Current Swell flowing into folk fest
To say Current Swell has been riding the crest of a decent wave lately would be to indulge in musical understatement.
The Victoria four-piece has crafted a complex Vancouver Island sound which incorporates rock, reggae, blues, folk and soul – ideal not only for fans on Canada’s Left Coast, but for pubs, clubs and festivals across Canada, the U.S. and, most recently, in equatorial Brazil.
Current Swell plays the Canmore Folk Music Festival, Saturday (Aug. 4).
The band was founded by Scott Stanton (vocals, lap slide, guitar) and Dave Lang (vocals, harmonica, guitar) and is rounded out by Chris Petersen (vocals, drums) and Ghosty (vocals, bass).
In recent months, Current Swell has shared a stage with the Tragically Hip, taken part in the massive SXSW (South by Southwest) March extravaganza in Austin,Texas, and, by popular demand, played a festival in Brazil.
The only problem with growing popularity, at least for West Coast surfers, is that constant travel and performing chews into time on the board.
“It’s a sad thought to think that a band called Current Swell went all the way to Brazil and didn’t get to go surfing,” said Stanton, “but that’s just how busy we were.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to surf because it was such a short trip, but next time we go we will definitely do some surfing at all the beaches we can.”
The band’s trip to Brazil was the result of its popularity in the South American country. “For a long time now we have had people from Brazil emailing, Facebooking, tweeting and covering our songs on YouTube,” said Stanton. “It has been a goal of ours to go down there and meet them all.
“Then a festival called Festivalma, put on by the companies Billabong and Alma Surf, reached out to us and wanted us to come and play. We played three shows; two in Sao Paulo and one in Rio. We were there for a total of five days. Not long enough, but we had to come back to Canada to play festivals.
“We are playing a lot of festivals this summer. It works out well. Every weekend we are either in Canada or in the States playing some festival and on the weekdays we get to spend our time in Victoria with friends and family doing the things that we love to do on the island. It’s a perfect mixture.”
Stanton and Lang handle the bulk of the songwriting for the band; a process which is always under way. Current Swell has four albums under its belt, topped by the most recent Long Time Ago. The band also has a new website, management and a bank account boost, thanks to collecting $100,000 as winners of the Peak Performance Project. Sponsored by Peak 100.5 FM, many B.C. bands produced songs to commemorate the coastal city’s 125th anniversary. Current Swell won it with “Granville Town.”
Lately, said Lang, “songwriting has taken something of a back seat, as the band’s been so busy, we didn’t even really have time to swim in the ocean in Brazil, it was a busy schedule with interviews and travel shows.
“But a new album is always in the works, by brain. Really, we are just casually as a band bringing new ideas together, preparing for when we do decide to get back in the studio. There are a lot of really cool new things we are writing. I love it.”
With festivals in Canada and the U.S., Current Swell is moving up in scale when it comes to venues. Like most bands, they started with playing pubs and clubs (and are popular with the Communitea Café crowd).
But in Brazil, at SXSW and with the Hip in Victoria, they played for thousands.
“South By Southwest was amazing, for a music lover as well as a performer,” said Lang. “It truly is a spectacle. It feels like any band you might want to see could be playing within a two block radius of you – and 50,000 other music lovers.”
Playing in Texas also produced the side benefit of hooking up with the Hip’s manager, then sharing a stage with the iconic Canadian band.
“We met their manager there,” said Lang, “so that might have had something to do with it (Hip gig), but really, we have very little connection with the band themselves.
“But we heard they were coming to Victoria and just tried to get on the show which was in front of 15,000 people. After that, we had a little hang time with the band, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up playing together again soon.”
Having gone from a full-on indie operation to embracing management, Stanton said the main thing is, “they’re hard working and passionate about the band. I thought we’d have much less work with a management team, but it’s actually more work because we have tons of interviews now.”
Touring, said Stanton, whether it’s in Canada, the U.S. or Australia, is something of a “heaven and hell” experience.
“We’ve written a lot of songs and we hope people want to listen to them,” he said. “You have to tour to get the music out to people, but being stuck in a van for eight hours a day and eating crappy food sometimes isn’t a lot of fun.”
With Long Time Ago, Current Swell stepped away somewhat from its reggae groove in taking on what might be dubbed a more mature tone. Songs focus on love and loss and difficulties in life.
“Brad’s Song”, for example, was written about a friend of Stanton and Lang’s who passed away after enduring an accident in Australia. The song came about when the two attended a celebration of Brad’s life in Qualicum Beach.
“We were sitting there, having a scotch and smoking cigars,” said Stanton. “Dave had his guitar with him and we wrote it right there.”
Most of the songs were written fairly recently and speak to growing old (“Too Cold”), keeping others happy at one’s expense (“Get What’s Mine”) and a man doing time (“Honest Man”).
Even for a young band, time moves on.
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