Interview: Matthew Nanes of Swans of Never

Swans of Never is an indie rock band from Salt Lake City, Utah. The three-piece band consists of guitarist and lead vocalist Matthew Nanes, bassist Alex Aponte, and drummer Liz Aponte. Although the band has seen numerous lineup changes over the years, they seem to have finally found their sweet spot. I was lucky enough to chat with Matt about the band, his journey in music, and what the future holds.

Nick Stephens: How did you get into music? What bands did you listen to growing up?

Matthew Nanes: It started as far back as I remember. My older sister loved 80s pop when we were very little so she’d have us perform for our parents, friends and neighbors, lip-sycing to New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson. When I hit elementary school, I discovered Queen from watching Wayne’s World and The Beatles and that introduced me to rock n’ roll. But I lived overseas so we didn’t get rock radio, but if you caught a certain channel at the right time, it’d play music videos. I was able to catch Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” and Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” then.

When we moved back to the States, the doors blew open once MTV was a constant in my life. I made my parents buy me Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and Weezer’s Blue Album on tape and when I was able to stay up and watch 120 Minutes on MTV, I saw some punk bands like Descendents, Bad Religion and MxPx. I got some of their CDs and did the “read the liner notes and see who they thank” thing and then I started finding about punk, emo and hardcore bands. Early AFI, Jimmy Eat World, Snapcase and The Get Up Kids were some notables during high school.

NS: At what point did you start singing and playing guitar?

MN: I first started taking singing seriously when I was in 6th grade. I got an electric guitar for Christmas and Oasis’ “What’s the Story Morning Glory?” was huge at that time and it seemed like music that shouldn’t be too hard to learn. I played live for the first time during a talent show in 7th grade, a Silverchair cover, and I caught the bug and 20 years later, I’m still doing this.

NS: How did Swans of Never come to be?

MN: I started touring right after I graduated high school and was playing what I felt were other people’s bands. I had some ideas for parts of songs for those band and felt like I contributed but I had always wrote songs on the side. After I left Gaza, I did what I felt was natural and was compelled to put together a live band. I grabbed Casey Hansen (Gaza) and Skyler Hitchcox (Sympathy Pain) to play our first show in 2006. From there, I had Kenny Bozich (The Almost) play on the first EP but I soon found out it was just a solo project. I put the Swans of Never name to rest and played solo under my name instead but playing solo started to bore me and feel limiting.

I was already playing music with Alex and Liz Aponte at my church and when we left that church, we decided we still wanted to play together. I resurrected the Swans of Never name and it’s never felt more like a proper band and it’s been really exciting and rewarding ever since.

NS: How does the writing process work for you guys?

MN: The songs still start with me and for the most part are more or less 75-percent complete by the time it gets to the band. I’ll work on a song for awhile and when I feel like it gets to a place where I can demo it, I’ll open up GarageBand, find a good beat to it and record the whole song and send it to the Apontes and go over the song at the next practice. But Liz is such a creative drummer, she’ll usually tweak whatever idea I had into something different than what I thought and we go down whatever path she’ll take us. And Alex is such a solid bass player, he can usually learn a song and put his own vibe on whatever idea I had. Even though I was a former bass player in Day Two and Gaza and can definitely make my own bass parts and demand a certain direction, I usually just demo something simple and let Alex take the ball and run.

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NS: You mentioned you played in Gaza (one of my all time favorite bands), can you give me some backstory on that? 

MN: I love telling this story. In high school, I had become friends with Casey Hansen, drummer of Gaza and now Cult Leader. I had tried to do the Dashboard acoustic/emo thing and he was in a crust-punk band but we got along due to some similar music interests like At The Drive In, Refused and Further Seems Forever. We had started jamming with our friend Dave and started our first “serious” band, My White Room. We wanted to expand our sound so Casey suggested his friend, Mike Mason, who is an amazing guitar player and loved Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer at the time but his natural talent and creativity were unmatched. We ended up shelving My White Room and started a math-core band called Thieves of Verona.

What was bonkers about that band was that we only played five or so shows but ended up playing with bands that we had no business opening for. We opened for Minus the Bear, Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Jealous Sound and Armor for Sleep in the short run we had but I killed all momentum of our band when I joined Day Two. Fast forward two years, I had quit Day Two and Casey and Mike were still playing. They just started Gaza but needed a bass player. I saw it as the continuation of what we had in Thieves of Verona but just mixed with major Coalesce and Converge vibes.

In my time during Gaza, we achieved some really cool things, like the first show Gaza ever had with Converge and released the first EP, “East”. I left the band due to some philosophical differences but those were some of my favorite shows I’ve ever played and really enjoyed my time.

NS: Gaza and Swans of Never are on pretty opposite sides of the spectrum, do you prefer playing one style or music over the other?

There’s still a love for heavy and aggressive music inside of me and there’s something special about playing hardcore live. But what I do in Swans of Never is a natural extension of who I am and the music I love. But if I tried playing hardcore with the same intensity I had back in the day now, I’d be ruined. I still try to bring that punk/hardcore intensity to Swans of Never shows, but my body constantly reminds me that I’m not 23 anymore.

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NS: Being a husband and a dad, is it difficult to balance music, your work, and your family?

MN: In one word: Yes. Playing music is just something that I’ve tried to say goodbye to music at certain times of my life when responsibilities were overwhelming but it just won’t go away and I’ve come to accept that. It’s like a horror movie monster, you think the threat is over but eventually, it’ll just come back. I’ve accepted I’ll still be playing when I’m 50. But instead of quitting when things get too busy, there’s a time and place where I need to slow down for a season and let other important priorities take more precedence. But even if I have to slow down music projects, past experience tells me I’d still write music and when it’s time to get busy again, we’d have a lot of songs to work on when I come back.

NS: Do you have any plans on touring?

MN: We’ve had a few offers from out of state but being where we’re all at in life, we have to take those offers seriously and ask ourselves if it’s worth being away from family or the financial cost it’d take. But if the right situation came around to play out of state, I don’t think we’d be opposed.

NS: When can we expect future releases?

MN: We are planning on releasing a proper EP in the spring with four new songs that we recorded with Andrew Goldring. Also, we’re gearing up (literally, we’re buying more and more recording equipment) to start recording our own songs and releasing those on a monthly basis on Bandcamp and Spotify. We plan on releasing those, alongside acoustic demos and covers to always be out there and active in one way or another.

Swans of Never currently have a single titled “Lipliner” on both Spotify and YouTube. Be sure to give them a like and a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and keep an eye out for more music from them in the near future.

 

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