REVIEW & INTERVIEW: Crazy Swedes Self-titled Album
ALBANY — Crazy Swedes are set to release their self-titled debut album. Hosting a release party at the Round Lake Auditorium, Crazy Swedes – whose members have resumes include working in local bands, Broadway orchestras, TV/film music score composition, and much more – are sure to put on a fantastic show. You can take part in this special release event by attending their show at the Round Lake Auditorium this Saturday at 7:00pm. For more information, please view the following link: https://www.facebook.com/events/250844093181482.
Below is an embedded track, “What’s On Tap,” off of their upcoming record.
What follows is a review of the album – one I thoroughly enjoyed listening to – as well as an interview with Will Severin, guitarist of Crazy Swedes.
Over this past week, I had the great opportunity of hearing Crazy Swedes’ upcoming self-titled album prior to its release. To say nothing short of how much this record blew me away would be remiss. From the soaring leads of Will Severin on guitar, and Rob Lindquist on keyboards, to the never-failing-to-be solid rhythm section of Eric Schwanke on bass, and George Snyder on drums, this album was a damned panoply of musical virtuosity bolstered extremely well by thoughtful song arrangements.
The album opener, “Key Lime,” provided great examples of the type of musicality listeners will be able to expect from the Crazy Swedes. Featuring lush instrumentation, this song had several great motifs that came into and out of the forefront at just the right times. As is the case with instrumental music, the melody is reserved to be handled by, well, the instruments! An example of great melodic dialogue between the synthesizer and guitar can be heard on “Flight #4” (track two).
There were fantastic examples of interplay between all members of Crazy Swedes in this album, but I particularly enjoyed “Dark Matters” (track three). The song consisted primarily of all instruments locked in tight – part-wise – with one another, yet at times featured each instrument having their own stand out moment. Though this album seemed to heavily favor guitar and synthesizer parts – which made sense as they are the two “lead” instruments within the band – it was very nice to hear the bass and drums get their due as well! Some of my favorite bass sections were on the songs, “Big Trouble,” and “It’s Now or Never,” tracks four and eight, respectively. For this listener, the drums really stood out on tracks such as the aforementioned “Dark Matters,” as well as “Wavelength” (track seven). The latter track had a half-time groove during parts of the song that were vaguely reminiscent of a Purdie shuffle – something I was not expecting, to say the least. As a lead instrument, the synthesizer definitely got its due throughout the album, but some highlights of the instrument, in my view, can be heard on tracks such as “What’s On Tap” (track six). Every song on this record featured amazing guitar work.
Aside from excellent musicianship, moments of levity and a sense of humor were present on this record. For example, in “Big Trouble,” the song began with a false start, and also incidentally featured the only words on the entire album, “My fault, I should’ve counted.” The ninth track, “Southern Fried,” seemed very tongue-in-cheek as it blended genres of southern rock, funk, and progressive rock. Prior to this album, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what such a genre blend would sound like, but now I can.
The closer, “Distant Shores,” provided a new aspect to the record: nylon guitar and piano. While the rest of this album was heavily complex, this tune kind of allowed the ears to mellow, as sounds sometimes ebbed, but mainly flowed outward. A sense of calm became present due to the aforementioned choice of instrumentation, and I was left feeling musically resolved. Aware this album might be considered niche, I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who not only favors musical virtuosity but to those who don’t need lyrics to carry a tune. This album took me on quite the journey! I was happy to get the chance to sit down with Will Severin to discuss the album release party, as well as other topics. You can check out our discussion by continuing to read below.
Lucas Garrett: Hey, Will! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. How would you describe Crazy Swedes?
Will Severin: Crazy Swedes is a mainly instrumental group that falls somewhere between the worlds of the jazz fusion era of the 70s/80s and the jam band scene of today. We started the band as an outlet to create music that we wanted to hear where we could all showcase our musical chops and really let loose in a dynamic and improvisatory way. If you’re a fan of Dixie Dregs, Jeff Beck or Snarky Puppy you’re going to be into it. There’s a lot of shredding, but everything grooves and has memorable melodies. In addition to the instrumental stuff, we always throw some eclectic vocal covers into the set with every show just to mix it up. It’s an anything-goes situation where we just play what we want. Where else could you hear Weather Report and Creedence?
LG: How were these songs written?
WS: Some of the tunes were written a few years back and some more recently. Some songs came out of jams and others were a piecemeal process between someone’s harmonic progressions that another of us would add melody to. So, really a mixed bag. Then, everyone adds their own interpretation via their instrument. Everything had been performed live multiple times which was a great way to work things out and then decide how we wanted to approach things for the recording and release. In the end, we went for a live feel that’s a little more “produced.” The recording process gave us a chance to fill in some of the blanks and be a bit more thoughtful. All basic tracks were cut live and then overdubs happened for guitars and keys to add layers. We were lucky to have multi-Grammy Award winning engineer Chris Theis on board to co-produce and mix the project.
LG: How long have you been together?
WS: The band has been together around 5 years. This is our sidebar/labor of love project. We get out when we can, usually when we’re not playing in more commercial-based bands. Everyone brings their own thing to the group. Rob (keys) has played with a lot of jazz luminaries in addition to his own jazz projects (Rob Lindquist Quartet, New Regime), Eric (bass) has been a capital district mainstay playing in outfits as diverse as Body & Soul, Thick & Dashboard Anthem. George (drums) has played with multiple music groups here in the states and overseas (Itis, Cliff Morrison & The Lizard Son Band – son of The Doors’ Jim Morrison) as well as regionally with Rattail Jimmy and others. I’ve done everything from Broadway orchestra gigs to touring with prog metal act Infinite Spectrum in addition to composing film scores and music for TV. Rob, George and I are also currently doing some shows with American Idol’s Madison VanDenburg, which has been a lot of fun. So, our backgrounds and skills are pretty diverse. Really, Crazy Swedes is the band that we all dreamed of being in when we were 18. So that’s the impetus to keep it going.
LG: How have you folks spent time during the initial lockdown and what are your plans moving forward as a band after this release?
WS: We recorded the basic tracks just before the lockdown, so the lockdown gave us the time for more production hours to refine things. A lot of recording time was spent at our home studios to get all the guitars and keys finished before getting to the mix process. We couldn’t play live at the time so working on the release kept us going. We’re planning to get some more shows lined up and spread the word about the release. We’ll see where things go. Our album release show is coming up on Sat August 21st at Round Lake Auditorium. We’re filming the show for later video and social media content as we roll out our promo for the release over the coming months.
LG: An interesting album and band is deserving of such an eclectic name. Where did the name Crazy Swedes come from?
WS: I’ve personally spent quite a bit of time in Sweden and at least one of us actually has Swedish heritage. But, the real story is that I’m a big genre film fan and we took the band name from a line of dialogue in John Carpenter’s The Thing (“You really wanna save those crazy Swedes?”). And I guess we’re all a bit out of our minds.
LG: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today! Have a great release party!