They're not Pavement: Chatting with The Foul Swoops

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The Foul Swoops

The Foul Swoops have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride since their inception two years ago. The trio (and sometimes quartet) have dealt with a rotating lineup, relationship break-ups, and a mixture of fandom/criticism from their hometown scene of Washington DC. The group’s founders, brothers Sean and Devin Connell handled it in stride and with a fair amount of cheeky arrogance, and now it appears their persistence has paid off. This year has been full of highs that included opening for acts such as The Dirtbombs and Jeff The Brotherhood, a cover shot on The Washington City Paper, and treading the holy ground of The Fort Reno Concert Series. With one seven-inch under their belts, a new drummer (Laurie Spector) and a straightaway plan for glory (or at least a tour soon) it appears that the swagger pouring forth from the Foul Swoop’s garage-rock sound has merit.

Foul Swoops has been around for about two years with varying line-ups, but always with Sean and Devin serving as the core. What’s the exact origin of the band?

Devin: We were just recording and stuff at first.

Sean: Yeah, we just started putting out stuff we (Devin and I) had recorded years earlier under the Foul Swoops name. It’s weird it didn’t really have a set starting point. What happened was our friend got us a show with his band and Devin, me, and my girlfriend at the time who played keys were like “ok we’re a band now”. At first it was very experimental, DIY. We really like bands like Beat Happening and Half Japanese who make their own rules and music. Devin and I have always played the guitar, but with the keyboards it was a bit more like full band.

How did you guys get involved with music?

Sean: Well I use to play competitive baseball, but at a point in high school I realized I was never going to be a MLB player. I started playing guitar, smoking weed and listening to The Rolling Stones. Also Is This It came out when we were freshman in school and that had a major influence and became indie rock nerds. Now I work in record store and all I listen to is blues, oh and Unrest.

Devin: We were brought up on blues.

Sean: Yeah our dad is in a blues band.

Devin: A lot of blues and soul, that’s not always what we sound like but what we strive for. We want to be simple and soulful. We do as well as we can in DC (laughs).

Speaking of your penchant for DC shows, you guys have played with some fairly notable acts, including Shonen Knife, The Dirtbombs, Jeff the Brotherhood and Harlem. How have those shows come together?

Devin: It’s bands we listen to basically.

Sean: Part of the thing is that there aren’t a lot of bands in DC that match up well for opening for bands like Harlem, so Booking Agents kind of look towards us. A lot of times though it is that we want to play with them, because we like them and we want to impress and be a representation of a different part of the DC sound.

True, you guys seem to corner the small but burgeoning DC garage rock heard with bands like America Hearts and the Windian label. Has a community formed with people from those areas?

Sean: Yeah we are really good friends with Thee Lolitas. I heard one of their songs and was like “I want to see those guys play” and we’ve grown to be like best buddies with those guys. With The Cheiners we’ve known Dave for a long time. We know Travis (of Windian) now and are playing in his new band Beach Bloods. There is a lot of cool stuff going on in DC. We aren’t trying to be extremely one sound. We want to be a lot of different things. We would love to play Sonic Circuits and play Windian Festivals. We want to play for any pop band that we like who comes to town. We want to try all that, we don’t mind being called a garage or punk band but we don’t want to be the over the top punk band.

Are you still recording with Yeah Gates?

Sean: Yeah, there is going to be a compilation soon that we’ll be on.

Devin: And Windian.

Sean: Yeah. We’ll probably do something with Windian in the spring. We are open to whatever really.

It seems like people really like to bring up The Clean or Pavement when describing your sound. Do you agree with those comparisons?

Sean: We met David Kilgour last weekend. He’s like my hero it was like meeting Lou Reed or something. He was super cool. So getting compared to The Clean never gets old. I don’t think we sound like Pavement though.

Devin: Every band with skinny white dudes with guitars seems to get compared to Pavement.

Sean: Yeah, exactly maybe we have some of the stage mannerisms but I don’t know, I don’t even know what band we sound like. We don’t sound like Pavement though. I listened to them a lot in high school and we don’t sound like them.

Laurie, as the new member, are you hoping to bring in something different to The Foul Swoops?

Devin: She is basically holding down the rhythm section. She can play bass and she can play drums. Really fucking well. Sean and me already switch off and if she can hold down that stuff it will be really cool what we can do as a three piece.

Laurie: Yeah, I think the reason we have this connection in the first place is…

Sean: Don Zientara.

Laurie: Yeah, Don Zientara, he works at Inner Ear Studios. And yeah we are all passionate in music and we have a lot of things in common.

Devin: Homemade bongs, that’s how we do it.

Laurie: I don’t know if I’ll bring anything different, but every time line-up changes happen bands evolve and sound changes.

Devin: She gets it man.

Sean: Unrest didn’t really turn that corner until a female entered.

Yeah, I mean I know we are suppose to be in a gender blinded society by now, but I still find it really nice to see women in bands and it is something worth noticing.

Laurie: Yeah for me it is always really great to see women musicians. And I work at a record store and in audio engineering, very male dominated fields so I like being a woman in those fields and showing that women also hold those interests.

Sean: Foul Swoops have a very pro-woman stance. They should be in bands, buying music, coming to our shows. We always have 30-year old guys at our shows.

You guys have had a really busy summer playing both in the DC and Baltimore area. Are there particular reasons for recent uptick in shows and any plans for a larger tour?

Devin: We just really like playing live. It’s fun. Yeah Dana Murphy up in Baltimore has been helping us out a lot getting shows.

Sean: Yeah, we have her actively planning us shows. We don’t even have that in DC.

Devin: She knows her shit about creating a bill while in DC I don’t know… they don’t give a fuck.

Sean: We have some friends that are working with us in terms of touring. We’d really like to tour with Thee Lolitas. People keep asking us why we are playing shows every month in DC, implying that we should be focusing on a more national audience. But the bands I like are coming to DC and I want to play with them. I’m a record geek deep down, that’s just what I am. I really like music and I just want to live up to all the people I look up to who were before me.

How do you like playing in Baltimore in comparison to DC?

Devin: It’s nice. People are looser and stuff

Sean: People are ready to be entertained. There are more kids out and ready to go to shows. In DC it seems to just be the same 20 people or so at every show.

Devin: We haven’t had a bad experience up there. It’s been a lot of fun.

Sean: It seems like they might be more organized up there.

They do have a lot of good music also coming out of Baltimore, from Friends Records plus some really great DIY venues.

Sean: Yeah, a lot of good bands on the indie circuit skip over DC and play up there at Golden West or something. You can’t blame them they are really receptive and cool up there. Played some of our better shows up there.

Was there anytime this year where things became a turning point where you really felt like you were going to go full force with the band?

Sean: We just want to start a tour right now. We want to get a band house together but the bands that influenced us aren’t bands whose goal was to be popular or get rich. We just want to keep it going. Devin and I our brothers so we’ll always be there putting out music and probably under the Foul Swoops name. It’ll probably just go on forever. We like bands that you can trust, when their new album comes out you know you are going to like it. We want to be a band like that.

You guys have had lineup changes that could of broken up other bands quite easily. Has being brothers helped keep the band going?

Sean: We started together and now we are fucking doing this, because we’ve put all chips in together. I’ve left school, lost two girlfriends for this band.

Devin: We’re all on the same page together.

Sean: I’m sure sometime Devin and I will get on a fistfight on stage but that’ll just add to our show. My mom thinks we are such assholes to each other, but I’m down with this guy.

The Foul Swoops play tonight at DC9 with Frankie Rose and Dirty Beaches