Founded by Michael Gira in New York City in 1982, SWANS achieved wider notoriety in the late 1980s for their cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. In their early years, SWANS were operating from a No Wave and post-industrial point of reference; later more experimental, avant-garde noise rock tendencies spiked with orchestral influences would become part of their approach. Their sound has however always been characterised by raw rhythms, harsh musical textures and deconstruction, with more emphasis placed on intuitive energy and improvisation than on the melodic aspect.
In the band’s early years, SWANS concerts were also infamous for volume levels bordering on the unbearable, which occasionally even led to audience members passing out. This earned the band a reputation that Gira eventually grew weary of, finally disbanding the group in 1997. In 2010 he resolved to resurrect SWANS with a cast of new and old band members. Since then, their concerts have exhibited the same intense energy they possessed in the early years – according to bandleader Gira their concerts are capable of “inspiring the soul and destroying the body”. Throughout their active years, the band has experienced a number of changes to their line-up as well as stylistic transformations: over 20 different musicians passing through has meant that new musical influences are constantly being brought into the band. SWANS have however also had a significant impact on other musical genres with their own style. For instance, the frequently very slow tempos and bleak moods of their songs have exerted a sustained influence on the doom metal scene. Gira’s lyrics as well, which he intones for the most part in a sonorous sort of inflected speech, treat isolation, spiritual dependency or institutional violence. Musically expressive, intense and deeply disturbing.
Following the announcement of their pending final dissolution, SWANS are in the midst of their farewell tour this year. This is therefore one of the last opportunities to see the legendary band live in their “current incarnation”.
Michael Gira – voc, g
Norman Westberg – g
Kristof Hahn – g
Phil Puleo – dr, perc
Chris Pravdica – b
Paul Wallfisch – key