Josh Swan has had a big year. After the departure from his previous project Elegant Shiva, he spent the end of 2017 locked inland at his father's farm, saving cash for his future musical ambitions and taking time out to write new material. The journey seems to have been one twist of fate after another.
With two new projects on the go we talked over coffee about his collaboration with New Yorker Alec Gaston as ‘Blitzpop’ and his new solo project ‘Joshua Tree’.
BSA: Hey Josh, so first up you just got back from Party in the Paddock in Tassie, playing as your latest solo project Joshua Tree. How was that?
JS: Yeah it was awesome. I just hung out with The Drop Legs. Jaime and I just running around soaking up all of the amazing music. It was great!
BSA: So ‘Joshua Tree’ - clues in the name hey?! ‘Trees a Party’ never eventuated?
JS: Haha, yeah, thought of so many names, usually attached to some dad joke or witty play on words..but after going through the whole thesaurus I was like fuck it, my names who I am, I’m not a cartoon character.
I just have a feeling with ‘Tree’s a Party’ that I can’t really grow old into that…. I’ll be all like ‘What was I thinking?? Damn youth. Reckless’
BSA: Before we talk any more about the solo stuff I just want to touch briefly on last year. It sounded pretty huge! Elegant Shiva ended. You met Alec Gaston went to LA to record. You’ve got labels potentially on the verge of signing. Tell us a bit about that.
JS: Yeah in January last year I took myself out to the farm to write and a couple of weeks later I met Alec. It was a pretty cool chance meeting through a mutual friend and we just clicked straight away. Surfing, skating, partying in Byron a bit, talking music.
We went out to the farm shortly after to play some music and do some writing and overnight we had written an album!
It all happened in a whirlwind and the following week we were in LA recording! We found our selves in a pool house in Hollywood for a while just writing, eating burritos, beers and playing pool at our favourite dive bar ‘Starlight Cantina’. It was a good time.
A couple of months later we went back and found ourselves lining up industry meetings and seeing us write and record a couple more albums. We’re now actually sitting on soo much unreleased material.
We’ll look at releasing some material soon, but we’re just waiting on some potential opportunities for where we can take it. It’s a bit like we’re kind of sitting on one of those moments where you’re like ‘we could receive a call at any moment’ and that could change our life
BSA: But in the meantime Joshua Tree?
Yeah, last year was so polarising! When I wasn’t in LA or skating or making film clips in NY I was out back at the farm helping my dad out with one of his properties. It was fast lane and bright lights, to horses and calm paddock breezes. It felt great though, just to ground me and bring me back to earth.
Right now I’m really happy doing my own solo thing with Joshua Tree while Alec is based in New York I’m over here in Currumbin. I’m really happy just basing myself here right now and writing songs and being guitar fit. I don’t want to get the call to go and not have my head in the zone with the music, so I’m just trying to stay focussed on that and getting stuff ready for release.
I’ve been locked in my bedroom for the past two weeks just recording a bunch of new songs and totally loosing myself in it. You know, the sort of times when showering and eating goes out the window. I’m feeling so grateful to have Jamie in my life to remind me to actually feed myself!
It’s been great though. I wrote a track recently that just came out and I was like ‘This is it. This is the sound’ and it all seemed to come together. I have this big desert scene on my wall and it was one of those moments when the name clicked, the sound…kind of ‘Eureka’!
BSA: So is the music sitting within the same genre as your previous work do you think? Compared to what you were doing before with Elegant Shiva? Or has it evolved from there into something very different?
JS: Yeah, a bit. I went through a bit of a songwriter phase and was writing very emotive songs and then I guess I’m just happy now. Haha. I went from kind of angsty songs to more emotive music and I just sort of feel like I’m so happy now and being in love rather than singing about constant heartbreak haha. I actually sat down last week with the bass again and this song just came out and I was like ‘Wow’ and then just another one came out, so yeah I think maybe I’m going back to my roots again.
It’s very much more thought about now. It’s not just noise. I’m writing drums now to accompany the bass and everything just seems to make sense. It feels more intelligent with harmony and melodies more thought about, rather than just driving through things. It feels bigger if I just play big open hell notes rather than just chugging through it.
It’s definitely a two piece thing. I wanted to write something that I could play as a two piece but then have a guitarist and play a three piece if I want but as a two piece it still holds its own. It’s spacious but it doesn’t sound empty without a guitar. I’ve always just played and written as a two piece. It’s just what I do. I guess stick to what you’re good at? Haha.
BSA: Have you got plans to record it anywhere?
Um it’s yet to be decided but I think I’m gonna record it with Julian Schweitzer, a guy who’s in Melbourne now. He was in a band called Sunflowers from Brisbane when I was like 18. He was the drummer and they were just my favourite band. They brought out one album and then disbanded. He’s the same producer that I went to melbourne with and recorded King Coaster. We’re just very much on the same page. King Coaster and I did some pre-production at the farm before we all went down for that and I was all ‘I think the songs should go like this’ and went to Melbourne and Julian said the exact same thing, so I was like, yeah ok, cool we’re on the same page. Jarryd (King Coaster) is playing drums on this .
BSA: So 2019 is looking like a good year all round hey?
JS: I was saying to Jaime last night, I just want to look back on this time when it was on the verge of so many amazing things happening and I’ve got $150 to my name but this massive creative influx of stuff by myself, which I’ve never had before. And the struggle is definitely part of it.