An interview with Clifford Parody, one of the brains behind Swan City Sounds, a tape label from Florida.
So, just as an introduction, what's the story behind the label? Where did you come across the resources to start it? What would you say is Swan City Sounds' mission?Last July, my buddy Brandon Adams and I decided we wanted to start up a tape label. The very next day, a cassette duplicator appeared on Craigslist. Together, we drove to the middle-of-nowhere home of a doomsday-prepper/conspiracy theorist who was in the process of selling off his possessions to move to Black Mountain, where he planned on hunkering down to wait for the financial apocalypse to hit. He said ‘golly’ a lot and had numerous charts and graphs. We left there $35 broker, one cassette duplicator richer, and with heads full of doubt about the shape of American society.
Where we live in Lakeland, Florida, you can’t go anywhere without seeing some form of Swan – whether it be a statue, a painting, a street sign, or the real thing – the Swan represents our city. Knowing that, and with a desire to pull all of the sonically and artistically inclined folks in the community together to help us out, we decided to name our label Swan City Sounds.
Our music and arts scene here is, in my opinion, pretty vibrant, but at the same time we have remained rather isolated over the years. Most of my friends either play music or make art and they do it pretty damn well, but there isn’t really one specific place that could showcase all of this talent. The goal of Swan City Sounds from the onset was to create something that would accomplish this – to get all of the talent in Lakeland in one place so we could show likeminded folks in other places what we’ve got going so maybe they would want to come hang out with us and play shows and shit.
One thing about Swan City Sounds that I find the most interesting is the art. Who does the album covers and layout currently? Who made the collages on the first 4 releases?
The album artwork is done by a few different folks in town. The first five releases featured artwork by Leif Langford, who Brandon and I have known for years. He is an incredible artist and was the first person we both thought of when we decided to source local work for the cover art. I am sure we will be using his work again at some point. Some other super talented folks have also donated their work: Olivia Lewandowski, Charlie Reese (of Pilgrimage and FSBTB), Aaron Corbitt (of LeapFrog and The Pocket Symphony(s)), and Justin Lewis and Jeremy Thrush, who tag-team paintings together.
Currently, Brandon and I both work together on the layout but Brandon, who had a solid background in graphic design, is pretty much the brains behind that whole side of the operation. I just sit and drink beer with him while he makes shit happen.
So 3 SCS releases dropped in the past week, each sounding vastly different. Tell me about each one.
California Baseball Band is a group that I have wanted to put out since we started the label. They are just stellar musicians and writers and the live show they put on is fantastic. You can tell when you watch them playing that they are all just good friends having a good time. I was super excited to finally get their tunes on tape and I think the medium works really well for their sound. Anyone who has a penchant for folk/alt-country should check them out. Olivia held down the cover art.
Pilgrimage is a band that rose from the ashes of two Lakeland bands that each killed it in their own time. Clint Wooley (who plays drums open handed like a boss) and Jeremy Cranmore played in the Colorside like a decade ago. Matt DeOliviera and Charlie Reese both played in Fire Spoken by the Buffalo, a band we put out a little bit back that has since dissolved. The music falls within the post-hardcore/post-rock/math-rock type vibe, which they have kinda mastered. All of them have real diverse tastes in music and I think it shows through the tunes. Plus they wrote and recorded the whole album in like three or fourth months. Early on I would go and peep their practices and it really floored me well they meshed instantly and how quickly they progressed from there. Jeremy and Justin donated the art for this one.
The Pocket Symphony(s) is Aaron M. Corbitt. I first met Aaron probably ten years ago when he was going by the name Jim and it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I realized Jim wasn’t his real name. According to the legend, he recorded all these songs during his travels up east coast and around NYC where he was homeless for a time. His SoundCloud has something like 300 tracks on it so even though this is technically his first solo release it’s almost acting as a “best of” of sorts. The music is mostly acoustic/folk stuff but other elements are tossed in there as well. Aaron is also a singer, songwriter, guitarist in LeapFrog and an unbelievable talented and prolific painter. He is the kind of person that makes you realize how lazy you truly are.
Which releases have been the biggest successes so far?
It’s hard to say which released have been the most successful. FSBTB and Glad Animal Movements have both sold out at this point, but Jay Tholen’s tape has been downloaded like a million times and Existentia Cicada has managed to get thousands more plays than any other release we have put out. Aside from a core group of folks that consistently buy everything we put out, the attention we get seems to be really sporadic. We are cool with that though for now.
Are there any labels that you feel are inspirations? Who are the raddest purveyors of tapes out there today?
Absolutely. From the start Patrick McBratney of Lava Church and Christian Filardo of Holy Page Records were and remain incredibly inspirational. When we were first getting going both of them would
(graciously) answer all kinds of silly questions I had about how to get things done. One of the coolest things about putting out tapes is getting to talk with and exchange ideas with other labels. It’s that free exchange that makes us not just want to keep moving, but to keep stepping our game up as we go along. It’s really cool because now I am able to talk with folks starting up their own labels and share what little wisdom I have with them. Holy Page, Lava Church, Purr Tapes, Crash Symbols, Already Dead Tapes, Moon Glyph, Tolmie Terrapin and Juniper Tree Songs have are all doing some seriously dope work. All of those labels don’t just put out super rad music; they also pay close attention to the aesthetic elements of the cassette, which I, and I think everyone who has caught the tape bug, greatly appreciates. Also, I have to say everyone involved in the Living Room Visions Collective is constantly churning out neat stuff, and when you see other people being productive, it makes you want to be more productive.
Do you have your own band?
Currently, no, I don’t, but Brandon makes some sick nasty beats under the name Hahaha Etc. His tape will be coming out very soon.
Going into the second half of 2013, in what direction is Swan City Sounds headed? What new releases are lined up, if any?
On top of Brandon’s release we also have tapes coming out by Tetro Veteran and Adieux and have a beat tape in the works as well.
We are also in the beginning stages of a very large compilation project that we were hoping to have done for our year anniversary but it’s looking like it may not be for another few months.
I will be starting graduate school in North Carolina in August, so we are trying to figure out how to do things from there. We are thinking about starting to put out seasonal batches of tapes with like 5 or 6 in each batch? That’s the current idea at least.
AND we are gearing up for our first two splits released on the Swan City Friends sub-label, which will offer a platform for folks outside of our hometown to release with us. As of now, it’s looking like the first few tapes are going to be noise-oriented, which is pretty exciting as we haven’t done anything in that realm yet (Lost Trail/Proud Father will be the first and NYKDLN / (I don’t know how to make Japanese Characters)AUTO/MJ & Linkcoln/Lasership Stero will comprise the second). These are going to be released in much more limited edition runs (20-36 a pop) and, for the most part, much more minimal design wise.
Any plans for releases on vinyl or CD?
No plans to release on CD, but I like to think that vinyl could be somewhere in the future for us. We are going to have to bring in a lot more cheddar before that can become a reality though.