Q&A with Johnny and Ola of Cock And Swan | DOA

Q&A with Johnny and Ola of Cock And Swan

Hello Johnny and Ola!  What are the vibes like in your native Washington state and how have things been going?

Johnny: We are going back and forth from sunny and gray. Very busy recording with our friends!  I was on tour playing bass with The Curious Mystery, and Ola was in Bothell hanging out with our bunny and learning tenor sax.

There’s a lovely delicacy and vintage ambience to your indie electro-pop.  What types of synths and other instruments do you use to achieve that sound?

Johnny:  The Arp Odyssey is a synth we use for almost every song. We also have an SH-101 and a Korg Mono/Poly. We sample our analog synths through our tape machines and then cut it up on the computer.

On the other hand, the glitchy, intricate synth-work on some songs like “Stash” gives you a modern edge.  What bands have influenced you in this direction?  I’ve read that Boards Of Canada and Mum are two artists that you admire.

Johnny: Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, etc… Warp records are always a go to for good electronic sounds. We are into lots of different stuff though. We just snagged a few great vinyl LPs: The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails), Third (Portishead), and In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson) along with the full discography from Kraftwerk.

Ola, I love your ephemerally light and wistful vocals, but sometimes it’s difficult to discern the lyrics of the songs.  Who is the songwriter in the band?  Do you adhere to the school of thought that the overall sound is what is important in a song verses the message conveyed by the lyrics (Cocteau Twins versus Rage Against the Machine springs to mind for some reason)?

Ola: Johnny tends to write the initial lyrics, and then we work them out together to fit my voice. The more we record vocals, the more we are trying to make the words do something (as opposed to describing something literal).  So I think the sound of the words matters a lot.

Your debut album Unrecognize was released last year on Dandelion Gold Records.  Tell us about its creation. 

Johnny:  We write and record all our songs in our house.  Some of those songs are demos that are years old, and others (like “Sympethizer”) were quick one-day recordings. We love to use and reuse material and a lot of the songs from this record are either expansions of parts from previous songs, or an entire remake of an old song, along with stuff that we finally got around to finishing.

Johnny, you actually run Dandelion Gold Records, which features musicians from the Bothell and Seattle regions of Washington.  Is this a 24/7 occupation for you?  How is it working out?

Johnny: Dandelion Gold isn’t a full record label, but I do spend all of my time working on it and other projects. It’s more about giving a name to the sort of stuff we want to be associated with.

Now, this gets a bit confusing, but Dandelion Gold is also the name of a band, right?  Who is in the band at the moment and is there a relationship between the musical style of Dandelion Gold and Cock and Swan?

Johnny: Dandelion Gold is whoever is currently active in the group. We often do songs and compilations (DG: One) together as well as releasing solo works. Currently that list would include Shana Cleveland, Brad Dunn, Doug Arney and Olie Eshleman (Corespondents), Ian Obermuller, Ola, and myself. We all have solo stuff associated with Dandelion Gold, and we’ve all worked on songs together.

Okay, sorry to bring this up, but do you ever get guff for the name Cock and Swan?  Or do you ever regret naming your band Cock and Swan?  I just ask because I was doing a search online for you on Bing and a page suddenly appeared that said “Your current search setting filters out results that might return adult content. To view those results as well, change your setting.”  Oh, dear…

Johnny: I think a good rule of thumb on what is a good band name is whether or not you are comfortable saying it to whoever asks you “What’s your band called?” That being said, we had little choice in naming our band. It chose us!

You’ve done a residency at The Sunset Tavern in Ballard, and have played other gigs.  When you play live do you add members to your line-up?

Johnny: The residency actually refers to the band Thousands, who we played with, and which was our first show in about six months.

We’ve played a lot of different ways: Ola playing acoustic pianos with all of our friends playing drums, samplers, and synths surrounding the two of us, or as a five piece with two guitars and a drummer.  But we usually do a lot of multitasking and play as a duo.

Do you try to replicate what you have on record when playing live? 

Johnny: We don’t try to replicate what we recorded too closely. Typically we add structural changes and little bonus parts to the songs. Lately Ola is triggering and controlling samples of our synths and drum machine sounds while I play bass, affect our voices, and play a monophonic synth. Our current setup is as close to “dancy” as we have come so far.  Last time we also set up video projections of instruments and other stuff around our house, synced up with the beats.

What are you plans for the near future?  Are you working on a new album or EP?

Johnny:  We are almost finished with two actually. We are releasing a 12” of acoustic versions of our songs for Lost Tribe Sound and we are working on a continuation of the sort of stuff we worked on for Unrecognize. We are hoping the acoustic record will be out this fall.

Please list your official site(s) where we can find out more about you and purchase your music.  Thanks so much!

http://dandeliongold.com/ for music and video from us and stuff we think you’d like. http://www.cockandswan.com/ for just us.