By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
Just as working with Astrom, Tymn and Johns opened the band up to new possibilities, the addition of Carl Sorensen, who joined the fold this past February when Bolster left the band, has allowed the outfit to create greater dynamics and space in the arrangements. "There's trust that comes from knowing there's going to be a space for me to drop the vocal and the bass," notes Halborg. "He's just on it and loose, so I know I can hang notes a little bit and then pop back in. I know when I'm singing that the beat's going to be there when I drop my vocal back in."
"He gives us that room," adds Murphy. "A non-musician probably wouldn't realize how much room that breath creates, but it allows the whole band to slowly move into something or drop out, and it allows us to create dynamics. Before, we just had to kind of hang on and go for it."
"One of the huge things is I can tell that he's listening to my vocals," Halborg notes. "He's doing accent hits after I sing a word. And that's just huge to me. I know that he's listening to what I'm saying because I go uuuupppp, and at the end, he goes kack-kack, doing little cues to let me know he's listening.
"And he knows that I'm really listening to the drums, and it perpetuates this pleasant groove," he goes on. "The two of us will catch something, and we'll both look at each other and be like, 'Oh, we're so locked in right now. Let's play around a little bit. We have the beat covered. Let's shade it and bounce around a little bit.'"
Sorensen came to the Swayback on the recommendation of Kim Baxter at Rupp Drums. "I called and said, 'Who's the best drummer in town?" Halborg remembers. "She's like, 'Carl Sorensen.' I'm like, 'Great. Do you have his number?'" A seasoned player who attended the Berklee College of Music for two years, Sorensen first started playing drums when he was nine. A precocious kid, he was torn between playing drums or violin; his hero, Sherlock Holmes, played violin, but the scales tipped toward drums because, he says, because "I thought to myself at age nine that the drummer gets all the chicks." Inspired by that epiphany, Sorensen played drums in middle and high school. "I got way into the whole rudimental approach — how many notes you can play, that sort of approach," he explains. "Then I remember graduating high school seeing Tim Martersteck play with Colin Stranahan and Peter Speer — they had a jazz trio — and watching Colin play, it was so not anything that I had been trained in, and it was very much more serving the music."
Sorensen has adapted this approach to his playing style with the Swayback. While clearly technically proficient, he's not an overwhelming presence in the band. On the four tracks he plays on the band's new record, Double Four Time, he does precisely what the music dictates. "We had moments in the studio with this kid," says Halborg, referring to Sorensen, "like we've never had, where you're playing and it sounds like you're listening to a rad record as you're playing it. Your fingers are moving, and you feel like you're listening to a rad record, and you're like, 'I'm playing on this rad record right now.'
It's a safe bet that those who have heard Double Four Time have had a similar reaction. While songs like the title track, "Steamrolling" and "Die Finks" bear the band's trademark strut, there's an impressive amount of musicality to be found throughout the record, especially on "Oh Baby" and "Thank You," which conjure the bluesy swagger of the Stones, and the delicate and dirge-like "St. Francis," which manages to be suitably dark without being dour.
Hands down, though, the album's biggest standout is the opener, "What Death Cares About," which contains Halborg's best lyrics to date. With lines like "Well, it ain't picky and it ain't tricky/It ain't about some point of view/It ain't picking sides/It don't care what you hide or what you've done/Or how you've overcome all your wicked ways/It don't care who stays," the tune reflects unflinchingly on the notion of mortality. As Halborg points out that "there ain't much death cares about as it blows your straw house down," the words bounce off major chords in a way that contrasts the morose observations and leaves you with a sense of unaffected resignation.
What's impressive about Double Four Time is its cohesive sound. Despite the fact that it was recorded in a half-dozen studios with almost as many producers, the album doesn't have a patchwork feel. More impressive is the sense that a decade in, the Swayback has barely scratched the surface of its potential. But while the band poised for greatness, its members are still not necessarily in a hurry to become another cog in somebody's machine, which is why the logo stamped on the back of Double Four Time is their own.