Sessions From The Box Transcript (originally aired 6/4/12)
Host: James Dineen (JD)
JD: How did you come up with the name “Swansea”?
Ji: Well, originally we were called “Bastions” and we found out there was already a metal band from Wales called “Bastions”, so we had to change the name. We figured we may as well take something from Wales since they took something from us–Swansea of course being the port town that Dylan Thomas was from.
Reb: We’d tossed around that idea back when Ji and I played duo. We thought maybe that would be a cool name. You know, we have a constant list of cool band names.
Ji: That was on the list.
Reb: That was somewhere on the list.
JD: What were some of the really bad ones?
Reb: Oh wow.
Ji: Well, there was some bad ones that we’ve actually used in other forms…
Reb: Like “Cheerleader Carwash”…”Suburban Bicep” is one of my favorites.
JD: Oof [laughing] I like that!
Ji: That’s good for like a Gresham hardcore band.
JD: Yeah, Exactly! [laughing] Fairly obvious to Portlanders that are aware of the Blue Cranes where Ji and Rebecca came in but where did they find you Kyleen?
Ky: I moved into the Brooklyn neighborhood where Ji and Rebecca work at Sanborn’s [ed note: local breakfast restaurant]…(I met them coming up on three years ago). They gave me a Blue Cranes CD my first time in there. So I heard it and then I started listening to them and I went to a show of theirs, just the two of them, at the Camellia Lounge. I was drunk and I was like, “I should be in your band” and they were like, “Okaaaay” and so…it kind of just happened that way.
JD: Drunken declarations always work really well in this town!
JD: This is fairly divergent from the Blue Cranes stuff. [To Kyleen] What were you doing before you hooked up with these guys? Or what do you continue to do? Because this is Portland, you’re supposed to be in five bands!
Ky: I am in five bands! And i’m in a few bands with these two already–at least three bands we’re already in together. Other than that i’ve just been moving around. I’m from Kansas City. I moved to Nashville and then up to Olympia Washington and then down to Portland in 2008. I’m mostly a violinist and violist. I’m also an audio engineer–I went to school for that. I just kind of had been playing a little bit in rock bands with my friends and both of them moved away to South Korea so it was just me and my boyfriend playing and then I met these guys. And then all of the sudden I met everybody in Portland…via Rebecca and Ji.
Ky: And then I started playing in all of these bands so it’s just been an explosion.
JD: What are the other bands you’re involved in?
Ky: We all three play in National Flower. Then I play in Blue Cranes as part of the string section. And I also play with a guy named Jarad Miles–my boyfriend and I play with him. My sister Patti King has her own music and I play with her as well.
JD: So you’ve got the CD “Old Blood” which is not out yet, correct?
Ji: It’s not out yet, no.
JD: Tell me about when this is going to be released and are you going to have a release party? What’s going on with this?
Ji: Well, we’re not quite sure when we’re going to release it. We’re gonna do a “soft” release at a place that Kyleen works at called Bushwhacker’s Cider. [asking Kyleen] What is the date of that?
Ky: That’s April 30th [ed note: 2012].
JD: Bushwhacker’s Cider…
Reb: The only cider bar in America.
JD: You’re kidding me. Why don’t I know about this?!
Ji: You should be there every night…
Reb: It’s right across the street from the Berlin Inn. If you’ve ever seen that place…
Ky: We’re having a tour fundraiser there on April 30th. There are tickets on sale–there’s two different sessions. One’s from 3-5pm and one’s from 6-8pm that day.
Ky: So that’s sort of a “soft” release. We’ll be selling albums there.
JD: And the tour, do you have it semi-planned out yet? Do you know where you’re gonna go?
Ji: We do…
Reb: So far we have about 11 shows in the books confirmed. We’re hoping some more will come in. We’re going to be out for about 3 weeks heading through Idaho, Utah, Colorado and down through New Mexico. The furthest point for us is going to be San Antonio Texas.
JD: Oh, wow.
Reb: And then we come home through Arizona and California.
JD: That’s not a bad trip.
Ji: It’s a lot of driving!
Reb: The fun part is, once we get to Austin, Rebecca Gates and Joanna Bolme will be flying down to finish out the tour with us.
JD: Oh cool.
Reb: Ji plays in “The Consortium”, Rebecca Gates’ project so he’ll be doing double sets starting then.
Ji: There will be a lot of stinky clothes on me…
JD: [laughing] You won’t have to break down your drum kit–leave it there. So back to the CD…Piano Cemetery Studios?
Ji: Our house.
Reb: I worked for 8 years at the Immortal Piano Company as a technician specializing in vintage uprights, pre-1929. A lot of those pianos are no longer functional or cost effective to fix so a lot get taken to the dump. But every once in a while i’d see one that I liked and have it brought to our back yard where we’d just use it to plant flowers and stuff in. They’d slowly disintegrate or we’d break them apart and use them in bonfires. We also live by the Rose City Cemetery so we have this kind of…crumbling pianos in the backyard, cemetery scene.
JD: That sounds delightfully creepy. I love it! [laughs]
What do you guys listen to that you think feeds into this project?
Ji: The 2 that I know we’re all liking a lot are Hanne Hukkelberg from Norway. She’s amazing. Anybody listening should definitely check her out. She came through Portland, I guess three years ago now? It was at the Doug Fir. It was a lightly attended show but it was unbelievable–one of the best shows i’ve ever seen. She’s great. She just released a new record…David Bazan.
Reb: Yeah, David Bazan. The Hanne Hukkelberg record that we all love is “Blood From A Stone”.
Ji: Kyleen do you have any deep influences?
Ky: Well I have a lot of influences but Rebecca wrote these songs and so we kind of came into these songs together just trying to arrange around what was already written. We have ideas going forward about other music and how we want to take the direction of the band, but this album specifically, was all centered around what was already there. I draw on my influence of the Flaming Lips in everything I do…so there’s a little bit of noise on the first track, which stands a little bit separate from the rest of the album. We played a viola through a guitar pedal board–that had a pretty cool effect. So that’s where i’m coming from.
JD: Speaking of how the songs came together. [to Rebecca] Seeing that you wrote most of them…how did you write most of them? Sitting in front of a piano? Picking up a guitar? Different ways?
Reb: I’m very new to the guitar so this project is sort of a vehicle for me to learn and be working on that more. And I made the transition–this record, “Old Blood”…the title comes from the fact that the songs are actually very “old” from when everything was very keyboard-centric with me and my writing. Since meeting Kyleen there’s been a whole batch of new songs that are beyond this record. But yeah, just sitting down at the keyboard. What generally happens is i’ll have a series of images and i’ll tell the story harmonically with the instrument. And lyrically, kind of watching the film in my head as the story’s unfolding, i’ll find a way to best tell that story through the words.
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