Sharp practice – we cross blades with Swords

Swords are an excellent 3-piece  from Dublin, formed in 2010. The band are Diane Anglim, Ian Frawls and Jarlath Canning. Regularly feted in the Irish and UK music press, they recently released their infectious and distinctively different single “Betty Machette” and have been working on their new album,   Tidal Waves, with Karl Odlum. The LP is due for release later this year and you can see the band at the Electric Picnic shortly. We caught up with them for a chat recently.

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How does the dynamic work between you when song writing? Do you always agree on musical direction?

Jarlath:  Usually it’s the three of us in a room, playing, trying to come up with something from scratch or using an idea one of us has brought from home. We play until something takes hold or feels right and then try to put some sort of loose structure together, over which Diane will try out various vocal melodies. It’s pretty organic to start with and after that Diane will work on developing the vocal melody and writing lyrics. If a piece of music doesn’t grab us or it feels like we’re throttling it just to get something out of it, no matter how exciting it first felt, we leave it. That’s been our approach lately anyway. We all have varying musical tastes but we’re pretty democratic when it comes to unifying on what direction to take.

Do you think Irish groups get enough exposure in the major British and American magazines? Does it matter to you?

Ian:  I haven’t really thought about it much so I guess it doesn’t really matter to me, I tend to read about music online, on blogs and on twitter. I definitely follow Irish bands with more interest than others though.

What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?

Diane: I remember being about ten and hearing ‘Stay’ by Shakespears Sister on the radio. I couldn’t get over the song – I loved the extremes of the really high and the really low vocals. Then I saw the video on MTV and I was hooked! I think that was the first time I wanted to find out about a band, who they were etc…

What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?

Jarlath:   It has to be ‘Wicklow’ from our debut album ‘Lions & Gold’. My favourite songs are always the ones that arrive without much fanfare. There’s something very comforting about it. Writing it, we got about 90% there within a day or two and then, months later when we were finishing the vocals for the album, Diane came up with the outro lyrics “all this blue sky and I die” which just concluded the song (and subsequently the album) perfectly. To me, it felt like a great sign off.

How do you know when a song you’ve working on is complete?

Ian: That is one of the harder parts of song writing. It’s a struggle, but having a producer and a band consensus helps. If you stay on one song too long your love for that song can get lost…

Do your songs change much when played in front of a live audience?

Diane: I think they come alive when they’re played in front of a crowd. I’m always surprised at the burst of energy each song gives us when we’re playing – songs and music are made to be heard, to be moved to, and to be physically felt, so that’s where they work best I think.

What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?

Jarlath:  I think it’s hard to not pick a Radiohead song. I haven’t always been their biggest fan but something clicked with me in the last few years and I feel like everything they do, they do at 100% of its potential. You never listen to Radiohead song and think “oh it’s a pity that’s there” or “some extra vocals would be good there”. Whether you like them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that they get the very best out of every single song and, in my opinion, Paranoid Android would be up there at the pinnacle of song writing. It’s their version of Bohemian Rhapsody or Stairway to Heaven. Even if you’re not into it, it’s hard to question it.

What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?

Ian: Probably Dave Hingerty my drum tutor at the Irish Drum Academy. A fantastic drummer, musician & teacher who changed my approach to music. Dave played with The Frames, Josh Ritter and Kila – he is the most musical, rounded drummer I know.

Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?

Diane: First one that springs to mind is ‘Highly Suspicious’ by My Morning Jacket – it always makes me smile, I love how he sings it. I could listen to it on repeat. It’s a total gem of a song

What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?

Jarlath:  I guess they’re not new but I’m really into what Girl Band are doing. It feels like a different approach and, although it can be a bit tough to listen to at times, as soon as you see them and put some context on where the noise is coming from I think it becomes really exciting.

What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?

Ian: I am into the services as a music fan. But from an artist’s perspective  they could pay the artist more of a share.

What’s the opposite of music?

Diane: For me the opposite of music is anything that’s negative in the world. Music gives me so much support, and connects every part of my life together. Lately my Dad reminded me of a lovely quote someone once said – ‘if music were a country I would like to go and live there’.

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