Some bands are doing great in creating atmosphere and ambiance, while others intrigue with insane songwriting polished by a top-notch production. And then there is this (way too) small band from California called The Swan Thief; they have it all! With the release of their sophomore record II, the band truly enchanted not only our editorial team. You never heard of them? Well now you have, and that is good!
The band was founded between late 2008 and early 2009 as a result of singer Ulibarri finishing college and being in need of filling a certain musical void. He basically founded The Swan Thief with a bunch of friends that had the same vision: being honest with the music and enjoying themselves. Even though there have been some lineup changes, they are still ‘a group of friends making music that makes us feel something’, so Ulibarri.
Working on II was laborious, challenging and necessitated long hours of arduous travail. But of course it was also a lot of fun and hugely educational, as this was the band’s first professional recording ever. That being said, they produced their début record I all by themselves. This brought with it the burden of a lack of deadlines, and so they went into a perpetual, never-ending state of ‘but what if we try this’. On II, the members of could focus more on the aspect that counts: creativity. ‘The result was a record that we were all excited about and sounded like it sounded in our heads.’
One might wonder: simply naming the records in Roman numerals isn’t that innovative, but why did The Swan Thief still choose to do it?
‘Album names and song titles have always been difficult for us. There were some ideas, but nothing really felt quite right. We didn’t want the album to be about anything or summed up. And we didn’t want to just toss a title on the album we had been working on for two years, so we naturally landed II. I guess that could come off as lazy, but really I think it lets the music name the album.’
This explanation definitely makes sense! There is no need to focus on a certain term or name anyway, as II truly speaks for itself through its overwhelming music.
When The Swan Thief first started writing for II in 2015 they did a lot of demoing, reworking, writing and so forth. After a year the record was written and recorded. But even though it was all done by January 2016, the band released it earlier this year, about a year after finishing the tracking. Speaking of external musical input, it was ‘anything with a good melody for me, anything that’s creative and honest’ which influenced his writing, states Ulibarri. Although he found it ‘tough to narrow it down’, he named the following bands as particularly influential: ‘The Appleseed Cast, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sigur Rós & Explosions In The Sky.’
When listening to II, one might realize how clean, huge and smooth it sounds. That’s because the band tried to ‘capture as much of a big, open live feeling as possible’, notwithstanding the fact that ‘it’s difficult to translate that onto a record.’ But there was also ‘a lot of trial and error, tweaking, experimenting and pedals’ involved in creating the sound that II delivers. The mixing was done by a friend of the band, Tyler Tedeschi, who is described as a total sound wizard by Ulibarri.
With them being from California, we asked about the local scene The Swan Thief deal with. To this, Ulibarri says:
‘The first word that comes to mind is lacking. We’re from a small town with few venues and are kind of the odd band out. I think we’ve been kicked out of just about everywhere for being too loud. Heavy local music has to fight for ears around here. That being said, there is a tight-knit, dedicated group of people who just like to enjoy music. Maybe even because of the lack, the DIY aspect is on the rise. But yeah I’m not sure if there is much of a scene.
Lucky enough there is internet that helps to spread the word out.’
Make sure to read our review for The Swan Thief‘s enchanting and overwhelmingly heartwarming record II and listen to this beauty in full! As Ulibarri himself puts it, you can ‘hopefully [expect] an honest, memorable record. Something people can connect with’ from III, the follow-up record to II that might be coming at some point in the future. He continues:
‘Just a huge thank you to everyone who takes the time to listen to our music. It means the world to us. Check out the album, make it your own and come rock out with us live!’
So be it!
(Fun-)Facts about The Swan Thief:
The band wants to go on a Mars tour in 2030.
The band name is based on a title of a painting by Ulibarri’s brother Shelby. He also creates all of the band’s artwork. You can see the eponymous painting here!
The essential for The Swan Thief is ‘pizza with white sauce, bacon and chicken on it.’
A lot of the tunings they use are made up.
The band once played on top of a mountain. Just watch the insane venue here:
If they could choose a dream lineup to tour with it would be:
The Swan Thief
The Swan Thief is:
Alan Dahlquist – guitar
Chase Hall – drums
Austin I’anson – bass
Gabriel Ulibarri – guitar and vocals