Swarvy Shares His Most Essential Bandcamp Releases

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

In June 2011, a group of beatmakers gathered in Philadelphia’s Little Bar to honor jazz legend Miles Davis’s landmark album Bitches Brew. The producers were tasked with reworking portions of Davis’s songs, as local rapper Stainless Steele spit bars over their creations. A studio version of the results appeared online several months later in the form of Blasphemous Jazz: The Bitches Brew Sessions, a Low End Theory-meets-Jazzmatazz collage of sounds showcasing the talents of composers like Mndsgn and Knxwledge.

Among the group was a producer named Swarvy, a multi-instrumentalist who was just getting his feet wet when Blasphemous Jazz was released. “It’s everybody there back in Philly playing together, and it was based off this show,” Swarvy says of the event and the album. “[Producer] Sir Froderick had this place and wanted to make events like that one a monthly thing, but we only ended up doing it once.” Swarvy only had a few projects to his credit at the time; as of this feature, he has 21 total Bandcamp releases. We spoke with Swarvy, who walked us through his catalog, pointing out a few projects that might’ve gotten missed along the way.

Swarvy. Photo by Theo Jemison.

Twothousandnine

My favorite thing on my Bandcamp page is twothousandnine, a record I did with Pink Siifu. The way this all came together is really beautiful. Two of the tracks were made around the same time, but a month or two later, we both got really sick. Something was going around, and we were both holed up at my place. We were making music the whole time, and over the course of two days, we made pretty much the whole record, and mixed it down the next week. It came together organically, and I love the way it flows and breathes. It turned out very close to the way I wanted it to sound. If you’re gonna get one thing on there, I would recommend that.

Swarvy

This one’s from 2011, and it’s all SP-303 beats. This is my favorite of the old ones. I had put out Shadows Volume 1 and 2 and spent a lot of time putting those together. But a few months later, I made shit more rapidly. I did like six songs at a time. Before, I would spend a lot of time trying to make a couple songs. I was into the workflow of sessioning and making as much as I could at once. This was the first record to set up a workflow for everything I do. Here, I’m getting ideas out and seeing what’s good, rather than trying too hard on one thing.

Blends, Vol. 1

This is another one I like the sequencing of; it’s raw. It felt right during the session. My homie mejiwahn came over—he has a record label called Hot Record Societe—and he had a bunch of samples on his 404. We were looping shit up and making blends out of acapellas. I think there are some really interesting juxtapositions on this one. The way it feels as a tape—it has a nice movement to it. I love the cover, too. It was made by my roommate, kuro.

T a l k i n g H e a d s

I stitched everything together with radio sounds. This marks a transition in the way I made things, the way I sequenced and mastered the tracks, and the way I chopped everything up. It was the next step in making different kinds of tracks. I like the way it’s portrayed as a short piece of something. It’s some collage-type shit. I tried to make it more visual. I was more comfortable than before, and I was able to clearly express my ideas.

Elderberry

I was working on a bunch of different records at the time, and I had a lot more technically orchestrated ideas, like, sonically bigger. I was trying to put together an album for LEAVING Records; [label owner] Matthewdavid hit me up like, ‘Let’s just do a quick tape.’ I went through some older tracks I had from that year. With this one, like Blends, Vol. 1, I wanted to leave it raw, so I didn’t add anything to the tracks after I made them. I thought it was cool to strip everything down rather than try to make it more and more crazy. I reached a certain comfort level with recording live instruments and getting them to sound the way I wanted to, so it’s a representation of all that.

Scotch

It was around Christmastime, and my high school friend who I used to play a lot with—bassist Jerry Thompson III—was in town for about a week. We got into a studio and recorded everything in two or three days. We wrote and recorded everything ourselves. I sequenced it and engineered the whole thing. There aren’t many actual cuts, but the little interlude tracks and side beats were ones that I flipped out of the sessions we played.

It was just a few quick sessions; my homie Ryan McKenney played drums on a couple joints [Swarvy and Jerry played drums on the rest—ed]. To fill it out a little bit more, we had Devonwho and Mndsgn do remixes at the end. It ended up being a cool little snapshot of what it was like in the studio. We had an empty farmhouse that a family friend of Ryan owned, and we went in there to play music. This was the first album I presented that was all live instruments I recorded.

Stunts

Stunts is interesting, because it turned into a physical release after it came out on Bandcamp. That’s kind of cool! I started to realize that same year—because I saw other people do it—that you can put something out yourself and still release it with a label. It gives power to more independent artists, and helps us do what we want to do, and still retain the original rights to everything and work with a label at the same time, just on the strength of the music.

s u p e r f o o d s

This is one that people slept on. It’s unlike any other one I have out. It’s tape and vinyl samples placed into a weird mix. And I made the art, too, which is a visual representation of what it sounds like to me.

 

Andrew Martin

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