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article imageInterview with Dan Swan from Low Rent Special

By Adrian Peel     Jul 1, 2014 in Music
Singer, guitarist and songwriter-in-chief with the Australian alt-country rockers discusses the band's latest EP with Digital Journal.
With an original line-up of brothers, Dan and Tim Swan - plus their father Mike - Melbourne-based purveyors of Alternative Country, Low Rent, started out very much as a family affair back in 2007.
Their ranks were subsequently swelled by the inclusion of Mike Landells on lead guitar, Regan Wood on drums and Cynthia Gallie on supporting vocals, leading to further success and the chance to work with some of the biggest names on the Aussie scene.
July 1st 2014 saw the release of Low Rent's stunning new EP,
Grace Radio
, the group's third to date (their penchant for making EPs began with 2008's Waiting to Fall) and I chatted to the very affable Dan Swan to find out more.
"We've been busy working away on the EP," says the multi-talented musician and lyricist, who writes and also produces much of the band's material himself. "It's been about a nine-month process, including pre-production and then actual production in the studio, mixing and mastering..."
Although they have done a full album together (2013's Words on the Wind), the fast-rising six-piece does seem to favour EPs over LPs and I enquired into the reasons behind this.
"I think the answer to that question lies in how the music industry really works now," explains Dan. "The fact that you've got to spend so much time and money in the studio on a full-length record... and by the time it reaches the audience, they're only listening to one song on You Tube and then moving on to the next act.
"I guess I'm trying to invite some incentive to again buy a full EP, a series of songs. I've chosen to add a concept to Grace Radio where all five songs are connected, in a way. I think I'm gonna release EPs for the next little while just with that process in mind."
As an indication of the status within the industry that the group has worked hard to achieve, renowned country rebel and ex-husband of Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, assisted with the project. How did that come about?
"Shane knew of the band when I got in touch with him... Early on we threw the idea of him producing the record around, or having some kind of involvement, and we eventually landed at him mixing it because he's got his own home studio up in New South Wales.
"I had to wait about three months for his schedule to clear up and to find a pocket of time for him to work on the record, but he took it on at a one song a day sort of pace and mixed it in that way. He really gave each song its due worth, it's due time, and when I got it back I was so happy. Often his first versions of the songs were right on the money. He was great to work with."
Ruminating over the differences between this EP, mastered incidentally by the very prolific Jeff McCormack, and his previous efforts, Dan states, "Any writing is best if it's something that's been lived before, or been experienced before, so I think I've opened the door a little bit more in the lyrics to events that I've experienced.
"How it differs to other albums, I guess the lyric writing was perhaps a little bit more cryptic; I wasn't as to-the-point with some of the song meanings and how I was getting to those meanings... What we like to do as well is change the instrumentation every time we go back into the studio, so with Grace Radio we stripped everything back - we've got a lot less going on.
"But that lets us introduce things like horns, which we'd never used before, and that really gives it a new flavour and a new angle. It's a lot of fun being able to do that."
"Grace Radio is essentially a concept record, much like a '70s rock band when that sort of thing was really popular" continues Low Rent's leading light, going into further detail into how the five songs that make up the EP came to fruition. "I took on the idea of films as well for this record...
"Most of us in the band are really big film buffs and there are a few films in particular that started to give us ideas for the concept. There are emotions and things that were being asked of the audience that we wanted to ask as well."
When requested to name stand-out tracks on the EP, the qualified sound engineer, who cites his father and The Beatles as his two biggest musical influences, replies: "My favourite tune is 'The Highway Ends In Night' - that's the closing tune on the EP. That's a special song to me.
"I was listening to a lot of soul music at the time and it's interesting to listen to that tune now as I didn't really see that influence when it was taking shape... I also enjoyed writing the single and title track, 'Grace Radio'. That was the one with the most flow - that song really wanted to live when I started working on it.
"I think it was finished in about ten minutes, but the opening track,
'Chains Of My Withering Heart', that took about six months to get to a point that I was really happy with."
To conclude, Dan filled me in on the unique family dynamic that remains at the heart of his band's sound.
"My father would always have an acoustic guitar sitting around when I was growing up. Before long I was playing that and we decided to start playing together, just cover songs in those early days, but eventually I started to introduce my own writing into that format.
"We started playing shows around town as a three-piece, a really folky sort of outfit, but we were playing in between bands that had a full bass sound and a full drum sound and multi-vocalists and things like this, so we thought, 'Why don't we try adding some of these things too?'
"Now it means that when we play a set, we can play that folky stuff, or we can play the really rocky country stuff as well and pick and choose songs that suit a night and suit a venue."
Grace Radio is available now on iTunes.
For more information, visit Low Rent's official website.
More about dan swan, low rent, altcountry, Australia, shane nicholson
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