Swarming Branch is a quirky psych band reminiscent of the ’70s studio-pop sound. The band also contains elements of new wave, folk-rock, disco, and lo-fi skuzz. On Wednesday, November 29, they’ll play at The Firehouse along with Captain Kudzu and The Beagles.
They are made up of drummer Lon Leary, who grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, with songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Andrew Graham. Leary lives in North Carolina, and Graham has lived in Columbus, Ohio, for three seasons and New Mexico for winter over the last few years.
For the past several years, they have been recording with pianist Dane Terry and bassist Rob Barbato, who live in New York City and Austin, Texas, respectively. “We’ve been playing music together for 21 years now, since we were 10 or 11 years old,” says Graham. “We met Dane through the local scene when he lived in Columbus. We met Rob through corresponding via email in 2010 when he became a fan of the band by listening to Swarming Branch’s debut record.”
Graham says the band enjoys a lot of music from the ’70s like Crazy Horse, Joni Mitchell, and T. Rex. However, he is eager to point out that they are not a retro band. “I honestly kind of cringe when people tell us that we sound so retro,” he says. “That’s a trend these days where new bands seem to be attempting to make records that sound like forgotten dollar bin gems from the ’70s. And that’s not what we’re after at all– we’re trying for hits! And we are working toward a sound that will, I hope, end up sounding totally contemporary.”
The band released a new single at the end of September called “21st Century Attention Span.” Graham wrote the song a while ago just wondering his house with an acoustic guitar. “Lon and I recorded it over the winter at the Country Inn & Suites in Boone, North Carolina,” he says. “We just carried a few suitcases full of recording equipment, drum machines, and keyboards up into the hotel room and did it with headphones on so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. I later did some overdubs at an Airbnb in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”
According to Graham, the band will have played roughly 60 shows in 2017 by the time this tour is over. “So most our time is not spent on the road,” he says.
The band has played some interesting places including the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston, Texas, and in the forest near Olympia, Washington in a little barn-turned-house, playing for a crowd of 10 people. Graham says, “That was fun. We had to walk all of the instruments down a very narrow footpath to get there.”
“And honestly, back when The Bottletree in Birmingham had shiatsu massage chairs and free socks and the whole nine yards, it was a pretty unique experience,” Graham recalls.
The band has performed more than once in Birmingham, playing at Secret Stages last August. “We had such a good time,” Graham says. “[The hosts] were enthusiastic and gracious. It was also great to see some other artists whom we really enjoy, like OMNI and Adam Torres.”
Swarming Branch will begin work on their fourth record when this tour concludes. Before they start recording, come to The Spring Street Firehouse on November 29 to see this stylistic music mesh play. The Firehouse is located at 412 41st Street South, Birmingham, AL 35222. The music starts at 8 p.m.
Photo by Ryan Miller.