released internationally. We’ll follow the release of the film for a little while with tour dates now.

Do you think that taking part in the soundtrack may open some more doors for you, or do you look at it as a one-off project only?

Shane: I think it has started to open doors, as far as the various places we have able to get into. We have a couple of other movies that we are in negotiations with right now, plus one TV show and one commercial.  I would love for our music to be in a lot of other films. I would hope that we can enjoy a good working relationship with the movie industry, aside from doing live stuff and everything else that we do. I find that artists who have songs that are placed on TV or in a film are generally accepted much faster by the masses. So this is what we are hoping anyway, this is not a one time experience.

Duane: What is the weird thing about it is that there are millions, gazillion bands out there, every band is fighting for that same amount of space, trying to get known. I found out way more about independent film making business that I expected to do. There aren’t that many independent film makers out there. So if an opportunity presents itself and you are chosen just for one film, for one song, that’s great. When a movie picks you up and that movie becomes so more of a franchise and they decide that they want to make your band featured artist, that’s even more spectacular for you because that’s so very rare. They chose us! That thing is rare and that’s the kind of thing that will school board the band in the international territories with our music.

Touring With Big Bands

You’ve played with some big bands, like Cinderella, Extreme, Ratt, Slaughter (which I thought was a bit strange!). Have you learnt any lessons from them?

Shane: I learnt a lot with Ratt. Even more so I think I learnt with Steve Pearcy. I’ve been on the road with a lot of good artists. At the time that we went on tour with Extreme, Ratt and George Lynch, they had already established themselves, so we were gaining a lot of good things that we could pull from them: look at how these guys do this, and how these guys do that. There wasn’t much that we had to take away from them in learning as in don’t do this and don’t do that. We kind of learnt all that on our own: 50,000 miles across the United States, back and forth. You learn that really quick: the do’s and don’ts on the road. But the things you do learn are kind of in the stories. Like Steven Pearcy from Ratt was telling us all about what the lead singer has to do as far as promoting and pushing the band. They de facto become the forefront person when it comes to advertising and pushing. They are doing all sort of things like that. So he shows that it is difficult to be the bad boy of rock’n’roll and also be responsible for all these other things that you have to do. That was like 45 minutes and our conversation was still going on. There are a lot of good stories like that.

Being Able To Execute The Performance

So, what are the do’s and the dont’s of touring, then?

Don’t drink right before the show – that’s a big one! Make sure you are ready to execute. One of the big things that Duane and I have always been on is: you can be a musician, you can play the music, you can execute the music and that’s fine. But when you are on a live stage, this is something I said that Duane was pretty much in agreement with me: you can listen to a band from the bar, you can listen to a band outside while having a cigarette, but you need to give them a reason to see you.

So aside from being able to execute the music, you need to be able to execute the performance.

That’s one of the things that we did see on the road with all those great bands. After years of doing this, they’ve got their performance down and, I think, so do Swirl.

When you come to see Swirl, you’re gonna see a pretty good show.

I am not going to give any names but there are so many bands out there who do really good music, but when you go to see them, you could swear that these people must really, really love their shoes, because that’s all they are doing: looking down at their shoes! They are playing great music, but they are just staring at their shoes. And that’s all I can think they deserve as performance! There is nothing that really makes me want to watch it. Whereas when you go on a long tour with Ratt, Extreme or George Lynch, you tend to see a performance there, a reason to see and watch the band.

Duane: The main thing you have to remember, as far as what I’ve learnt anyway, is that when you travel, you’ve got to take care of yourself, because when that cold hits,  there is only one of you. If you don’t take care of yourself, that tends to affect everybody. There is the practical application of just being physically ready to do your job, which requires you to get some rest. You obviously need to figure out when you need your own space, which can be hard to find on the road from time to time.

Also you’ve got to understand that when you get to a new town, you played Chicago last night and that was great, but now you’re in Cleveland, and people in Cleveland didn’t come from Chicago; they deserve the best you can give them that night. So if you go out and carry on after the show and when you get to the next town, you are not ready to put your best performance, you really are cheating yourself and you are cheating on your audience, which is just a horrible thing. It is a job! It’s fun.

I honestly don’t know how people do this. Physically it must be really exhausting!

Duane: You know, I think the ones who do it best are the ones who make it look like it is nothing but fun all the time! There are moments when it’s fun, but there are moments when it’s not a lot of fun to it, ‘cos it’s a long drive, and you are in a town where you are not “on”, so to speak, you are not surrounded by your fans, your media and you don’t like it.

Shane: Or there are times when you are in New York and you are suffering from a tremendously horrible, horrible cold! But your guitar player makes you go across the street, gets a bowl of chili and be ready to play in forty five minutes. Because the crowd deserves it! Yes, it was me we are talking about. I was feeling really, really bad, I didn’t know if I was gonna get the energy to do anything. But you grab a bottle of water and get ready to play. So, even though I was not feeling the best, I stood above there, because, as Duane said, that was a whole new batch of people and they were coming out to see our show, so you need to make it the best that you can, even despite the circumstances. So sometimes you’ve got to fake it ’till you make it!

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Plans For The Near Future

You have obviously done a lot already. What do you think will be your next step? Are you going to leave the continent and spread it across the world? A new record? Or?

Shane: Well, I think touring is always on the back of our minds. We used the first couple of tours just to kind of establish ourselves, but now we can do that, we can go out, do tour with each other and be a working group. We do have two albums under our belts now. But I think where we are now is, if a tour came along, that would be fantastic, and we would totally want to do it. But I think we are continuing to press, to get our music out to as many places as we possibly can. Right now we want to get a lot more airplay. We’re kind of pressing social media, trying to look through as many opportunities as possible, right to up about hundred or so internet radio sites. Since this album came up, we’ve got to be up to about 30-40 interviews in online magazines. We are continuing to do that, just to get the presence out there. In the meantime, we are still playing Southern California areas and I’m pretty sure that if the call came to do so, we could probably do a show in Las Vegas, Mexico or any of those places that are nearest. But that’s pretty much what we are trying to go for right now: just get our name out there as much as possible!

Managing The Band Themselves

Are you doing it by yourselves, or have you got a management team behind you?

Shane: By ourselves. Actually I like to refer to our management team as DT Jones. He does a really good job! And to some extent Brian as well. Duane just has a knack for networking and talking, and meeting people, chat people up and get things going. So it is 100% by the band, there is no outside services. But we are willing to speak to people if they are interested!

Duane: Yes, at this point we are self-made. We are our own band, our own record company, our own booking agent, our own manager.

If you make enough noise, as an independent, you can attract the interest of those people that you want to work with! I think that’s starting to happen now.

We did a photo shoot with a legendary rock’n’roll photographer – Neil Zozlower. He has shot anybody and everybody who has success in the music business, not just in rock’n’roll but just in general. We are on to something here, with his contacts.

When you get yourself on tour with Ratt, Extreme, these are the bands that independent bands don’t get to do! And when they find out not only that you’ve done it, but that you have negotiated all of this yourselves, with the band’s booking agent, then tend to take you pretty seriously.

So, our plan at this point… It’s been incredible going into the summer of 2015 for us! Your blog is an example of the amount of press that Swirl has received on a global scale and that’s just mind blowing for me! We are very much appreciative of this! The places where we have coverage right now is just amazing (We want an opportunity to go to all of these places!): places like the UK, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia! Go to https://www.reverbnation.com/socalswirl/press/. We post them all there and you can see all these places where we’ve been working without even a firm to get coverage for the band. In Japan, for example, we are No 2 on their websites. We are slowly getting more views for the two videos that are out: “Rise Up” and “4th July”. This guy who found us from Japan is just incredible in what he’s been doing for the band. The more social media like that, the more we get our friends, family and new fans to let people know about us, the more an independent band can survive.

Do you hope that one day you will be able to only live on music without having a day job?

Shane: That is definitely a goal for me! I do have a day job. Thanks god, I have the weekends off. It allows me to do this. I think everyone in the band has the same goal: that we do this for living instead! I think the more we get our name out there, the more people follow us, the more buzz we can create, the more of an opportunity that would be. I don’t want to be super rich. I just want to be able to make a living. Super rich wouldn’t be bad, but as long as I can make a living out of music, that would make me happy.

Does Duane have anything to add to that?

Shane: Duane wants to be rich!

Duane: For me, what I want is world domination for this band!

Who Would You Like To Meet Over a Beer?

There is a question I like to ask my guests on the blog. You obviously have met some famous people. If there were one person, someone you’ve never met, that you could meet up for a beer, who would you like that be?

Shane: Oh. Wow. There are so many. Duane, feel free to jump in if I am taking too much time!

Duane: I’ve been very fortunate to have met quite a few people in the music business (I’m gonna keep my answers centred around the music business). I would have chosen Gene Simmons, but I have had the opportunity to meet with him, so I would have to say David Coverdale! Because I absolutely love his voice first of all, and the longevity that he’s had in his career, and at the level that he’s been able to maintain it. I’d love to sit down and talk with him about how he’s been able to do that.

Shane: Lars Ulrich. Just to see how he did it, to talk about the grass roots of the band and because I’ve read in a couple of his latest interviews he seems to have some insights as to what is happening with the state of rock’n’roll today. He seems like a sharp business guy. Metallica is a band who has owned a decade.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Tall in Music Business

Linking to the main theme of my blog (being a tall blog), both of you are not particularly short, I understand. Do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages in being tall? Not just in general, but in your business.

Shane: Yes, I think being 6’2″ tends to intimidate a few people when intimidation is necessary! I think that’s probably about it! Plus it looks better for a tall person to play bass. Just chicks and tall men – those are the bass players!

Duane: I’ve found that when hanging out by the door or some area of a club, people have asked me if it is OK to enter the club. I do have a presence that makes people think I am security. I don’t know, I have nothing to compare it with!

Shane: If people think you are security, then you can walk around as if you are security and get into those places as if you are security! So yes, it is a plus, it is a positive!

Duane: I can see people better! I guess the disadvantage is the intimidation factor for some people: they don’t know how to approach you and really this is kind of their loss, as at the end of the day everybody in the band is really approachable!

We are very nice people. If you are good to us, we are good to you. We want to meet everybody.

As soon as we get off the stage, we have a system on tour that allows us to get over to the merchandise table as quickly as possible, so you can meet us. We want to meet anybody and everybody.

Shane: There will be those times when Duane and I are talking and someone comes by, and for about five minutes, until Duane and I finish the conversation, they won’t even think of touching us on the shoulder and say: “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I really liked your set!” And then just walk away. We didn’t tell them to walk away, we didn’t tell them: you should go away now. As a matter of fact, Duane and I are very inviting: “Hey, what’s your name?” But they just want to come by and then walk away. That’s really not necessary, you can hang out with us! We might buy you a drink just for hanging out!

Is there anything you want to tell my readers and people who’ve have never heard about you?

Shane: Go to www.swirltheband.com, go on You Tube and listen to “Rise Up” and “4th July”. Definitely buy our album!

Our second album is really good work!

We believe in our music. We believe the world should believe in it as well!

And give us feedback whether you love us or hate us! Let us know. Let me know! Come out and see us! Or if you have a venue where we can play at, we’d love to come out and play there. If are lucky enough to go across the pond, I look forward to meeting you in person!

I would love to hear from you, so go on, let me know what you think!