Swallows comeback show & the joy of working closely with a band
I did a blog recently about how cool it is I get to use my job to get to photograph some of my favourite bands in the world. You can probably read that over on the right hand side there if I’ve done this right. If I haven’t…come give me abuse about it on my socials.
But what that blog doesn’t really touch on, at least not as much as it should, is how much more rewarding it is to work with bands rather than for the press. At least for me anyway. I’m lucky enough that a few sick bands in Glasgow have taken me under their wing, but I’ve possibly worked with Swallows the most. It’s been the best journey. (Did you notice that sick wing pun? Pretty good right? That’s the benefits of an expensive education right there.)
I first met Swallows…sometime ago I guess. I forget when. It was when I first started blogging about music. I saw them live and they were great. Even if some of the songs were a bit dubious in retrospect. I ended up telling them I thought it was great and got invited to write about another show. And then another. When I started taking not so great pictures at shows they kept inviting me back. What swell guys. The different friendship makes to creative collaboration can’t be overstated.
Photographing a band as ferocious and unpredictable live as Swallows was a real challenge for me. A super steep learning curve, but if I had to put money on the band that helped me develop what we’ll call my ‘style’ (for lack of a better term) it’d be them. I learned how to use flash in badly lit venues shooting them. I learned how rubbish using flash is by shooting them.
I really got to terms with the idea of moving to capture a shot shooting them. I became intimately aware of how important quick control of your settings are by shooting them. And by learning their music and stage presence inside out I was able to work with them cohesively to capture the best moments in their performances.
Go team! Or something. I don’t know what people in sports say. I’m an arts graduate with a tweed fetish.
The most rewarding thing though? Not shooting their shows, but getting to document them as artists. Or creatives. Or whatever vaguely wanky, but accurate, term takes your fancy. I’ve been invited into the band’s rehearsal space to document their song-writing, into the studio to photograph them working on their EP and into the van to shoot their brief tours. They even put one of my photos on a shirt of theirs. Sick right?
That kind of access, that kind of trust, is where the best photos come from. The closer you get to artists, the more you understand them, the better you can capture those unique moments that set them apart from their peers.
Recently, Swallows have undergone a pretty huge personnel change. They lost a singer and a guitarist and had to essentially fight for their very survival while they dealt with recording difficulties and a line-up change at the same time. That a band as close knit as Swallows has even survived is something of a triumph.
The resulting EP, ‘Haunted’, is pretty great. It’s strength certainly lies in its raw emotion. From beginning to end it’s a ferocious run through some seriously emotive ideas delivering with the kind of aggressive passion that makes heavy music so great in the first place.
It’s not a totally flawless recording mix wise, but those songs are all bursting with great ideas and the more you get to know them the more you get out of it. I’ve heard those songs since they first entered the band’s live set and I’m not tired of them yet. There’s something about music that’s as sincere and raw as exposed nerve which never gets old.
Also that riff to “Letting Go” is pretty catchy.
It’s a different band now from the one I’ve known. The sets feel less chaotic but more brooding. The intensity has shifted from unpredictability to menace. It’s maybe more of a step sideways than a step forwards, but I’m excited to get the chance to follow them down this new path. Their comeback show washed any potential doubts from my mind. Getting to photograph it was a joy, as always.
“Haunted” is out now and you can find it on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp and stuff. The band are back on the live circuit too. Go see them sometime. Then you can see sweet rock moves like this.