SWALLOWS with BOY at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Friday (May 9), 9 pm. $8. 416-596-1908. Rating: NNNNN
Glenn Milchem might be a member of one of Canada's most successful alt-country bands, but you'd never know it from the sound of the new record from his solo project, the Swallows.The Beauty Of Our Surroundings, the Swallows' sophomore disc, launches tomorrow at the Riv. It's a collection of indie pop-rock tunes ranging from lo-fi, sorrowful ballads to chunkier, more aggressive straight-ahead rockers, with shades of psychedelia, roots rock and old-skool punk lite in between.
"I've been with Blue Rodeo for 11 years," says Milchem, "but I've been a professional musician for about 20. I never even listened to country music until the late 80s, when I started playing with Andrew Cash.
"People think, 'He's from Blue Rodeo. He must be a country guy,' but most of the music I've taken in is not akin to what Blue Rodeo does.When I was a kid I listened to Alice Cooper. Then I went through a prog phase, then a punk phase, so I had to smash all my prog records, sadly. Some of them were really good. Then I got into the Buzzcocks, the Clash, Magazine... and a million other bands."
The record was finished in November of last year, but that was when Blue Rodeo's Palace Of Gold was released, which took Milchem out of the loop while he toured in support of that album. On top of that, the Swallows suddenly found themselves sans guitarist when Clive MacNutt decided to take off for Halifax. (Jonathan James has since taken over guitar duty.) Hence, the lateness of the release party. The Swallows have also since found a distribution deal with Warner.
Milchem co-produced the record with Ian Blurton of Change of Heart and Blurtonia, who made his presence felt.
"(Blurton) was extremely good at trimming the fat," says Milchem. "Initially, I wanted to make an experimental pop record, but he stuck more to the true nature of the songs and he made it more of a rock record. I wanted to use everything I could get my hands on, and we did wind up using every toy in the studio, but reluctantly."
It really is a little gem of a record. All the tunes are written by Milchem. In fact, the Swallows was originally conceived as a solo project. (What's with these guys who name their solo projects in the plural?)
"Well, nobody can pronounce or spell my last name, I didn't want to adopt a pseudonym and I guess I just like bands. I was hoping it would turn into a band on an unconscious level. When I did the first record, my first motivation was to have the experience of making a record where I could try my ideas and not have to run them past anybody else. Then I had to release it and support it, so I figured I needed to form a band. Then the band became something on its own."
Of John Borra, Randy Curnew and Jonathan James, Milchem says, "We are absolutely a band now."
To a point.
"OK, it's my songs we're playing and I'm the leader of the band, so if I were to pack it in tomorrow they wouldn't be carrying on without me as the Swallows."