Gig Seeker Pro


Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Electronic Psychedelic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Swahili, "Bardo""

Having spent six years weaving threads from global pop, ’70s space disco, and post-punk, Portland five-piece Swahili have cultivated a psychedelic language of their own. Three of those six years have been devoted to their upcoming record, entitled AMOVREVX, which means “The Lover” in the Tarot de Marseilles. They say the album makes a more overt maneuver into the realm of pop—but it appears it will also manage to exceed the richness of texture that they’ve become known for.
“Bardo” is an arresting 11-minute jammer that resonates as much corporeally as it does aurally: between danceable rhythms and a throbbing bassline (whether in the form of synthesizer or guitar), it resonates through the body. The track’s opening is chilling, with a low, pervasive synthetic pulse driving the entrance of rolling waves of synths and a haunting, reverberant voice—but lest we be fooled, the chill gives way to the warm sounds of tribal drums, big bass guitar, and frontwoman Van Pham’s vocals, which are sweet and inviting as a contrast to the eerie sounds of before. Once it establishes this pace, it becomes a groovy pop tune with blips of synths and bright, funky guitar riffs that explode out into a frenzy of instrumentation, while Pham’s vocal harmonies ascend to the point of a halt in the sound. But on this track all breaks are temporary, mere detours to a revived sound—and indeed, Swahili dives right back into the groove with renewed energy. Though just a taste of what’s in store on the new album, this is a potent one. - Impose Magazine

"New Music: Swahili - Vestal"

Portland-based band Swahili, who it's difficult to mention in a post-'Yeezus' world without feeling the urge to label them as "swaghili", make music for your brain and for your limbs. Citing Philip K. Dick and 70s disco as major influences, the band have moved away from the industrial drone they were enamoured with on their debut and are now making tightly-wound psychedelic pop with a tantalising vocal that reminds me a little of the bird-like lightness in Aïsha Devi's work. Vestal is the first single from their upcoming full-length project, and is both thoroughly danceable and thoroughly daydream-inducing. - Dummy Mag

"Swahili S/T LP Review"

The relationship between ritualistic drumming and consciousness alteration is an age old tradition stemming largely from the overlooked shamanic cultures of antiquity. It should go without saying that viewing the supposed "triumph" of Western materialism thought over the more "primitive" concepts of animism is a retardedly short-sighted way of oversimplifying the universe, but that's the way most of us look at it. Those crazy shamans, wasting all their time with that useless spirituality. It's hard to blame us; we've been mind-raped from the jump by our society. How many beer commercials have I seen in my life? I'm sure the number's in the tens of thousands. So, whereas conventional science won't even come close to acknowledging this reality, it should be somewhat obvious that repetitive rhythmic patterns have the ability to create powerful trance like mind states either by themselves or more effectively, when used in conjunction with certain psychoactive substances (this band's MySpace layout has giant mushrooms floating around in the background -- I'm just saying).

This research is not being done, and it probably never will be due to the psychotic "war on consciousness," as Graham Hancock refers to it, so forays into this type of calculated experimentation fall into the hands of artists, musicians, casual thrill-seekers, and neurological outlaws... which is where a band like Swahili comes in. Oh, did I mention that I can't stand drum circles? Yeah, I've walked out of more than a few parties when they've spontaneously mobilized. Which is what's kind of interesting about this new brand of psychedelic culture that's emerging. Whereas hippies are hell bent on worshipping at the altar of the past, the urban tripster is starting to take the reins and push things firmly towards ecstatic hyperspace.

It's not that the drum circle isn't a fine way of screwing with your head; it's just boring. Clichéd. Played out. Take your pick. It's 2011. We've got Xboxes, smart phones, gajillions of FX pedals, sequencers, and all other manner of random auditory gadgetry at our disposal. Just a bunch of hippies playing drums? Booooooooring. Oh, and it's been done. God, Phish suck too, and I've always thought Grateful Dead were insanely mediocre. Jerry Garcia was a fucking heroin addict, for Christ's sake. I don't know; that stuff just doesn't have much of an effect on my headspace when I listen to it, other than that it fades into the background like muzak in an elevator.

I suppose the problem with both the rave scene, and the hippie movement (and really the New Age movement, in spiritual terms) is the insistence on ignoring or not even acknowledging your dark side. If you do this, it will destroy you, which is kind of what we saw in both cases. There's got to be a balance between the two -- the angelic and demonic, the yin and the yang, chaos and order, structure and anti-structure, etc. If you think, "All you need is love," then why the fuck do we spend half our money on imperialistic wars? Why are the drugs that made you think, "All you needed was love," illegal in the first place? Fortunately, a new brand of bands like Liars, Prince Rama, and now Portland's Swahili are cropping up and reclaiming the trance drum ritual as a legitimate art form.

It's a cool idea. This album is all about non-stop beats constantly pounding their way into your aura and boldly warping your thought patterns. These guys aren't huge on melody, but when the witch vocals kick in on the album's true stand-out track, "Soma," it's the kind of unholy sacrament that communicates the presence of the divine uncanny and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. The rest of the album is dense with succulent pulsing rhythms, calculated keyboard mindfuckery, and otherworldly dream incantations. So basically, it kind of owns. But you really need to see these kids live to catch the full effect. Having caught them at the Josephine last week, I had this experience where I was trying to focus the contents of my mind's eye on some calculated sigils, when out of nowhere, the music took control and transformed them into the eye of abstract character sketch I made like ten years ago. I kind of floated back and forth through the colossal thought form Cyclops while the beats intensified and guided my visions. Neither science nor religion will ever be able to properly explain how this kind of thing happens, or why -- so fuck 'em.
- Redefine Magazine

"Revolt of the Apes Interview"


One of the most unexpectedly uplifting surprises of the year has been becoming fluent in the language of Swahili – being in this case the extraordinary band of altered-state enthusiasts from the Pacific Northwest.

Learning the language of Swahili – as spoken through synth, drum, drone and the occasional well-placed moan on their spectacular, self-assured, self-titled debut album – requires little advance notice from the listener. Rather, if you are at all interested in visiting the place where rhythm and radicalism (in both the musical and spiritual sense) intersect, you are likely to be captivated from the spine-straightening start of Swahili’s forty-six minute language immersion ceremony.

With our highest possible recommendation, we encourage you to take a language lesson from Swahili in the immediate future, and read the advanced course materials graciously provided below, by band member Troy.

The name Swahili seems as if it could be easily misconstrued or, at the very least, send some would-be listeners down a path of Google frustration. What does the name mean to you?

Swahili is one of the world’s oldest living languages. To us, all communication, whether visual, aural, touch, etc., is language. To paraphrase Terence McKenna, everything we experience is made up of language. The word Swahili can also evoke the archaic, the return to tribal living, and music as the center of communal spirituality. We also considered it a nod to This Heat; one of the big early influences on this band was their album “Deceit.” It’s an album looking back on western civilization’s mistakes and the noise that accompanies such a fall. As a band, we hope to be witness to this decline and provide a soundtrack that inspires people to look inwardly as our society fails outwardly.

Is there a single album or live performance that revealed itself to you as illuminating an until-then hidden path of personal musical exploration? Have esoteric sounds always made such an impact on you? How has your impression of music changed over the years for you, as you’ve transitioned from a music listener to a music creator?

One single experience? No. There are those sweaty basement shows that will always have a special place in our hearts. We’ve all been creating and playing music for a long time. What’s different for us with this band is our creative process. We collectively decided to stop “writing” songs, choosing instead to improvise over grooves and letting the material write itself. This way, there is a sixth, ever-present member of the band making itself known through the language of spontaneous sound. Can made music this way and they remain one of our main influences. The entire latter 20th century move toward minimalist composition is something that fascinates us. Cage, James Brown, Eno, The Velvet Underground, Fela Kuti, and the way their ideas were integrated so effectively into the rock and roll experience have helped shape us.

But these ideas have always been essential ingredients in what we collectively call “ethnic” or “world” music. Our taste for the esoteric I think is a search for something genuine. Your hear those Sublime Frequencies compilations and at first they sound otherworldly and cosmic. We are so accustomed to pre-packaged, fully glossed and ready-to-print music in the modern world, when we hear something so pure it might sound alien but it is real folk making folk music.

What led to the formation of Swahili? What experience did you have playing in other bands before this one? Did you have any experience playing with the other members prior to Swahili?

I guess Swahili started as a home recording project with a different name in the strange and frustrating era of Bush. This project would be the roots of Swahili. Troy and Ryan were in a hardcore band in high school. I had been performing experimental music around Reno. Ryan showed up to one of the shows and then we started making music soon after. A few months later Troy showed up and joined the project. After that record was completed it was another year or two before the line-up gelled into our family of five. Once that happened, we all opted to throw that project away, along with the material, in favor of the more communal and alchemical Swahili.

The extent of our knowledge in regard to topics like traditional African music and poly-rhythms begins and ends with once reading about Ginger Baker playing with Fela Kuti. How do these things factor in to the music you create with Swahili? Do you have a sense of translating the rhythms associated with music from Africa or Germany toward a result that connects more immediately with your current surroundings? Meaning that in the face of these influences, Swahili does not sound like a band “trying” to sound like a Krautrock band – and this is meant to be a compliment (and perhaps the longest path toward one).

We consider poly-rhythms a form of communication more ancient than speech patterns. The trance state that accompanies repetitive rhythms is a gift. We think the exploration of this gift is a sacred and inspirational thing. Jaki Leibziet, Ginger Baker, Fela, and Klaus Dinger are all incredible explorers of this tradition. The high altered states that we experience in repetitive trance rhythms are a spiritual wonder that is part of being human. These are nebulous, undefinable places and as our songs write themselves, they become a sort of map to these territories. The Germans were the first and greatest cartographers in rock and roll. But archaic cultures have been making maps for years – i.e. the “icaros” of South American shamanic culture are capable of guiding the listener directly into places where psycho-spiritual healing is more likely to happen. This is deeply strange, spiritual work all possible through trance music.

Your self-titled album contains titles like “Invocation” and “Chapel.” Are there distinct spiritual experiences or ideas that you are trying to reference in your music? Is the connection between the spiritual and the musical one that you spend much time contemplating, either in direct relation to the music of Swahili or in your life as a whole?

This album is meant to evoke ceremony. This record thematically is about the search for the direct mystical experience. “Ok, show me what you got.” Taking the approach of history’s mystics, the most astonishing form of this appears to be the out-of-body experience. Some ancient guy will have an out-of-body episode and return to his society screaming and proselytizing about seeing and and talking to GOD and within a century a whole religion is born. We have little interest in being religious, but for the last few years we have been searching for direct communication through music, meditation and medicine. There is a great deal of healing and self-work one must go through to achieve such high states of consciousness and this record is about our growth, not about the altered states themselves. This is why the album ends with with “Contact,” a song about meeting angelic beings while under the influence of strong tryptamine medicines. The album beings with entrance into the “Chapel,” a reference to Robert Anton Wilson’s take on the existential/spiritual crisis he refers to as “Chapel Perilous.” Once you enter the chapel, the only way out is through the other side. Otherwise you must create a life of denial and ignorance of truth. I found that after entering into Chapel Perilous, the ego became essentially worthless. “Invocation” is about the breakdown of the ego and the awakening of the third eye. “Into One” is a song about the powerful “all life is connected” thing that presents itself within the mystical state. As a modern human, it’s hard not to be apprehensive or suspicious of such worlds, because they are so strange and different than our own relative reality. So a song like “Fallout” is about the repercussions of opting for the search and the fear that you might never make it out of the Chapel. The good news is that we all seem to have come out the other side, as healthier and kinder monkeys. The next record will be about the excited exploration of our new neuro-space. There will be funk.

What music have you been listening to lately? Push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Can song of all time?

A lot of newer electronic bass, house. This guy Perc is killing me. Always lots of dub, reggae, Cambodian rock and exotica. Errrr … who is this “Can” you speak of?

Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor I am attempting the start right now) that you will soon record a tribute to the late Marvin Gaye, to be released on an upcoming picture-disc seven-inch, entitled “Sexual Swahili-ing”?

When 2Pac approached us with this idea, we were like, sheeeeeet – aighiiight man. For you, dogg … for you.

Even among an album of ear-crushing sounds and unforgettable moods, the song “Agni” stands out as notable, with a beat that approaches grindcore velocity, yet maintaining cohesion with the rest of the album. What can you tell us about the creation of this track? How do you feel the music created by Swahili differs in the live performance setting from what we hear recorded?

“Soma” and “Agni” were written together as a representation of the water/fire mythos. Side A represents the long journey to the gates of understanding. Side B, however, is the beginning stages to the path of enlightenment. Being that they are the most aggressive songs on the album, we wanted them to represent the darker arch of the path/journey. Psychedelics, music, painting, travel … the great things in our lives are rewarding on the spiritual level, but are often hard, stressful work on the physical monkey mind and body. This dichotomy is so overwhelming, so strange, it often feels like a permanent condition. “Agni” is a reflection of that burden, the force that the individual must will in order to reach contact and understand that her soul’s “permanent condition” is more of an impermanent situation.

To us, recording and playing live are totally different art forms, because … well, they are. Is art a process or it is the product? We’d rather not make that distinction, but the studio is certainly a mechanism for totally different result than a theatre. We have all had intensely beautiful experiences on live music and recorded music. Live, no song is ever performed the same way twice, and the way we use echo, live looping and improv guarantees that no song will ever be “finished” as long as we play it live. We love treating the material as jumping off points for spontaneous live composition and as we grow as artists together we have been challenging ourselves to get more loose and to reevaluate the possibilities in our work. This helps keep it fresh. Most of the songs on this album were written in ’08 and ’09 and now they are just being released, so there is an added element of freedom when messing with the older stuff live. We want to be good parents to our babies and let them grow on their own. “Agni” is a song that started off as a fun, high-octane live thing for months, only to blossom in a totally different direction once we got creative with some studio trickery. Now she’s a very important lady.

Recording is a wonderful but frustrating beast to undertake. To me, it’s more like painting a large mural. You have to make decisions and stick with them to progress. This is the fifth record I’ve self-produced and it was the most challenging by far. Troy did an outstanding job as co-producer and make it feel less overwhelming as a whole. Still, it took over a year to complete. Being a DIY band has limitations that are hard to ignore as a producer. You think, “I need a Neve or a Mellotron to get this right,” but you have zero dollars and instantly your imagination has to get creative or just go suck it. We went through a lot of effort to get a well mic’d “surround” kind of drum sound. Ultimately, we found a lot of this record worked better in the mud, with cheaper gear and ugly spaces. There are many sounds that come from hub caps, contact mics, fuzz pedals and reverb. I’m obsessed with juxtaposing these harsh rhythmic sounds with lush electronic environments and will probably be for most of my career. We love the ideals of electronic music and often times turning to those ideas saved us from lusting over expensive gear and a “tight” mix. The environment we wanted to make – we got there anyway.

In the book “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles,” author Richard Dowden says the following:

“Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they start to understand why, until then, they have only half-lived. In Africa, the essentials of existence – light, earth,water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives, we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.”

Your thoughts?

Though all of us would like to visit Africa one day, none of us have been to the mother continent. The pilgrimage seems to draw direct parallels between the psychedelic experience. The magickal medicines allow the user to make a direct connection with a spiritual plane where the essentials of life become much more real and important, leaving the daily cultural norm feeling silly.

As Swahili transformed from a band to a family over the last few years, our collective worldview has become much more based in the teachings of that direct experience. It doesn’t rely much on the expectations of our current culture. For us, success is defined by the ability to make the art that we desire and to make it without compromise. This is the most essential thing to Swahili and we are reminded daily how lucky we are to be able to take part in the creation of something bigger than ourselves.

What’s next for Swahili?

First there will be a house-heavy three or four song EP that we are getting ready to record later this month. We want to release that as a more traditional DJ-oriented club 12? with remixes. But we are fully ready to record the next album. It will be a totally different experience. The first one ends with contact, so this one will deal with the implications of such a breakthrough. The vocal narrative will be nearly all female. The whole experience will be much sexier, groovier, pulsing. The songs seems to be requesting an album of psychonautic baby-making music magick. Ultimately the songs will always make the album known through the process. We just need to be there as alchemists, ready to receive instruction.
- Revolt of the Apes

"Paranoid Androids"

Paranoid androids
Panic Opera

By Brent Busboom

Walking into the home where Panic Opera’s rehearsal studio is located, one thing is immediately obvious—the band is not going to sound like Coldplay. For nestled among the shelves of the large, black bookcase, which runs the length of the wall, are titles that easily could constitute a counterculture reading list: William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Bertrand Russell’s Essays in Skepticism, Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and Howard Zinn’s The Zinn Reader. Let your eye drop down a few shelves and you’ll discover movies (Citizen Kane, Being John Malkovich, The Man Who Fell to Earth), CDs (Devo, Foetus, Miles Davis), and even two copies of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen (actually three copies, if you count the special edition Absolute Watchmen). These items sum up the band’s primary themes: conspiracies, cultural criticism and elevated consciousness.

But what’s especially interesting about the collection is that guitarist and lead singer J. Lee Vineyard and bass player John Griffin grew up in fundamentalist Christian households where items such as these were seen as signs of certain damnation. But rather than lead to evangelical fervor, their upbringing led them to rebel and look for other answers.

“I just like to challenge my brain and make it think in different ways,” says Vineyard. “I don’t think the society we live in is healthy. Basically, at this point, Panic Opera is about that paranoia that derives from the Western mind, as well as occultism, conspiracy theory and corporatocracy.”

Along with these influences, Panic Opera is sonically influenced by the punk and post-punk music of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time, Vineyard says, when, “The bass, drums and rhythm section were introduced into the rock song in a different way. Instead of having cathartic moments, it was just kinetic energy.”

In its original inception, the band was primarily a studio project, but now incorporates a collective approach, using the talents and tastes of all its members—drummer Ryan Schofield, guitarist and percussionist Troy Micheau and keyboardist (and occasional RN&R contributor) Van Pham round out the quintet.

“It’s five people’s energies, five people’s input, and five people’s effort,” Vineyard says. “The first record is everything I had in my head since I was 14. It was about paranoia, the death of God, and all those things. Our current stuff is more like The Clash—like, yeah, things are fucked up, but what are you going to do about it?”

While many bands favor the voice, putting lyrics front and center with the music offering a supportive backdrop, Panic Opera believes the voice is just another instrument, no different than a guitar or keyboard. As such, words are often chosen not only for their meaning, but also for their sounds.

“We’re willing to sacrifice some coherence for what seems sonically appropriate,” says Pham. “Rather than full sentences, we’ll stick to a theme and if, say, a vowel would sound better in a particular space, we’re willing to change things around so we can get it in the right spot.”

Despite this philosophy, Vineyard says that each song tells a story and is often told from the perspective of various characters, from Abraham Lincoln to Jack the Ripper.

“In our current lineup, I play a lot of people,” he says. “I’m also throwing more questions out to the audience. I mean, these are rock songs, but we still want to take it into really strange territory.”
- Reno News and Review

"Indie bands help themselves through home studios"

Indie bands help themselves through home studios

By Clint Demeritt

Record labels once had total control of the recording studios that are the gateways for bands to get their music to the masses. But with recording equipment and software becoming ever cheaper, local musicians have been taking the keys to their audience away from labels.

About half of the local bands in the Reno area self-record their own albums, said David Calkins, owner of Reno record shop Discology. Calkins said self-recording has been an affordable proposition only in the last 10 years.

Calkins said some bands will simply record a live show and release it, or some do it in their own bedroom. He said bands sometimes use these recordings as a demo tape and then rerecord the albums when they get signed.

“It takes power away from the record companies and empowers bands,” Calkins said. “It shows doing it yourself is always the way to go.”

Calkins pointed to local band Hell Bound Glory, who recorded an album that wasn’t even mastered. The band then rerecorded some songs in an Oakland studio after they got signed to a label.

J. Lee Vineyard, vocalist and guitarist for Panic Opera, said that when he started recording at home, he also became the sound engineer and producer.

Vineyard said concocting their own studio not only gave Panic Opera more time to work on its music, but a new way to create it. The process is like rock and roll vodka.

He said the band doesn’t write music as much anymore, but they have long jam sessions. The band then picks out a bass line or guitar rift they like and puts them together in later sessions. The band will continue to filter and refine the song until they have a finished recording.

“The cool thing about a home studio is you get to build it according to your own creative process, so you get a very personalized place,” Vineyard said.

Vineyard advised other bands to invest in a home studio instead of sinking money into renting studio time. However, unlike groupies in a rockumentary, they don’t come cheap or easy.

Vineyard started building his home studio in 2001 and completed it in late 2003. He said it took him about five years of practice to make a record he was happy with. But complete doesn’t mean finished, and he is always adding new gear to his arsenal.
“The music will speak to you as far as where you want to go [while] building your music studio,” said Vineyard. “You know what type of music you want to make, so you get in there, and eventually questions will arise and a lot of the time the only answer is to buy a certain type of gear.”

Though musicians don’t have to spring for the most expensive equipment, bands shouldn’t skimp on the microphones, said Morgan Travis, vocalist for Over-vert. Travis lives with his band mates, and they have set up a studio in their basement.
When he recorded in a professional studio, Travis said he always was stressed about time. But their home studio has given them the freedom and the time to really concentrate on their sound, he said.

But home recording has its own problems and requires quite a bit of ingenuity.

“Duct tape is basically our savior,” Travis said.

He said the basement, which is preferable for guitar recording, doesn’t have the best conditions for recording drums. The band has done things like shuffle furniture or move to different places in the house without finding the perfect spot.

But he said bands can employ many tricks to make their recordings sound better. And while top-shelf gear and solid acoustics will always help with home recordings, a solid band is the best way to make sure the end result sounds sweet.

©2008 Metromix.com - metromix.com

"Teeth Architecture"

"...Reno’s Swahili, who I have previously described as “the violent drum in my heart,” who remain so, who explore distinctly Krautrockian patterns, the increasing violence of repetition, the ecstasy of wounding and then stretching the wound indefinitely until the whole body is a red center of pain, Swahili built this city on volcanic rock...." - desperation + noise blog, by Brad Nelson


Demo (2008)
Tour Demo (2009)
S/T LP (Self-Release/ Cassette on Divergent Series and Six Six Sixties Records 2011) (LP TOL 2012)



Following the underground acclaim of Swahili’s 2012 self-titled debut, AMOVREVX— named for the sixth arcanum of the Tarot de Marseilles—chronicles a stunning expansion of the band’s palette to incorporate bright textures and infectious pop sensibilities.

Influenced by 70’s post punk, dub reggae, and the synth bliss of Vangelis and Giorgio Moroder, AMOVREVX is a testament to the band’s studied forays into the realm of electronic music and the experience gained from more than seven years together in constant evolution. 

The lyrical content and maximalist production are both an evolution from and a response to the band’s self-titled album. 

"Our first record is a lo-fi seance, it delves into the disorienting journey of knowingness," explains synthesist Xua. "On this record we sonically explore that new world, as Van provides narrative on the consequences of knowing and the acceptance of love in various forms."

Band Members