Swear and Shake’s “The Light” unfolds like a subtle and complex narrative. Karl Spieler begins the story with the declaration: “On a mission to nowhere/And I’m not going back.” The tale evolves steadily from there when vocalist, guitarist and banjo player Adam McHeffey meditates on the scene that Spieler’s determined to leave. Percussionist Ben Goldstein and bassist Shaun Savage build on that tone with lingering rhythmic layers that express the obvious conflict at the center of the tune.
And that’s the appealing nature of Swear and Shake, who released their debut LP, Maple Ridge, in the summer of 2012. The band devises songs like stories, creating dialogues through duets between Spieler and McHeffey and points of climax and resolution with the band’s mix of folk, country and indie rock. The lyrics are filled with the tensions of love, lust and longing. This approach to songwriting is connected to the band’s camaraderie off the stage. Spieler and McHeffey regularly performed together during their senior semesters at SUNY Purchase College. The two composed and recorded “Johnnie.” The impromptu recording attracted the attention of McHeffey’s childhood friends, Goldstein and Savage. The four banded as Swear and Shake, recording an EP before temporarily moving to Maple Ridge, a barn in Cambridge, NY, to work on their debut record.
Swear and Shake are now promoting their most recent singles, which include the energetic, banjo-tinged “Brother” and the folk anthem “Fire.” The band is on a 17-day North America tour that kicked off yesterday Jan. 12 in Fairfield, CT. Like their careful songwriting, Shake and Swear’s onstage performances promise both moments of individual contemplation and collective exclamation.
Article by Pam Segura