The Big Sway’s new EP delivers four songs mixing punk, funk and a whole lot of fun. Courtesy photo from www.thebigsway.com
The Big Sway represent the heart and soul of Lowell’s young, underground music scene — loud, hard, and hell-bent on having fun. They thrive in basements and dive bars and party just as hard (if not harder) as their fans.
The band just dropped their second EP Goddamn!, recorded in Boston and lovingly mixed and mastered in Lowell at The Space, 150 Western Ave.
Although not all of the band’s members are from Lowell, The Big Sway has officially made Mill City one of the places they now call home. Howl sat down with founding members, guitarist Tim Zucco and bassist Joe MacFadzen, to talk about their latest record and what it’s like to be The Big Sway in Lowell.
Howl: Members of The Big Sway are from all over Massachusetts. One of you lives in Lowell now. How did you meet and form?
Joe MacFadzen: I’m the only one who’s lived in Lowell. I’m originally from Agawam, Mass. and so is our guitar player, Tim Zucco. Tim and I met there years ago when we were but wee lads riding BMX bikes and skateboards. I moved to Lowell for school in 2004 and found a surprisingly supportive creative scene here, and have lived here since. The Big Sway formed in August of 2007 when I was home from school for a summer, and Tim and I were both recently without bands.
Even simple things like getting together for practice involve a lot of driving, but we’re committed to the band and where it can bring us. The right combination of people is what is important, so we’re happy to crank up the radio and hit the road every once in a while in pursuit of what we feel is a good thing.
Howl: How would you describe the local music scene?
Joe: From my very closest point of view, Lowell provides a gritty backdrop for the “being in a band” lifestyle. It’s dirty. It’s drunk. It’s stoned, and it wants to stay up all fucking night. The Big Sway runs with some crazy bastards out here. Our core group of friends play hard, play heavy, passionately and obsessively. We party the same. Los Bungalitos, Old Grey, Hivesmasher, and Oh The Humanity are just a few examples of bands that love the life, and keep it going through all the hardships that seem to take out less dedicated bands, and continue to give it all they’ve got.
Howl: What’s your favorite place to hang and get rowdy in Lowell?
Joe: The Ant Cellar and The Worthen are the truest spots for Rock’n’Roll in Lowell. If you’re asking where to “get rowdy” though, it’s tough to say. The Ant Cellar provides the environment, but don’t fuck around there. Tom Southerton, a true hero of our scene, and operator of The Ant Cellar will immediately squash any outlandish behavior which could ultimately compromise the continued operation of his venue. I think we’ve all been on the receiving end of his pointed, dad-like wisdom on at least one point or another, but it can only be respected as it immediately becomes apparent his level of devotion to a truly good thing which serves us all. So yeah, rock on, but respect the Ant Cellar goddamnit. Pretty much the same goes for the Worthen. Josh will throw you on your ass if you’re being a fool.
View more pics and video of Big Sway in action here.
Howl: Have a favorite live moment from a show in Lowell?
Joe: Every once and again the stars align and a truly good show is assembled. Not the kind you have to beg people to attend, but the kind that practically promotes itself. A while back, we decided to book a show featuring every band whose members lived in a particularly legendary house of rock’n’rollers here in Lowell, at the dingiest bar with the cheapest beer in town — the late, great Furey’s (read more on the former Furey’s here).
The Big Sway played with Hivesmasher, Los Bungalitos, Old Grey, Pathogenic and Oh The Humanity in a room too small to contain even the members of all those bands alone. People were piled up around the stage, and practically spilling out of the place onto the sidewalk. I remember it was one of the first times ever, in the history of The Big Sway, people in the crowd were screaming our lyrics back at us along with the song. It was one of those really affirming moments where you suddenly realize, “whoa, what we’re doing means something.”
Howl: Tell me about the new record you just dropped. It’s an EP. Why not a full length?
Tim Zucco: We decided to record an EP for a few reasons, one of them being the kind of eclectic nature of the songs we chose. It made sense to put out four songs that we love, and represent a certain period of time for The Big Sway. They’re four very different songs that stand on their own. I kind of think the album title, Goddamn!, perhaps sort of humorously, reflects that. It also kind of serves as a stepping stone towards our next recording which will be a full length.
Howl: I hear a lot of punk in the album, it’s a bit of a mess — in that fun-but-controlled way. I also noticed a lot more vocals than you would have heard on an early Big Sway album. What are some of your influences and how did they play out on this record?
Tim: I can only speak for myself on this one, but a lot of my influence for this recording came from people like Frank Zappa and John Mclaughlin. It’s very subtle, but for me it’s definitely in there.
Joe: I listen to alot of Fugazi and The Clash. I’m a huge fan of musicality and lyrics while still maintaining the “punk” spirit, and like to hear political songs that come to represent their times. The lyrics for “Join Us”, for example, were inspired by a combination of my opinion of the embarrassing nature of politics during the election season in the U.S., as well as some personal conflicts in my own life. “Sprung a Leak” was written a little while back while the Gulf oil spill was in the news.
Howl: Where did you record the album, and what was that experience like?
Tim: Recording this album was a slightly different process than our last record, The Cheese EP. The Cheese we did front to back with Brian Redmond at The Space in Lowell. This one we decided to track with our friend Tom Saunders in his basement in Boston. We then brought those tracks to Brian [at The Space] for mixing and mastering.
The actual recording of the album was cool. We did it in about four sessions and it was pretty relaxed, until the mixing that is [laughs]. And that was kind of stressful because we wanted to have it out in time for the CD release show. Never book the CD release show until you’re positive the CD will be done [laughs].
Howl: Do you use The Space a lot?
Joe: The Space rules. Brian Redmond rules.
Howl: Where can we catch you playing next?
8 p.m. Friday, May 10 at The Stone Church, 5 Granite St. in Newmarket, N.H.; 11 p.m. Saturday, May 25 at Strange Creek Music Festival at Camp Kee-Wanee in Greenfield, Mass.; and more being booked every day so keep checking here.
Howl scribe Amanda Macchia is a freelance writer and photographer, whose work has appeared in several publications including MTV Iggy, Nomadic Wax, Performer Magazine and World Hip-Hop Market. Also an event and pit photographer, Amanda can often be found in the trenches at music festivals and concerts, dodging crowd surfers and super fans all while snagging her killer band shots. She earned her bachelor’s in English and sociology from UMass Lowell, where she is currently pursuing a master’s in regional economic and social development. She lives in and loves Lowell. Learn more about Amanda here.