Hailing from Victoria on the West Coast of British Columbia, Current Swell has been a prominent figure in Vancouver Island’s music scene for years, ever since their first album, So I Say, was released in 2005. The vast array of musical genres engulfed in their songs and their electrifying live shows have made them into a must-see band. I was lucky enough to catch up with them at Keloha Music & Arts Festival in Kelowna, British Columbia, lie on the grass and chat with the band’s guitarists and singers, Scott Stanton and Dave Lang.
Vancouver Weekly: Do you have any shows coming up after Keloha?
Dave Lang: We have a summer full of weekends. We’re having a pretty casual summer because we had a pretty busy one last year and we’re going to record an album in the fall. We don’t want to ‘gum up’ the summer too much.
Scott Stanton: We’re from Victoria and we want to hang out at home.
DL: We are playing in North Vancouver this summer and we’re playing in Oregon next weekend at a little festival.
Vancouver Weekly: I understand you didn’t come together intentionally to form a band.
SS: Yeah, we were just buds playing guitar. Dave moved out to Victoria and I came after and was like, “Oh Dave, you live here too? Do you play guitar?” We sort of pieced it all together because we knew each other from Alberta.
DL: I was like “I kind of play guitar, do you play guitar?” And he was really good at it. And then we figured out a way we can both kind of play together. We had the same favourites, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. We were both into skateboarding. We had a lot in common, it turned out. It’s so trippy. We go to all of these places now, we were in Europe this summer. And we have these moments that are like intense bro love sessions when we were like, “Remember man when we got together at first?”. It was never the goal to try and make money and be famous. I’m not saying we are making money and are famous but, you know, that’s the direction it goes and you get more and more popular. It’s wild. It’s wild to think how it started.
Vancouver Weekly: Did the other three guys [Chris Peterson, Ghosty Boy, Dave St. Jean] form with you at the beginning?
DL: The way it happened was another guy who we were hanging out with was like, “We should start a band!” And he heard some of our songs that we were kind of just piecing together writing for fun. He’s a guitar player and he said, “I’ll play bass for you guys.” And literally the next day he showed up with a bass guitar. He was obviously a guitar player, he was playing guitar lines on the bass. But he learned a lot and became a proper bass player.
SS: He was an audio engineer; he made our first demos with us. He was the guy who pushed us. He showed up with a recording unit one day. We were like, “This is fun!” And we began recording music. And then a drummer kind of hopped on board.
DL: So the crew we have now has been together for four years. And we’re really, really close together now. The meeting of the minds has led to this moment. It really seems like the last year everything clicked a little bit better, like everyone’s attitudes, everyone’s thoughts, and everyone’s musical sensibilities and tones that we’re using, and the music we want to play. So it’s good, things are timing out well right now.
Vancouver Weekly: You won the Peak Performance Project in 2011; you headlined shows in Brazil; and you toured Australia and Europe. Have you found the expectations of the band have changed?
DL: Not for me, at least. We just have fun, I always look at it with no expectations because I already feel so fortunate for the success that we’ve had and these crazy places that we get to go just because we play music. I don’t want to push anything because it’s already happening at a nice pace. Why rush ahead? It’s nice.
Vancouver Weekly: Your first three albums, they were inspired by experiences and travelling. Your newest album, Long Time Ago, was inspired by people you know, you have met, strangers. What made you decide to change your writing style for this album? Or did it just happen organically?
DL: It was definitely somewhat organic because we don’t kind of sit down and be like, “Let’s write this album”, and hide out for two months to write the album, then record it. We’re both songwriters and we both write songs throughout the year and then we put them together. Sometimes we mash one or two together, or we write together.
SS: There’s never really any solid direction, but it just kind of worked out that way. And I think it’s because we do happen to experience a lot of the same stuff at the same time that kind of organically happened. We’ve written a lot about travelling, but now our travel is more as a band.
DL: It’s more of a job than it is a recreation. I turned 30 this year. I have found that the past two to three years have been more about tightening up with your family. It’s not so much like a never-ending group of friends and travel, and bingeing, and whatever. It’s more like, you narrow your focus on life. I want my time to count. It comes out in our songwriting for sure, because we are influenced by our friends and our families. We have done a lot of travelling, we’re kind of like, “Okay well maybe I don’t have to write about this place, I’ve already written about this place, I’ll just enjoy it this time.”
Vancouver Weekly: As you’ve mentioned, Dave, you [Current Swell] have covered quite a few genres of music. The first three albums have been reggae, roots and you’ve also covered folk and rock. Does each album have an influence? Or do you write songs as you go and put them together into an album?
DL: We usually record, at least demo 20 or 30 songs, and then we’ll try to look at the pool of songs and think, “Is there a theme here?” Sometimes there is. I don’t know what the next one will be like. I have no idea. We’ll just jam it all together. It’s fun, the anticipation of a new beginning. It’s fun, but it’s a challenge for sure. And we work with a label now, so you gotta kind of weigh, “Well I don’t want to let these people down.” But at the same time you kind of just want to put them out of your mind and think, “They’ll like whatever we give them.” It’s definitely a fun pursuit.
Vancouver Weekly: Do you have many songs ready for your new album coming up? Have you been writing consistently?
SS: Yeah, I think we’re always writing if ideas pop up, or you like an idea for a song. Or you’re just jamming out and you hear a melody or a riff that you really like, you kind of want to capitalize on it and write something good. I think we’re always writing and we’re writing a lot together, so we have quite a few songs and we still have time to write a couple more. Because we’ve been so busy we haven’t really had time to do too much jamming as a band because there’s really not a whole lot of reason to practice and go into the jam area to practice because we have shows every weekend. So we haven’t really had a chance to jam, so when we jam maybe some other songs will pop up just through that.
DL: We’re sitting on a really fun time because in the late summer we’re going to take a bunch of time off and just play music for fun again and make it all about playing new songs. So it’s more something that we have to schedule now whereas we used to just be able to squeeze it in whenever because we used to jam all the time, but now we’re too busy touring to really jam. It’ll be a slightly different approach with this record just due to the schedule of it all. But, nothing better than playing new material so it’s going to be really fun to just relax and prep an album.
Vancouver Weekly: Like many, I’m always looking for new music to get into. So I want to ask the both of you, if you can pick your top three albums or artists, right now that you’re really into, what would they be?
SS: I can probably pick mine right off. Tame Impala, all of their records; the Charles Bradley record is really good to listen to, and… you’re going to have to come back to me for my third.
Vancouver Weekly: It’s tough!
DL: I found a new album. It’s not even new, it’s from 2002 I think, from JJ Grey & Mofro. I can’t remember what the album is called, it’s like… La Cho Cha Chunga or something [Lochloosa]? It’s rad. JJ Grey – awesome. And I just discovered that one, two weeks ago from our drummer. We can agree that all of us as a band agree that Tame Impala is pretty rad, pushing a bit of a new boundary. It’s fun to watch what other bands are doing and watch other bands become famous off music that five years ago would be considered… what the modern rock world would consider a joke. People are using their own opinions to count for more than what the radio tells them now. It’s kind of fun as an artist to be in that. And we can do whatever we want [musically] because people accept art more than they used to, I think. We grew up in the ‘90s and what they fed you in the ‘90s, besides Nirvana, was just a bunch of crap. So thank god for people like Tame Impala for pushing the boundaries of what’s cool and what’s good.