The Black Swans' Jerry DeCicca Talks Touring, Larry Jon Wilson, and Vermont
The Black Swans Jerry DeCicca with some black swans
When preparing for an interview with a band I Google the hell out of them beforehand. In the case of Columbus, Ohio band The Black Swans, this task was a little more difficult than normal thanks to the movie Black Swan. In fact, when trying to find a photo to go along with this post, I ended up going through pages and pages of pictures of star Natalie Portman. Could've been worse, I suppose, I could've been doing an interview with the band Black Cock. (I swear that's a real band.)
But thanks to my expert search-engine skills, I was able to find out some info on The Black Swans. As it turns out they're pretty busy guys. In 2010, the group released its third album, Words Are Stupid, toured pretty heavily and still managed to find time to record two more records that are likely to come out this year.
Before the group is set to release its next record, most likely in April, it plans on doing some more touring. The group will be making a stop at the Trunk Space on Wednesday, January 12. Former Friends of Young Americans, Janelle Loes, and Los Vendidos are also on the bill.
We recently caught up with The Black Swans lead singer Jerry DeCicca to talk about the band's latest record, the difficulties of booking a tour, and how nice Vermont is.
Up On The Sun: How did the first portion of the tour go?
Jerry DeCicca: It went really well. It was like two and a half months or something like that and I booked it myself so all the drives, like none of the drives -- except for one or two -- was longer than three hours, which made everything pretty enjoyable. I mean, we were doing, like, four gigs in Maine and stuff like that, where you're driving 35, 45 minutes or something like that to another town. It just makes it a ton easier to be in the Northeast.
UOTS: What are some of the difficulties when you book your own tour?
JD: Well, there's a reason why booking agents make people drive seven or eight hours because sometimes that's how far you have to drive to get paid 'X' amount of money. When you do it on your own it's going to mean the opportunity to do some house shows and to play in a lot of towns that I haven't been to before. We're not just going to big cities and those kinda nights can be great. There are still people there who want to hear music. It's usually a cliche to say that just because somebody lives in small town they're not open to different types of music, to something that's not mainstream. A lot of times people in some of the smaller towns are excited that you're there so they're even more open-minded than most people are about trying new music and listening to new music that they're not already famiiar with.
The downside is without a booking agent you can go into some of these towns and the promoter is shitty to you or it may take 30 e-mails that are required to setup the show, you go back and forth and you get there and you get stiffed or something like that. That didn't very often. It's good but it's a lot of work. It's kinda hard to manage all that stuff when you're on tour.
UOTS: What were some of the turnouts you got in some of those smaller towns?
JD: You never know sometimes. I mean you can play a town four times and you go back the fifth time and it's just not a good show. So you don't know sometimes. But Maine was beautiful, when you go up to the northeast there's all these performance art spaces that have good soundsystems and are for sitting down and they are really engaged and are listening and that's when people buy your records and want to take your music home with them. Then there's stuff like Vermont was nice. The highlights for me were kind of between the shows, I got to go swimming in Walden Pond, that was great. We went to Daytona Beach one day and we got a really cheap room right on the ocean and it was still warm at the end of September. I went swimming at the end of November in Austin and just kind of having days like that. Nebraska is always good. Pretty much every day was good except for a couple which is incredible.
UOTS: In 2008 the bands violinist, Noel Sayre, died unexpectedly. Most of the music for the bands latest album Words Are Stupid were found on his hard drive after he passed away. What was it like working with that music?
JD: Part of it was we were already working on this record and he had recorded for this other record that is going to, I think, come out in April and then he got sidetracked to start working on this one. Part of it was strange because we were sharing his violin on songs he'd never heard, that didn't exist when he was alive and then the other part was it was just really interesting to structure songs in terms of writing the songs. That process was very different because you're not able to sit down with a guitar and write a song like you're structuring a whole thing around a piece that already exists. So creatively that was different for me and for the band but it was also strange. But it was a nice way to keep him in the band.
UOTS: What do you think his take on the final product would've been?
JD: I don't know. I think he would've liked the songs. He's the guy I started the band with and he was, besides my bandmate, we had been playing off and on for almost ten years before we even made our first record. I think he would like the record. I hope he likes the next one, he was alive when he played on that one. It's weird because we have this record coming out in April and he's been dead for almost three years by the time it comes out. It seems incredible. Whenever you lose somebody I think time moves in a very different way when you start having this little markers of time. It's hard to believe that it's been that long since he's been gone.
UOTS: Another project you worked on recently was a split 7" with Bonnie "Prince" Billy called Sing Larry Jon Wilson. You also did some prodcuing work with him. How did you first get exposed to Larry Jon Wilson's music?
JD: The first time I ever heard him he was in that film Heartworn Highways which I saw in probably like the mid '90s or something. He was only in it for maybe a couple of minutes and then I saw his records at a record store in Nashville and when I saw those I got those. Then I got to meet him because he was part of this group of other guys like Dan Penn and Tony Joe White, Donny Fritts, Billy Swan, that were sort of modeled after the Buena Vista Social Club or something like that but were like a bunch of older guys from the south in Dan Penn's basement and cutting one or two songs each and it was called Testify and I got hired to write the liner notes for that. So I got to go down there and then meet him at that point in Nashville and got to hang out with him for a couple of days. So that's kinda what started it and that's how I met him and then it was for the next three years having phone conversations and driving from Ohio to Nashville for his gigs.
UOTS: What other plans do you have for 2011?
JD: We've actually got two records done, so it's possible two records could come out. After we do another month of the US we're goin to go Spain, France and the UK. So it's going to be pretty busy. There are a couple of other things that are in the works.
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