We recently sat down with Lewis Goswell of Old Swing to find out more about the project and their upcoming Cassette Store Day release with Obi Records. We were delighted to arrive for the interview at their rehearsal space, with Lewis initially sat at the piano…
(A Major chord rings out from the keyboard…)
It all started when I was a child…
(He plays a Minor key…)
Things took a turn for the worse…
(The room laughs)
Everything was good… But then… The rain came! Sorry…
(More laughter as he slowly moves his hands away from the keyboard)
Thanks for meeting with us today, great to see you. Firstly, has Old Swing been on your mind as a project for a long time before you started recording? Or did it come up from the end of Sidewalk Express? When did it begin to take shape?
I suppose I was doing it a while before. I tried a lot of different things whilst trying to find my own sound. I went through quite a long period where I was trying to compose some electronic work, a lot of synthesizer was involved. A lot of production, I was going in that direction but there was just no soul in it for me, and I was writing all this music and I was just not connecting to it. Old Swing happened over a long period once other projects had finished. I’ve always written music with guitar, it’s what I’ve always found to be most comfortable. I’d just sit with an acoustic and ideas flow.
Listening to the music, song-wise these tracks feel that they represent you very well. It sounds like your personal previous work, but it’s grown out, informed from previous projects and experiences.
I feel that even with the music I had done in the past, these songs were the most honest I’ve ever written. I had always written very subjective lyrics, in a third-person kind of perspective. Whereas a lot of these tracks have personal meaning and I think that’s what has made all the difference. This is what it is, this is how I feel, these are my songs.
What was the transition like from playing the tunes on your own, to getting your first gig, and then getting an Old Swing band together?
The first few demos that I released were all written and recorded by me, sat in my room with a laptop. It was very daunting putting them out on my own. There’s something I saw online by Martha Graham, called ‘A Letter To Agnes De Mille’ it kind of went
‘…if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not our business to determine how good it is, no how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions…’
Reading that helped me get out of my own head and just get the music out there, You’re not allowed to like your work. As an artist you will never be satisfied, it will never be perfect, you will never like it. However, if you stop creating, you are blocking a creative channel (music is the channel) and if you block yourself you are not allowing the world to appreciate what you have. I kept thinking about this and it played on my mind for a bit. I realised, because I was so obsessed with the first Old Swing release being crazy and huge, that I was blocking myself from getting better by not putting music out that I was 100% confident in.
Because someone might actually love that work even if you don’t?
Exactly, that’s what I found. With the song Dark, I didn’t know myself if it was going to be a good tune. I thought to myself “will I be writing in my room for ten more years?” but I thought, no, let’s put it out. After reading that poem, it really struck a chord with me, and I decided then that I need to get this music out there. It’s not up to me, some people might not like it, it might not be ready yet, it might not be where I want it to get to, but if I don’t let it out, it will never get out. When it came out people kept saying “this is cool” and I knew I had to get a band together and play some shows!
What else was influencing you when you started writing these songs? What other things helped you pin the songs down?
That’s a tricky one. Previous projects had some roots in my sound, definitely. Old Swing has a lot of ‘feeling’ to it. It harks back to that 80’s style chorus soaked stuff, making that current. I’m a big fan of The Blue Nile, The Cocteau Twins, Johnny Hates Jazz etc.. I want to nod to different bands, styles and genres, but I don’t want to replicate something that’s already been done.
Are you happy with the way these songs were received? What kind of feedback have you received so far?
OS – It’s all snowballed really, the band is already bigger than I thought thought it would be at this point. I released Dark and everyone was digging it so I knew that I had to follow it up with something. To be honest, I contacted a shit load of promoters thinking that I would get nothing back, and when I got a lot of good responses I was really surprised.
What did that make you think about yourself and your work? Does this match up with where you want to be, the image you have of yourself in the back of your mind?
Yeah, I think so! Things seem to be going well.
Did you always have the feeling of ‘I’m going to write music, I’m going to play music’, Rather than just picking it up as something to do?
My first introduction to music was when I was six or seven at school. There was this show and tell type thing and I made a guitar. After that I begged my parents to get me a proper guitar and I haven’t really put it down since.
So what’s coming up for Old Swing? You have some good shows coming up right?
We are on BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks Introducing show later in the year, talking to Gareth Lloyd about the band and hopefully releasing the new single. We’re playing on the 5th of October at the o2 Academy Oxford, supporting a Canadian band called The Dears. We’ve also got a show at The Islington in London on the 14th of October, which is the same day as Cassette store Day, and we are playing The Garage in London on the 11th of November.
Any shout outs you’d like to make?
There’s a guy called Banes World, and Trudy and the Romance. It’s got this old crooner style to it which I love. This Banes World guy plays amazing stuff, but all the music sounds like it was recorded through some ancient tape machine. It’s really cool, none of it sounds high fidelity but that’s what makes it great. It’s really lo-fi but the musicianship is so good so it takes it to another place.
Some stuff to check out and some gig dates to remember then! Thanks so much for having us and we can’t wait to see the final release in all of its glory.
Thanks guys, my pleasure!
He moves back to the keyboard and his fingers start moving. He plays us out the same way he played us in. This time all in major key. It turns out things didn’t really take a turn for the worse…
To find out more about Old Swing head here