THE SCREAMiNG JETS
|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS SWAY
LET iT SWAYFor a zip code that gave us NO DOUBT and a re-vitalized New Wave sound, Orange County seems to have fallen off the radar in terms of being the homestead for the next big thing in music. Now, the oh-so-sunny-and-conservative paradise is more famous for its garish housewives. One wouldnít expect the rustic sounds of Americana to be emanating from said County and in a way, neither did GINA QUARTARO Ė the lead singer of the country rock band SWAY. With the Countyís music scene hi-jacked by tribute bands, QUARTARO is stunned by the overwhelmingly positive response to the bandís original music. ďItís interesting because we are an all-original group.Ē Says QUARTARO ďThe country bands that Orange County is used to listening to are the cover bands. All the venues in Orange County have to pay the bands that play there. Who is going to hire a country band thatís not all covers? But, it has worked out. People think that our songs are on the radio and they just start dancing. The beautiful thing is that weíre getting paid for these gigs.Ē
GiNA QUARTARO, PERRY MARTiN, AND PAT MATTiSON
TALK TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR DEBUT CD LET iT ROLL
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
At first, the notion of a country tinged rock band from the O.C. sounds like the ĎGod, Guns and Ammoí mentality that Nashville had been putting out hand-over-fist all throughout the BUSH-era. Instead, SWAYís debut CD ĎLET IT ROLLí is a sincere effort marked by earnest, good-time country rockers (COWGIRL SCENE and the title track), a timely state of the union (ĎTHIS WORLD), and a positively driving pop crossover (MORE THAN ENOUGH).
ROCKWIRED spoke with GINA QUARTARO, guitarist PERRY MARTIN and bassist PAT MATTISON over the phone. Here is how it went.
You guys have a wonderful album here. Now that itís out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about it?
GINA: Iím really happy with this album. It was fun putting that collection of songs together.
PERRY: I was very happy with the way it came out especially since we put ourselves on an extremely tight timeline to get it done. It was great that it came out the way it did. Iíve very happy with it.
And PAT, I donít see your name on the credits for this album. Were you on it at all?
PAT: I actually played on one track. There was another player on the album who isnít with us anymore but I really enjoyed playing on that one track and I really enjoy the album. Itís a great collection of songs and itís outside of the mainstream of a lot of other country albums, which is what I love about it the most. Its different. Itís very Americana and outside of the commercial stuff that you hear.
So how does it feel for you to be the new kid on the block?
PAT: It feels great! I love playing with these guys. The level of musicianship is really high with all of the members of the band and Iím really happy about that. Itís a thrill playing with these guys and the songs are the greatest thing about it. You can have the greatest band in the world but if you donít have the songs youíve got a major factor that is lacking. That is my favorite part of this whole thing.
GINA, how did music begin for you?
GINA: It began really early in life. I was raised as pretty much and only child. I have and older brother and sister but they had moved out of the house so I was pretty bored so my parents bought me an organ to make up for them moving. SO I started playing at four and I liked to play with melody and harmony. I had one of those three-tiered organs and then it got serious for me. We moved away to Oregon when I was eight. I moved away from all of my friends and got really depressed and music kind of saved my life. I played music around the clock and learned to play guitar at eight. My dad played banjo and blues harp and that inspired me. I didnít want to play what he played because he was really god at it but it inspired me to get good on the guitar so I could play with him. Music was always in my house. My dad was either playing music on the radio or playing banjo and my mother was always singing along to the radio. I was raised around a lot of music.
And at what point did it become a vocation?
GINA: I got the idea at ten that this was it. There was television show called THE GONG SHOW-
Oh I loved that show!
GINA: I ran into my parents room and jumped up and down on the bed. We were still living in Oregon I was like ĎPlease! Please take me to California! I need to go on the GONG SHOW or THE JOHNNY CARSON SHOW so they can discover me!í I was convinced that the GONG SHOW would discover me. I pretty much always knew that this was it. I was little but the dreams of coming to California and doing music were just too strong.
How about you PERRY? Whatís your story?
PERRY: I come for a family of musicians and entertainers. My dad, my grandfather and my grandmother had done a kind of vaudeville-type musical comedy act So I grew up in that kind of an environment. Pretty much around the time THE BEATLES came out, that was when I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I used to stand up in front of a mirror with a broom in my hand and pretend that I was playing guitar and singing long to some BEATLES songs. I started my first band when I was about thirteen and I just fell into the whole thing. I ended up in Vietnam for almost two years playing bass in a country band. For most of my life that was all I ever did. I never knew that there was anything else to do but play music. I just fell into this thing. There is no other way to put it.
And how did this band begin? I know there is quite a story to it.
GINA: I had a band that played in Orange County for years. We were pretty well-known and years alter I had a friend who is a chiropractor who kept telling me that I had to meet this friend of his. He was saying ĎYou guys are really going to click musically!í He kept telling me that for about six months and one day he was playing my album in his lobby and PERRY came in Ė who was the person that he wanted me to meet Ė and PERRY asked him ĎWhere did you get a GINA QUARTARO album?í PERRY and I met shortly after that and we just clicked. I went back to his studio and listened to some songs that he was working on and I could tell that our writing styles would mesh and we outlined our first song and wrote it. The song came out good and we decided that we needed a place to play it.
How does songwriting get done in this band?
GINA: In a couple of different ways. Sometimes weíll hash out some stuff in a room and decide on a direction and then spend a couple of hours discussing the song and different ideas. Then we will go off to our corners and it gets finished.
PERRY: Then there is the e-mail method.
GINA: Oh yeah, I like the e-mil method the best! Thatís the BERNIE TAUPIN/ELTON JOHN method before e-mails. Heíll send me an idea through e-mail and then Iíll write it out. A friend of ours was working on a movie called THE PARDON and asked me to write a song so I went back to PERRY and we had to research it. The music had to be really specific to a certain era so we researched it and wrote it right there in the room.
Iíve lived in Orange County for years and am just curious as to how a band such as yours gets received considering that you arenít a cover band?
GINA: Itís interesting because we are an all-original group. The country bands that Orange County is used to listening to are the cover bands. All the venues in Orange County have to pay the bands that play there. Who is going to hire a country band thatís not all covers? But, it has worked out. People think that our songs are on the radio and they just start dancing. The beautiful thing is that weíre getting paid for these gigs.
It sounds like a testament to your sound. Like I said, itís a great album.
PERRY: Thank you!
GINA, talk about each member of the band and what it is that each of them brings to the table musically and personality-wise.
GINA: PERRY is my closest partner-in-crime. PERRY has a very level head to him and he is a very gifted guitar player. His musicianship level is incredible. He is also an incredible engineer as well. Weíve been really lucky that we havenít had to go outside and pay for studio time and stuff like that. He is really a go-getter, which is awesome. Iím really creative and I like to set really high goals and go for them and PERRY is the person that I can bounce things off of. We just do it in the instant. We come up with an idea and then we start on it. It is really awesome to have someone in life that you can do that with. PAT is the person in the group that we bounce ideas off with. He is the thinker.
PAT: Thatís bad!
GINA: (To PAT) Youíre right! That is bad! PAT knows a lot of music and itís not just the mainstream stuff. Heís got a really in-depth catalog of music and I really appreciate and admire that in him and he brings that to the table. We also have SCOTT who was my guitar player for eleven years in the last band that I was in. SCOTTís skill is really incredible. He is really a good person to be around and very easy to work with. Heís very creative. Heís a really talented person and I can always count on him musically. Our newest guy PAUL McINTYRE is an insane violin player. Iíve never heard anyone play like him except for maybe some of the national guys and theyíre kind of limited in the area that they play. Theyíve got bluegrass and country now and then but this guy has been able to play with us on the alternative side as well as the country side. Heís really into what he does and it shows. Bringing all of these eclectic people into one room is amazing and it is really interesting to watch the audience respond to it. It is really blowing people away which is what we want to do as artists.
PERRY, talk about GINA and what she brings to this project.
PERRY: What can I say about GINA? She is a wonderful songwriter. I got her CD years ago when I was playing in another band. I bought it and I loved the songs. There was something in her writing and the way she did tuff that struck me and I thought that one of these days I was going to work with her. It took ten years. I like working with her onstage. She is a great performer and she gives a lot of energy to her performances and she bounces that energy off on me which I like. Sheís got so much energy and she wonít let anybody sleep. Sheís got a huge enthusiasm for what she does and a love for what she does and it just rubs off on you. Iíve been in the music long enough to know that you can get a little jaded and Iíve been polished up a bit thanks to my association with GINA. Her head is getting a little big now so Iíve got to stop.
From this album, what songs stand out for each of you?
PAT: My favorite track Ė there are a couple actually. I really like the one that I play bass on. The other song that I thought of isnít really a country song. Itís the song MORE THAN ENOUGH. Itís more of a pop kind of a song. I think there is a crossover hit if I ever heard one. Itís a little to the left of what you expect to hear and the vocals on it are great. I love playing and singing that song when we perform I live.
GINA: Iím gonna say IíM OVER YOU. There is just something about it that gets me both melodically and musically. I really like listening to it. I also like the drive of COWGIRL SCENE a lot. I like that it comes out of the gate strong. Itís funny because every little kid that hears that song wants to hear it over and over again. If I was to pick a single for that album, it would be that song. I just like its stride. Itís fun.
PERRY:This is tough. There is so much I like about all of it and all for different reasons. Itís really hard to pick. I am with PAT. When GINA and I were working on the arrangement for MORE THAN ENOUGH, I loved that song. Itís very catchy and I love the harmonies that are in it. I also love COWGIRL SCENE. I think thatís a great song. If itís half a s much fun to listen to as it is to play then itís a great song. I like LET IT ROLL because I like the message in it and I would say the same about THIS WORLD not just because itís my song but I like the message in it. I like them all. I like the whole album.
What would each of you like for someone to come away with after they heard this CD?
GINA: Iíd like for people to scream ĎGRAMMYí!
PAT: I would like then to come away with the strong desire to demand the second SWAY CD and to want to see a live show. They are all great songs and itís a really a great album but we really put on a great live show. For me - as a music fan Ė I love to see bands live and Iíve been disappointed in seeing some bands live who have great albums. We have both.
PERRY: That is pretty much everything that I would say so Iím gonna go in a different direction and say that Iíd like for the listener to come away feeling better after listening to the album. Itís a fairly upbeat album. Even some of the slower songs have this undercurrent of hope in them and thatís what I like about this album. Thatís the way this band is. Iíd like for people to keep coming back to this album until we release the next one.