Swirl 360: A Californian Revenge
Brothers Kenny & Denny talk about their new album and the hardships from being cast aside by industry BS...
Hi Kenny and Denny, I have to start by asking about the long time between the debut Swirl 360 album and the new one on Atenzia.
First of all - you were signed to Mercury Records and as we all know, the deal went sour due to label politics. Looking back, can you sum up the frustration that 1000 bands have been put through and how you felt?
Denny: Tragic, best describes that whole experience. When we first got signed to Mercury/Polygram, we did not really have any of the songs written yet. Steve Greenberg, who signed us, told us we could not start recording until half the record was written. Ken and I wanted the record out by summer so within November and December of 1997, we had written more than half record. Once we handed in the songs like Hey Now Now, Candy In The Sun, Rewind, Stick Around, Ask Anybody,... the radio department got a hold of it and we were immediately bumped to priority. We all new that we had a hit record on our hands. The record came out and Hey Now Now, started to climb the charts. We thought we were on our way. Then Universal came in and it all stopped. All of our money for promotion was frozen. 180 people were laid off, so we basically had no one at the label working the record. Polygram did not know what to do with us. It was devastating to see it just die instantly. I am sure Ken will agree with me when I say, it killed our spirit and still affects us today. It took a long time to recover.
Kenny: Everyone knew we had a hit record. Universal didn't even care. The guy that bought Polygram sold alcohol for a living. His only goal was to be the bigger than Sony. It was all about corporate bullshit. Thank God for downloading!! It punched the record labels right in the face. A gold record will mean something again.
What kind of leveller is it to be promised the world, but see that promise unfulfilled?
Denny: It knocks the wind out of you. You don't believe it. Once you get to place like where we were, you don't think it is going to end. We were guaranteed a second record with Mercury. By that time, the label was now called, Island/Def Jam. Fucking retarded. I must say, Universal fucked it all up. Dissolving A&M Records and Mercury records. For anyone who does not know, those labels brought us the Police, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Rush, Tears for Fears, Thin Lizzy, Kiss, and so many more. All that history, Universal killed it. As I was saying, the label at the time was now called, Island/Def Jam. They said we could make another record but there would be no one to work it. Basically, because all the lay offs. So they paid us to leave. We tried to go to other labels but we had no new songs. After what we had gone through, it was hard to start writing again. It took time for us to get over it and get back into the groove.
Kenny: It definitely leaves a big chip on your shoulder. That's why we have the song Oblivion. Our music is so personal and they treated it like a stock option. Sometimes I feel it was a blessing in disguise. We are stronger now and are ready for round two.
Did you have any chance to capitalize on the release of that album? I actually saw it released here in Australia, so the wheels were turning for a little while at least!
Denny: We had some mild success. Australia was one or our biggest markets. We did some movie soundtracks like I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Jack Frost, and Never Been Kissed. Also, we were featured in quite a few popular television shows like Melrose Place, Dawson's Creek, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We also toured all over Europe and Asia. We were supposed to go to Australia and South America, but the money for promotion was frozen. Like I said, with the merger, it just died instantly.
Kenny: Overseas is where we preformed the best. "Hey Now Now took off. Then the merger hit, and in a few months it was all over.
I love your analogy that Los Angeles is a city that eats you alive... I lived there for a few months and saw a good mate pretty much get eaten alive - he survived as you have - but how? How do you escape the intensity of the city and the fact that first time around, things didn't work out?
Denny: It's all about survival here. God, friends and family help. The support of our mother and father really got us through. Plus, having that outlet to write songs. Conveying your feelings through song really helps. It's therapeutic.
Kenny: It's very competitive here. Having real genuine friends are key.
It's stated you had all but given up and the lyrics of the new album paint a vivid picture - what did you fall back to - what were you both doing to earn a living?
Denny: The royalties from Ask Anybody kept us going for a while. The Baha Men, cut one of our songs on their record, Who Let The Dogs Out. It sold like 4 million so we saw some money from that. Then about 2002, we had to get jobs. We did some temp work and then we both got jobs bar tending on the Sunset Strip. It pays well and keeps your days free to do music.
And how did Atenzia find you?
Denny: Magnus had emailed our site years before. Ken had emailed with him for a while. This was before he was with Atenzia. Then, we did some recording with Ken's friend, Evan Frankfort. Evan was working on a record for Atenzia and had told Magnus he was working with us. Magnus had heard some of the new tunes and offered us a deal.
What stage were you at when their offer of a deal came through? Had you re-started songwriting and recording, or was it the label that spurred you on?
Denny: Ken and I had gotten back from Florida during the holidays. We were not speaking to each other. It just felt like it was over and we needed to get on with our lives. Then Atenzia came calling. At the time, we only had a few songs.
Kenny: We had quit the biz. We were done and ready to pursue other outlets. The summer before we had showcased to about 30 labels because the movie, National Lampoon's Van Wilder. We were the only unsigned band on the Soundtrack. Even though the song, Okay was getting radio play, no one was interested. So when Magnus offered us a deal a year later, we immediately started writing again. We were still writing while we were in Lake Arrowhead making the album. We ended up with like 20 songs, but only chose 13 tracks for California Blur.
Let's talk about some of the songs on the album - several references to California and the circumstances you found yourselves in. Oblivion and California Blur - tell us about those tracks:
Denny: Oblivion is about surviving in California. It's our anthem. For us, it about moving on from the Universal Merger/Ask Anybody days. The lines, "the universal sound, turned our world up side down" and "ask anybody couldn't keep the smile on our face" describes that. You get knocked down, but you get back up and keep going.
California Blur is about living in California and the fast pace life style of it. It takes guts to pack up and move to LA to follow your dream. I am standing tall. I am one in all. We are dreamers in our hearts, and we are shooting for the stars.
The whole record has that California survival theme to it. We decided in the beginning that we would write what we were feeling. We wanted the songs to be real.
Are you both LA/Californian born, or did you move there?
Denny: We are from Jacksonville Florida. We moved to LA in January of 1997. We signed to Mercury/Polygram in November of 1997.
How about the darker Perfect Day - can you tell us about that track? And I really like Postcard also...
Denny: Perfect Day is about our days in Florida surfing. It is hard to explain though the song does it justice. A perfect day at the beach surfing is a religious experience. You paddle out into the ocean, leaving all your worries and problems behind on the shore. You just paddle away from the earth and get lost. I miss those days terribly.
Postcard was written right after the merger was complete 1999. The label had paid us our goodbye money and I was living by myself. Ken was married at the time. I remember sitting in my apartment thinking about how we had just lost our record deal and what I was going to tell all my friends and family back in Florida. That song just poured out of me in like 10 minutes. The line, wish you were here, is meant to be sarcastic.
To those that are unfamiliar with the band - how would you best describe your sound? I say it's a very contemporary style, yet it features some classic melodic power pop influences.
Denny: Straight up white boy pop rock alternative. Hooky songs with a rock band feel.
Kenny: We are a melody based type rock band with harmonies. We are all about the songs.
Your influences are varied and plentiful - but what are the few major influences over your style?
Denny: On California Blur, we went back to our 80's roots. That 80's melodic pop rock style like U2 and INXS.
Kenny: We have so many influences like...The Beatles, U2, Oasis, Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, Jellyfish, Thin Lizzy, and many more!
The album has a great sound - how did you capture the energy of the songs in the studio?
Kenny: It all started with Luke, our drummer. He is a powerful player. Once we had scratch guitars laid down, he killed it. It all started there. Huge energy. He plays a lot like Dave Grohl.
And leading on fro that - how could you afford to do that! Did Atenzia come to the party with a good recording advance, or did you get lucky as far as the people and studio you were working with?
Kenny: Atenzia gave us a good advance. We were able to get most of it done. We also went out of pocket, contributing our own cash to get it to the next level. We were very particular to how we wanted it to sound and look. It couldn't have come together any better. It was down to the wire and then it all just fell into place.
How did you get such greats as Tim Pierce involved in the recording process and what did he and the other guys contribute to the album's sound?
Kenny: Denny and I have been friends with Tim for a long time. He is such a great guy and fun to hang out with. He has so many toys that we foam at the mouth to see what new pedals or new guitars he has gotten. Plus, he is a kick ass guitar player. He added so much color to the album.
Denny: We also had JJ from the Tories do some rhythm guitar tracks. Not to mention, Roger Manning from Jellyfish did some cool background vocals and keyboard parts. I must also mention Chad, his bass playing really took the songs to another level. He really pushed us on lyrics and arrangement too.
California Blur is a mile ahead of the debut album, so congratulations on that - the album is just coming out in Europe - how has the response been to it?
Kenny: Thanks! So far the response has been great. We are ecstatic. Our goal was to make another great album and we are confident that we did just that.
And surely this has to be released in the USA?! Do you have anything lined up at this stage?
Kenny: It's been an up hill climb to get it released here in the states. We have few things on the table but nothing set in stone. It will eventually get release in the US. We hope by summer.
What's next guys, anything you are currently working on you can tell us about?
Kenny: We are working on getting some Soundtrack/TV placements. We also want to tour in support of the new album. New web site coming soon. Plus, work on the video for the track, California Blur. Always writing too.
Anything you would like to add?
Denny: Thanks to all the fans! We are so proud of this record. We really hope it gets out there. This record really defines who we are so much more than Ask Anybody ever did. I just want everyone to hear it. It sucks how most records today only have one good song. California Blur has many. Growing up we always loved records where every song was good. California Blur lives up to that. Please check it out.
Kenny: Thanks to all the fans for being so patient with us and standing by us. Thanks Andrew for the interview!!
www.swirl360.com / www.myspace.com/swirl360