2019 is turning out to be a banner year for Canadian music, and the Ottawa band New Swears are about to stake a claim of their share of that success with the release of their fourth studio album Night Mirror. Released June 13, the band started giving fans a taste of what to expect with the launch of a few videos to promote the upcoming album, starting with a somewhat NSFW video for lead track “Bon Voyage” in April, followed by “Concrete Cowboy” last month.
If you don’t know what to expect from a New Swears album, don’t fret—frankly even die-hard fans don’t know. The guys pride themselves on their versatility and keeping things unpredictable. After their third studio album And the Magic of Horses in 2017, the band veered into an almost prog-rock sound for the “Illuminati Knights” follow-up single, then dabbled in EDM with “Angel” this past spring. So where to next?
Night Mirror is a masterful turn for the New Swears. It elevates the southern-rock influence that could be sensed on songs like “Comfortably Hungover” and “777” from the last album, and polishes it to a glossy finish, all while staying true to their garage/punk attitude. Think Allman Brothers with Ramones lyrics. The slick production for a DIY album is a testament to how a few simple tools can be used to make an album that sounds like it was recorded in a super-expensive studio. But that slickness could easily have undermined the band’s roots if not for the unpretentious lyrics, and a few reminders (like the strategically placed kazoo, or slide whistle) to remind us that the boys may sound more mature, but they still don’t take themselves too seriously.
Night Mirror also serves as a tribute to the band’s Ottawa roots, with many local references in terms of sly nods (like the address of the Greyhound station on Catherine Street in “Bon Voyage”) or entire odes devoted to their Bells Corners upbringing, or their reflections walking down Gladstone.
The end result is an album that sounds fantastic, with songs that catch your attention with pop hooks, and then take you for a stroll through town. If anything, you owe it to yourself to crank up ‘Bon Voyage’ on a sunny summer day drive. Fair warning though—it could easily become your summer anthem.
We had a chance to chat with Sammy and Ben about the new album, and their live show coming up.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
APT613: Your last album And the Magic of Horses had a garage rock or indie rock kind of sound, and then, as usual, you guys threw us a curve ball. Where did that come from?
New Swears: It comes from a lot of things I guess. But like you said, we’re big fans of the Allman Brothers, and we’re big fans of a lot of different genres. We don’t like to limit ourselves, and it was kinda like throwing a curve ball, but we also like throwing a curve ball to ourselves, you know what I mean? We just like to surprise ourselves and not let it get boring for us. You get tired playing the same old song, or the same old genre. It’s kind of funny how our influences can change over the years – you just go from progressive and punk to country or whatever.
“We just like to surprise ourselves and not let it get boring for us.”
You have really branched out and have really experimented so much. How difficult is that going to be playing on stage and putting a set together with you bouncing all over the place like that?
That’s a good question. I guess we are finding out as we go. A big difference in this album is we added keyboards into it and also a fifth band member who plays keyboard full time, so its new to have that element and to have a new instrument on stage with us. A whole new dynamic that we’re playing around with, both in recording and on stage. We still like to keep it heavy live though. When we play live, we like to keep the energy extremely high and naturally it just comes out that high, so it won’t necessarily be softer. We just try to bring the energy even more whether the song is more mellow or whatever.
I’m trying to figure out how you will transition from playing something like “Illuminati Knights” to “Angel” back to back.
Oh ya. That’s actually a good question. We have asked ourselves that over the years of “how are we going to do this live?” and we’ve just started to say we’ll figure this out later. We don’t want to limit the record based on what we can do live. We record whatever we want and figure it out later. The live performance is a whole different performance in itself.
I’m glad to hear that the energy is still going to be there, because your shows are pretty epic as they are. In terms of recording this album, this is the second one you have done with Dine Alone. Is the second time around easier when dealing with a label, even if Dine Alone isn’t exactly a prototypical record label?
Dine Alone is super chill. They are one of the biggest indie labels in Canada, but they are still really chill, down to earth people and super easy to work with. So it’s always really chill working with them. For this record, the recording process was different for us. We recorded it completely on our own, in my apartment. So it’s completely self-produced and we were just learning. We just downloaded an audio program and we were watching YouTube videos and just figured out how to record ourselves, which was a new experience for us, but I think it turned out pretty good all things considered.
Your album stays true to your roots, with the references to Bells Corners or Gladstone or even the Greyhound station address popping up in your lyrics. There are not a whole lot of Ottawa references in music these days, so it’s great to see that you are bringing it in and bringing the pride of your local scene into your music.
Yeah, for sure. We are proud to be from Ottawa. It’s where we grew up, and especially Bells Corners. It deserves a video. The video for that song is a little bit different than maybe what you are used to. Basically we have been filming stuff throughout our childhood for over a decade. We just compiled that into a video. It’s kind of a nostalgic look for us, and you get to see what we did growing up. And it’s all just Bells Corners and Ottawa stuff.
As for the band’s Ottawa pride, they’ll be putting it on full display with the album launch party happening this Saturday at Babylon Nightclub. If you were afraid that this “new” New Swears sound meant their live shows would be toned down, rest assured, they’re bringing all the energy and insanity that their concerts have become known for. Expect the unexpected.
New Swears will be playing at Babylon Nightclub on Saturday June 15, 2019, with friends The Thrill and Cole Sauve. Tickets can be bought in advance online for $17, or $20 at the door. The 19+ show starts at 8pm.