NASHVILLE It's not often, say the members of all-star ensemble Swag, that artists can form a band just for the hell of it and have some fun.
But that's what this assemblage of players from the Mavericks, Wilco, Cheap Trick and Sixpence None the Richer are doing with their one-off group and their new album, Catch-All.
"We're having fun," Robert Reynolds of the Mavericks said. "Recording was like a slumber party, where nobody's funny about anything. There's no 'You're stepping on my guitar part.' This was comfortable. This is low-budget, with no compromise to what you're doing. We all play music for a living in major-label situations. Now we're making music just for the sake of making music."
This current incarnation of Swag is made up of Reynolds, sometime-Maverick and Sixpence None the Richer musician Jerry Dale McFadden, Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson, former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, and Nashville musician and singer Doug Powell. An earlier version of the group which then included Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, the Mavericks' Paul Deakin and steel player Richard McLaurin issued a vinyl single as a tribute to Lucinda Williams. "Sweet Lucinda," backed with "Every Little Truth," was a Nashville best-seller and garnered much attention.
With such Nashville friends as power popster Bill Lloyd and guitarist Kenny Vaughan, the current lineup got together, jammed and turned on the tape machine. The atmosphere was so loose, Reynolds said, that an answering machine message from his then-wife, country star Trisha Yearwood, is included (on purpose) in one song.
"If you look closely at that collage of stuff that we put together for the album cover," Reynolds said, "you'll see my wedding ring on there."
"We made the record ourselves," he said, "and then we started figuring out who could put it out, and put out a few feelers. We had a couple of feelers from major labels, but decided we didn't want that. Yep Roc [Records] genuinely liked the record."
The result is a highly melodious amalgam of new power-pop songs, sounding very much like a new Paul McCartney work. Songs such as "I'll Get By" and "Ride" jangle and jump out of the speakers. Word about the group spread quickly.
"Other indies were interested, but I think they felt they could play off the fame factor, whatever it might be," McFadden said.
Yep Roc "really liked the music," Reynolds added, "and not just because of who was involved. They weren't into it to sell a few records just by throwing some names around."
Because of each bandmember's involvement in other groups, organizing a tour is hardly a simple task.
"I don't really know what'll happen, with the record out, once we have to start really playing these dates we promised," Reynolds said. "It's been a scheduling nightmare, and there's no management for the group we've been reluctant to get that official.
"We don't know Ken's schedule. ... Jerry Dale will have to see what's happening with Sixpence None the Richer. Doug, the other singer/guitar player, is a little freer, but he's got responsibilities to make ends meet at home, with a wife and two children. Cheap Trick is busier than ever right now, so Tom Petersson is in the heart of it."
The Swag tour begins with an album release party at Nashville's 12th & Porter on Tuesday and then the group will head to the South by Southwest music conference to play Austin, Texas' Continental Club on Thursday.
Swag tour dates as provided by their record label:
- 3/13 - Nashville @ 12th & Porter
- 3/15 - Austin, TX @ Continental Club
- 3/16 - Houston, TX @ Rudyard's
- 3/18 - Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
- 4/06 - Chicago, IL @ Abbey Pub
- 4/07 - St. Louis, MO @ Rocket Bar
- 4/18 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
- 4/19 - Philadelphia, PA @ Khyber
- 4/20 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
- 4/21 - Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
- 4/22 - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Club