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The four-piece Los Angeles indie group Louden Swain makes music best described as a combo platter of classic, alternative and hard rock. That makes for a sound both loud and approachable, one that can blow your hair back even as it touches your heart.
Fronted by lead singer and actor Rob Benedict, Louden Swain also includes bassist Mike Borja, lead guitarist Billy Moran and drummer Stephen Norton. The band is readying its fourth full-length recording – Eskimo, set to be issued in January 2012 on their own 3 Car Wreckords label.
Each new album has arrived brimming with gumption and sparky intellect, leading to a lot of early buzz: “The LA pop rock band has a polished sound reminiscent of Marvelous 3,” says Kayley Thomas of Pop Matters, “one that crackles and sparks with wit, humor, and a powerful mix of intellectual and musical playfulness and maturity. Bursting with energy and whimsy.”
That fizzy amalgam of sound ties together a wide array of influences. Benedict and Borja – who met while in college at Northwestern - formed an initial version of the band, and count as early influences indie/college rock legends like R.E.M., the Cure, the Pixies, Pavement and the Replacements, among others.
The original lineup, which included former guitarist David Wendell and Norton, released Louden Swain’s debut “Able-Legged Heroes” in 2001. The addition of Moran completed the band’s sound, as he and Norton brought in early musical influences from the hard rock/metal world – notably Kiss and Gun ’n Roses. The quartet’s common ground, early on, could be found in classic rock icons like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who – and that provided additional spices in their melting pot of musical textures.
“Today, we find ourselves listening to music just off the beaten path, but maybe not swaying too far,” Norton says, rattling off current hit-makers like My Morning Jacket, Foo Fighters, Wilco, Radiohead, the Black Keys and others. “We enjoy artists who push the boundaries while not alienating the listener.”
Louden Swain’s first album with Moran, 2009’s A Brand New Hurt, reflected the earliest flowerings of the band’s current sound, and began to rapidly expand its fanbase. In addition, Benedict’s connections to the acting world – he’s appeared on TV’s “Felicity,” “Alias” and “Supernatural” and films like “Waiting” have also attracted attention for the band. Recently they penned the tune “Help You” which was placed in the Jenna Fischer movie “A Little Help,” in which Benedict co-starred. A 2011 successful tour of Europe through England, Germany and Austria also brought Louden Swain to new audiences.
“We’ve been at this for a while, a little more than 10 years, and we’ve known each other for more than that,” Norton says. “We have a certain amount of maturity – this isn’t our first barbeque – and yet, we’ve done everything without a label. In many ways, we feel we’re just starting to break.”
Together they’ve formed a symbiotic relationship with fans, a big part of Louden Swain’s success so far. Members consistently connect with their fans via Social Media, and have been known to participate in lengthy post-show chat sessions. When Louden Swain plays “Medicated,” from A Brand New Hurt, it memorably includes a fun little kazoo solo and during shows fans have taken to bringing their own kazoos to play along. That fits the band’s core attitude about things: “Don’t take yourself too seriously; it’s better just to laugh,” Norton says.
Louden Swain now aims to build on their already considerable momentum with the forthcoming Eskimo, featuring lead single “CA Nation,” a Red Hot Chili Peppers-infused power-pop song. The album boasts 13 tracks that are some of the bands’ most polished to date, partly due to the fact that the band enlisted the help of some expert industry veterans. The album was mixed by Joe McGrath (Ryan Adams, Green Day, B.B. King), Mike Farrell (Morrissey, Macy Gray) guested on keyboards, and the finishing touches on the album were provided by the Grammy winning mastering of Gavin Lurssen.
- By Nick DeRiso