“It’s been ten years since you left, and I’ve been swanning around ever since. Until now,” the banner on Swanning’s bandcamp page asserts. It feels like a reclaiming. Swanning has been a long time coming.
Though Cynthia Ann Schemmer is known for her guitar work in Philly’s Radiator Hospital, she’s a writer foremost, and she’s turned her attention toward carving a space in music for the narratives she’s envisioned. The name for Schemmer’s solo project comes from a short story she wrote seven or so years ago about her mother’s childhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her forthcoming debut as Swanning, Drawing Down the Moon, is a full and powerful step into a creative world she seems to have already been occupying in part. Schemmer says, “Drawing Down the Moon is an exploration in grief over the death of my mother (ten years ago [today]), and how that grief once stunted my growth, but now flourishes it. It’s also about the people and thought processes and mental demons that have held me back.”
The first single from Swanning’s LP, “Sleep My Pretties” finds Schemmer hurtling past these setbacks alarmingly. In making the record she brought in The Ambulars‘ Jen Twigg on bass and Radiator Hospital bandmate Jeff Bolt on drums, and Ali Donohue of Fleabite and Perfect Pussy has since joined the band on guitar. It makes sense that the sound that would stem from this arrangement would be sheer power—overblown bass and swaying drums that run into wailing guitars with each refrain. Schemmer’s voice is delicately threatening as she admits to doing her worst in a relationship with someone who has always had the upper hand. “My eyes are rot / forever in knots / forever unfair to you,” she sings, her harmonies blooming. Forever unfair, but crucially so, and not apologizing for it. Schemmer offered on the song:
With “Sleep My Pretties” I truly let myself feel anger. I wanted to give myself an unadulterated space to flow with it. The song addresses the people in my life who have hurt me—physically and emotionally. It took me years to come to terms with pain and to confront the people who repeatedly injected it into my life. It’s about stripping the power away from those who have wielded it over me, mentally or physically, and not letting them off easy. It’s about taking back your life.
Drawing Down the Moon is due out May 27 on Salinas Records and available for preorder now. You can hear “Sleep My Pretties” below.