So this was in 2010, and bassist/singer Zac Hale, guitarist Trent Whitehead and guitarist/singer Dylan Vernon, who would become three-fourths of the band Swampbird, met while living at Front Street Apartments in Conway. Hale and Vernon were Hendrix College students, while Whitehead was attending the University of Central Arkansas.
The trio began jamming at the apartment building and was soon drawing attention. It was the good kind, though.
“We got together just to see what would happen,” Hale, 22, says. “Dylan and I both write songs and we brought our songs and just started playing every day together for fun.Pretty soon, people started gathering to watch our practices and we thought, ‘We should get paid for this.’”
The three soon moved to Little Rock, attracted drummer Paul Fennig and Swampbird took flight.
A release party for the group’s first full-length album, On Being Alone, on the New Orleans-based Bear America label, is set for Friday at Stickyz in the River Market in downtown Little Rock.
On Being Alone is an intriguing mix of alt-country and honky-tonk jams combined with a more ethereal and atmospheric vibe. Imagine the Bottle Rockets being produced by Daniel Lanois. No, really.
The tunes were recorded in late December and early January at Bear America, which lent itself to the earthy yet elegiac nature of the album, Hale says.
“It was very much a scarves over-the-lamps kind of thing,” in the studio, he says. “Instead of replicating the alternative country sound, we wanted to spread it out.”
The band’s moniker is also a hint at its dual nature.
“There’s the swampy, backwoods part of who we are,” Hale, a native of Huntsville, Ala., says, “and then there’s the other part, the bird part, that’s more lofty and spread out. It starts in the roots of classic country and blues and expands out into something more atmospheric and ambient.”
The sleepy, moody “The River,” with its echoey vocals and dreamy steel guitar, is a good example of the mood Swampbird can create.
It’s also loose and breathes, as does the whole album, in its open spaces.
“Brussels,” which starts quietly and then picks up steam, is another highlight inspired by Hale and Vernon’s time spent in Belgium as students, working and playing as a duo.
“That’s a very literal story of Dylan’s experience,” Hale says. Whit Wright of American Aquarium is also featured playing pedal steel guitar on the track.
Along with Friday’s show, the band will be at the Smoke and Barrel Tavern, 324 W. Dickson St. No. 2, Fayetteville, for a Saturday show and they will open proceedings at the Miller Lite/Arkansas Federal Credit Union Stage on May 26 at Riverfest.
Another festival, the Americana-themed Dust Circuit Radio Summer Music Fest in Medicine Park, Okla., in June is also on the itinerary.
“They played us on [Phoenix-based] Dust Circuit Radio and now half our fans are from Arizona,” Hale says.
Swampbird Record Release Party
Opening act: Open Fields
9 p.m. Friday, Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack, 107 River Market Ave., Little Rock
Weekend, Pages 35 on 05/09/2013
Print Headline: Swampbird to create a flap with record debut at Stickyz