Hi Swingrowers, how are you all doing at the moment?
Hello Juno and people who are reading! We are all doing really well. We’re excited to finally come out of a long year of writing and producing our third album ‘Outsidein’. It’s great to be playing what we’ve been working on to the fans and seeing their reaction.
For those who are uninitiated with the Swingrowers, please tell us who you are and what you do?
The Swingrowers started in Sicily (Italy) as a duo in 2010. I can’t believe it’s already been 8 years! At the time it was just me – Roberto Costa a.k.a. PiSK – and Loredana Grimaudo on vocals. The idea was to create Electro Swing music with our individuality as southern Italian artists. ‘Senza Ciatu’ was our first ‘experiment’; a track characterized by the use of Sicilian dialect. The title translates as ‘Breathless’.
After the release of our first album with Freshly Squeezed we immediately started touring music Festivals and electro-swing clubs around Europe. Very soon we realized that we needed to kick our live show up a gear so we found Manouche guitarist Alessio Costagliola who performed on the Do Not Cover series of singles. This worked so well we then added Alto Sax player Ciro Pusateri and Violinist Davide Rizzuto for the Remote album.
To this date we’ve produced 3 full albums, a variety of EPs and several Remixes and Singles. Throughout each project we have evolved and changed into what I hope is a unique and distinct sound that is broadly vintage remix in style.
So your latest studio album “Outsidein” has recently dropped, how pleased are you with the reaction that it has received so far?
Very. Outsidein has only just come out as you say, so it’s too early to say for certain how it will go down (the sound has evolved a lot) but our label has been very excited about this record and the critical reaction has also been very positive. The few launch dates we’ve played so far have been a big success too. The Butterfly video (the first single from the album) will top a million views on YouTube in well under a year which is our fastest yet and we have several great new clips lined up in No Strings Attached and Selfie-Face. So we’re excited. We still have a lot of gigging and travelling ahead of us, including some major UK festival dates at Boomtown and Love Supreme in particular so this is really just the beginning!
Do each of you have a personal favorite track from “Outsidein”?
PiSk: I really like ‘Jukebox’, it reminds me of when I was playing and singing in rockabilly bands as a kid.
Loredana: I love ‘Follow Me’, I think it’s our best pop production to date after many experiments towards that direction.
Alessio: ‘Selfie Face’ is my personal favorite; its really funky and it sounds very fresh.
Ciro: I would chose ‘Tit For Tat’ because it represents the cross between our previous album Remote and Outsidein. It contains and combines both sounds.
The album cover is super cool, who came up with the concept and who designed it?
Thank you, we are very happy with it also! Funnily enough we bounced a few ideas around before the lawyer at our label Freshly Squeezed came up with the idea and the label then ran with it. This is the joy of working with a small team. Everyone can input their own ideas.
They were inspired by the concept of the album and the title. The idea was to put a fresh and contemporary spin on something that only recently had been cutting edge tech itself but that was already retro. Then turning it inside out obviously. It relates to the lyrics of the album. ‘Selfie Face’, ‘NSA’ and even ‘Follow Me’ are largely about our relationship to technology and how that affects us individually (inside) and collectively (outside).
(follow up) Is that one of your old mobile phones dissected in the shot?
It's not! We found the phone in a ‘used’ bin from a Brighton market phone shop. There was a sticker on it that read “fucked”. Even with that the guy made us pay 5 quid for it! It’s one of the first phones with a high quality camera incorporated in it. Again, we thought this resonated with the themes of the album well.
It certainly seems like your sound has matured with this album, is that some thing you were conscience of when recording?
Yes. One thing that has contributed to this change is our production techniques which have evolved over time. We now use modern studio equipment and electronic instruments like the Korg and Nord synthesizers and the classic Akai MPC that helps to process our samples and drums. We love to experiment with classic instruments too, like our vintage Fender Rhodes, but it important to us to approach the overall sound differently and create something new out of those elements.
(We would welcome working with any music tech companies if anyone is reading!)
Our passion is for discovering new ways to use vintage sounds and techniques. Like the phone on the cover – the audio gets “fucked”!!!
Our sound as a whole has of course developed organically after years of working together and I think the fact that we have played literally thousands of live shows now really helps us sound like a cohesive unit. That has really come out on this album.
Loredana – you sing in English with a perfect native accent, was this something that you had to practice or did it come naturally?
Thank you! This is something that I work hard on of course. Our label supported me by booking some elocution/vocal sessions throughout the recording of this album. My English is always improving. I’m happy that you think I sound like a native.
You are of course proud Sicilians, has the region influenced your sound and style at all?
Absolutely, as all Sicilians we are very proud of our provenance. Sicily is a region that not only sits at the fringes of Europe, it is unfortunately also renowned as an area corrupted by organized crime. We however believe it to be an incredible and often misunderstood area of the world which has inspired many artists throughout the history of music and beyond. We feel very lucky and proud of being from Sicily and the opportunity we have to let it be known internationally. We had a lovely comment on a Youtube video recently that said: “You are making our Island proud”. That was very heart warming.
As I’ve already mentioned we are one of very few artists to have released tracks in the Sicilian dialect and it never stops being an incredible experience to share it across the world as we tour.
What are your influences in terms of dance music?
We all have very different music backgrounds so our music is influenced by all sorts. There is a little bit of an 80s sound in ‘Here to Stay’ for example but our love for a more modern house beat helped fuel a lot of the writing. Many of our early gigs were in nightclubs so this has of course influenced our sound hugely. The live show for example drops several really high energy Drum and Bass sections that were left off the album but make the show unique.
Do you have DJs in mind when writing and producing?
Not really. We just spend a lot of time in the studio trying to make something different and faithful to what we love. Now that this album is finished we are discussing creating a series of special DJ mixes of various tracks from the album to be released during spring which we hope will then get played out at the summer festivals.
If you had to pick the 3 archetypal electro swing tracks for a newcomer to the genre what would they be and why?
‘Dragons’ by Caravan Palace was the first Electro-Swing song that I ever heard. Also I suppose ‘Why Don’t You’ by Gramophonedzie as it was such a massive cross-over record (Mr Scruff’s Get A Move On might be another for the same reason) and Parov Stelar’s Chambermaid Swing which was on the first White Mink : Black Cotton compilation and led us to our label.
Do you have any favorite Swing and Jazz songs from the 1920’s and 30’s?
As PiSk I’ve been working with Freshly Squeezed remixing tracks like Minnie The Moocher and for the Black Cotton Remixed series. There are more to come in this style as a side line to what we do, so yes, absolutely, but we won’t be revealing them here just yet!
Do you ever remix classic original songs?
Yes, as above. We have also officially remixed the iconic tune My Boy Lollipop (Chris Blackwell’s first UK number 1 record) for the Island Records/Freshly Squeezed joint-venture label Vintage Remix. We also remixed several Caro Emerald records, we were even invited to remix Annie Lennox (but she HATED it and it was not released!) – we also have an ‘official’ Bob Marley remix in the pipeline! Watch this space.
How is the Electro Swing scene in Italy? What other genres are doing well there at the moment?
There is definitely some following of the genre in Italy as anywhere else but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly popular. The rap scene is doing quite well at the moment which is why - among other reasons - we decided to pair up with Davide Shorty for one of the album tracks ‘Healing Dance’. I’m really digging the pairing of electro swing with rap at the moment - I might want to play around with this more in the future.
One of the genres pioneers and most well-known artists Parov Stelar was heavily featured on Italy’s prestigious Sanremo TV show this year with his track “All Night” do you feel this is a sign that the scene is growing and becoming more commercially acceptable nowadays?
Parov Stelar was featured at Sanremo, yes! One of Italy’s most loved and respected singers - Mina - sang his track. The best known artists of the genre definitely have a fan base in Italy. I wouldn’t know if this is a sign that the scene has a future in the Italian territory. Maybe. I hope so. We are friends with the Sweet Life Society who are from Turin but like us, they have gigs across Europe and are also playing Boomtown this year.
You have released your music almost exclusively on Freshly Squeezed, what is the story behind you signing with the label?
Freshly Squeezed were the first label to release an electro swing compilation in the UK with their White Mink: Black Cotton. It became a silver disc’d album and was even in Urban Outfitters! Like so many other people we were big fans of this album. They went on to create the Electro Swing club in London and the legendary White Mink events that are still going so we ended up doing a lot of their gigs too. At the time (2010) they were the obvious choice of label as no-one else was really releasing this sound except perhaps Wagram in Paris who just had Caravan Palace and Etage Noir who were Parov Stelar’s own label. Freshly Squeezed continue to be the most forward looking and interesting company releasing this kind of music with releases acts as diverse as The Correspondents or JFB (DMC Champion’s) Swingy tunes. Although many other labels have since followed in their wake, none have put out such consistently high quality releases.
They also handle our publishing and have had our tracks in major TV synchs for Buttoni and Peroni Beer among others, so we’re really happy with them.
Does the label have much influence on your sound?
Yes and No. We share all our demos with the label boss Nick Hollywood who is also a musician and DJ. He gives us feedback on the strongest tracks and which ones to work on more. But generally they believe in letting artists develop in their own way. They have strong views but are quite hands off with the sound. We feel part of a family on the label.
So you guys have been touring here there and everywhere over the past few years and everybody knows that Italians are very fussy eaters. Which places have had the best and worst food on your travels?
Rather than saying that we are fussy eaters I would say that Italians just love food! In all honesty I enjoy eating food I can’t find back home when we’re on the road. That is mostly so that can say that I tried it at least…nothing beats having an Italian home cooked meal though.
You regularly play in the UK have you had chance to try out any British delicacies?
Last week after our launch party in Brighton our label manager invited us to have a Sunday roast. Chicken, gravy, potatoes and beans – the whole lot. We loved it.
What’s next up for Swingrowers?
We are just happy to be out of the studio and out and about in clubs meeting fans. Although touring can sometimes be tiring we love it and it’s nice to present our new tunes live. We’re looking forward to the next months when the summer festivals will start.
Any final thoughts and shout outs?
I’m just happy that we were lucky enough to be at the heart of a music movement which is now maturing and evolving along with us. These past few years have been so incredibly exciting – I just hope that there will be just as many and more in the future. A shout out to everyone in the band, our manager Giulio and our label Freshly Squeezed that has always believed in us. It nearly goes without saying that a massive thank you goes to all of our fans without which none of this could be happening.