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"Press Reviews"

"Swank, on all levels, was fantastic to work with. The band truly embraced the festival atmosphere as well as their audiences -- no matter what stage I put them on. And the audience embraced them back ten-fold. Swank had the not so easy, perhaps even daunting task of performing our mainstage after our highly charged, powerful, aboriginal youth focused hip hop collaboration project. They rose to the challenge, and kept the energy alive for the night's remaining acts which included our headliner, The Sam Roberts Band. This was perhaps one of the most difficult time slots of the day, and the decision to choose Swank was a good one."

Lynn Feasy
Artistic Director
Folk on the Rocks Society

Swank sings hymns for hell-bound heathens
By Adrian Mack
Publish Date: June 5, 2008
The Georgia Straight

It appears that Mormon season has begun. Outside Falconetti’s East Side Grill on Commercial Drive, pizza-faced missionaries barely out of high school slouch by in the cold rain, followed a few minutes later by more of their brethren. Inside, Swank vocalist Spencer McKinnon and guitarist Doug Liddle have joined the Straight to talk about their own inimitable take on American-fried religious dementia, as laid out on the band’s newest album, Campfire Psalms.

“Drunkards’ Damnation Jamboree� kicks off the third full-length from the Vancouver roots veterans with a rousing group sing-along that leaves little doubt as to where Swank falls on the issue of being liquored up and bound for a place where it’s always hot. Three tracks later and the five-piece is delivering a hell-bound shuffle called “Shoot at the Devil�, replete with maniacal preachifying and sidelong references to the NRA. “Fiery Pit� plows another furrow of Jack Chick–inspired lunacy, again shot through with Liddle’s banjo (a new toy for the guitarist), and “Comin’ to Our Town� is a sweaty wingding fashioned to sound like it was recorded in a revival tent, with a hammy McKinnon vocal that’s a ringer for redneck icon Jerry “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot� Reed. What are the chances this cheerfully offensive stuff would play in the collapsing-church territory of Abbotsford, say? “As long as it was really loud and you couldn’t make out the lyrics,� reasons Liddle, with a persuasively sincere expression.

Given Swank’s sometime affection for burlesque cowpunk, the combination of hillbilly music and fire-and-brimstone religiosity was certain to prove irresistible eventually.

“They’re hymns for agnostics,� Liddle says of the band’s latest batch of songs. “It’s a great bank of imagery, and it’s a great palette for telling stories, and the music is really rich as well. You don’t have to believe what people are singing to love the music.�

Liddle also cites the band’s “gospel fixation� for taking Swank in the direction of “Can’t You See�, an earnest soul belter written with Otis Redding in mind. “I’ve been pushing soul for a while,� states McKinnon, who gets the chance to work his impressive pipes on the track. “I was pretty hard-line on it. It’s good to branch out from the country thing.�

As it turns out, the “country thing� only makes up about half of the story on Campfire Psalms. There’s the wistful barfly lament “Tragic Suit�, for instance, and an airy contemplation of love endearingly titled “Punched in the Eye�. And the bigger picture also includes Swank’s value-added packaging, which is no small thing in this case: Campfire Psalms comes with a bonus 10-song karaoke DVD, lovingly assembled by McKinnon and drummer Kirk Douglas.

“Well, we add a few things,� McKinnon says. “Because we have to. You can just download everything, so you have to put extra into it if you want somebody to purchase an item and carry it home. It was a lot of work, but that’s okay.�

It was actually about 20 hours of work per song, McKinnon casually reveals, and that’s not including his comprehensive scouring of the on-line Moving Image Archive for funky old public-domain footage, hygiene films, ancient stag movies, and trailers for forgotten grindhouse flicks.

“It was just hours and hours and hours of us sitting around,� the singer sighs. “It was a labour of love, definitely.�

“I can’t think of any local band that loses as much money as Swank,� adds Liddle with a proud smile.

When the band released its 2004 album, The Survival Issue, McKinnon’s determination to raise the bang-to-buck ratio resulted in the extraordinary video for “How Do We Do�. Bravo viewers were treated to the cheerily macabre, award-winning animated short more than a few times. How the hell did they pull that off?

“Well, I have a friend who was working on Spider-Man, the animated series,� McKinnon explains, with a shrug, “and he knew all these guys who were unemployed animators. And there was a facility that was dormant, with all these guys sitting around waiting for a phone call, so I had an idea, and [Swank bassist] Phil [Addington] had some money, and so…�

And so it came to pass that Swank had an entire animation studio at its disposal, although Liddle claims that incriminating pictures of the animators might have played some part. “That video would have cost us $80,000 if it wasn’t for that,� he deadpans.

In reality, Swank’s cachet as a reliable presence on the local circuit—sort of like Vancouver’s own Waco Brothers—has earned the 10-year-old outfit a heap of goodwill, as well as a certain reputation as a band’s band. Listening to Liddle hold forth on the topic of local music suggests another reason for the affection that tends to come its way, above and beyond Swank’s surplus of talent and imagination.

“It’s extraordinary,� he says. “I can’t go and hear everybody that I want to hear. There are more bands that I like than there is audience to listen to them, which is unfortunate. But I think you can just boycott anybody coming from anywhere else and just see local bands, and still have a very, very rich cultural experience just listening to local music.�

Amen to that.

Swank holds a CD-release and Swank-aoke party at the Railway Club on Friday (June 6).

Journeymen forge into uncharted territory
By Jesse Keith
Beatroute Magazine

Journeymen is one of those terms that gets applied so often to musicians, used generously with acts like Neil Young or Tom Petty, that it starts to lose relevance. But when talking about Vancouver’s Swank, the term is tough to get around. The band is one of those rare, genuine articles to which the cheesy bromide, ‘it’s the journey, not the destination,’ actually applies. For 15 years, the five-piece has followed a rambling route on every possible plain from instrumentation to geography.

It’s certainly odd that when Swank comes to town later this month it will be the first time the veteran performers will have crossed the continental divide in North America, even though they have toured extensively in the UK and Ireland, including headlining the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival. But it is on the stylistic/demographic front that Swank has shown the most wanderlust, as they’ve rambled through punk bluegrass, spaghetti western, straight-up rock, and onto their latest album’s foray into gospel and Otis Redding inspired soul.

Guitarist and banjo player Doug Liddle explains how the band bounces between genres and musical styles according to their own musical whims.

“Chasing after gospel sort of came after I bought a couple of really cool pre-war gospel box sets,� he says. “And Spencer, our lead singer, used the bank of imagery in the sets to create the lyrics. It just happens to be whatever we are passionate about at the time.

“The next record is going to be very dobro oriented because I bough a dobro last year,� continues Liddle. “This one has a lot of banjo because I bought a banjo three years ago. It’s pretty haphazard. We don’t know what we’re going to wind up with. It’s not really a conscious idea of let’s go in and make this type of album. Certainly the current album is influenced by gospel.�

When it comes to the art, bonus material, and packaging that accompany their LPs, Swank takes the path less travelled. Even more so than their raucous blend of musical styles, the band’s album art and music videos have garnered them critical acclaim. Their last album, The Survival Issue, came with a complete art package reminiscent of the vinyl era, containing campy cartoons, ‘50s style adverts for bullets, and hypnosis lessons. And the Tim Burton-esque video accompanying the song “How Do We Do� was directed by Patrick Carroll of Spiderman (the animated series), and saw wide TV circulation. The forthcoming album Campfire Psalms maintains the generous album packages of the past, but comes along with a matching karaoke disc.

“We’re very crappy businessmen,� says Liddle with a laugh. “We’re more fortunate than most bands in the sense that we get to do what we love, but it does break even. We play enough that we are able to finance the albums out of our band account rather than having to dig into our own pockets, but Swank itself has yet to make money. But that’s fine by us�

So 15 years on, Swank will finally be coming to Alberta. With their new gospel-inflected album nearly on the books, their lead singer will be affecting the aspects of an evangelical preacher as the band hopes to win converts among Calgary’s music faithful.

“We’ve been told by the bands that we play with, that head out on the road quite regularly, that we’ll probably find a pretty warm reception in Alberta,� Liddle says. “We’re looking forward to finding out if that’s true.�

Who: Swank
When: August 21st (The Canmore Hotel)
When: August 22nd (The Palomino, Calgary)

Campfire Psalms
By Rachel Sanders
Exclaim Magazine

Vancouver roots outfit Swank always have a hard drinkin�, barn burnin�, rootin� tootin� good time. On their third full-length release, the West coast rabble-rousers have added some devil baitin� to the mix and come up with a stylistically diverse collection that has a distinctly bible bashing tone. From high-energy cow-punk throw downs like �Drunkards� Damnation Jubilee� to Dust Bowl weepers such as �Donkey Cart,� Campfire Psalms contains 16 tracks of booze-soaked, irreverent country punk. Many of the songs on the disc are long, wittily rambling narratives full of blazing banjo breakdowns, faux-Biblical sermonizing and hellfire and damnation-style admonitions. Swank poach from time-worn musical styles, blending folk, country and rockabilly sounds to give life to their tales of luckless drifters and broken-hearted drunkards. The disc also comes conveniently packaged with a karaoke DVD for those moments, no doubt frequent, when you�ll feel compelled to sing along. Praise the Lord and pass the whiskey.(Scratch)

Swank �The Survival Issue� (Killbeat Music 2004)
Barenaked Ladies meet the Cramps in rockabilly roots riot.
Authentic rockabilly roots from Vancouver? From the opening twang of Spaghetti Western-inspired �The Incident at Rock Creek�, you're gonna howl 'Yeah, baby'! Braying harmonica, raunchy gospel singalongs, banjo, yodeling and the double punch of rumbling guitars conspire to make �The Survival Issue� one wild ride through Hank Williams country all the way to Rocket From the Crypt with a detour through Jon Spencer�s Blues Explosion. Produced by Howard Redekopp (New Pornographers) 'The Survival Issue' is Swank�s second release, a follow-up to 'Pappy�s Corn Squeezin�s'. The cd comes in a retro-styled booklet of creepy illustrations, oblique cartoons and 50�s ads for bullets, stilettos and hypnosis lessons. The lyrics appear as short stories illustrated with skeletons, ventriloquists dummies and murky figures in various states of lust and peril which capture perfectly the dark, perverse mood of the songs. The music is what matters but the artwork and packaging here is in a class of its own. Although marketed as a jokey, retro pastiche, the musicianship and production confirm this five piece as serious players who know their chops. Duelling guitars thunder and blaze with George Thorogood-style muscle but are just as comfortable oozing a delicate Calexico twang. The single, �How Do We do� (video included on enhanced cd) is a catchy gospel hoe-down sounding like a drunken congregation kicking over the pews and storming the altar but there are plenty of other highlights. The most radio-friendly track -- with the distinctly radio un-friendly title �How Fucked is That?�-- is the groggy lament of a broken-hearted man �drunk and down/like a gored rodeo clown�. Other slower tunes, �Meteor� and �Neighbors� are dark slices of vengeance and paranoia. Even the upbeat stuff, notably Halo in the Headlights� and �Blackflies� are boogie operas of death and salvation. Lines like �Feel the Holy Ghost as it tremolos� give you the general idea of Swank�s warped confection of guitars, guilt and gospel. Not as creepy as the Cramps but more radio-friendly and, in their own way, just as subversive.
Date review added: Sunday, January 16, 2005
Reviewer: Robin Cracknell
Reviewers Rating: 9/10

Swank - The Survival Issue - Last year when I made my year end top 10 list, I included a band that nobody had ever heard of called OX. People thought I was crazy or something, but slowly folks have figured out what I was talking about. This year, Swank is assuming the same position. This band is just plain awesome. Musically, they're a roots rockin' combo that includes country, blues, rockabilly, and a whole lot of rough around the edges rock n' roll. They would be a mean party band that could put the Perpetrators and D Rangers to shame. But the real highlight of this project is the amazing, amazing packaging. It's a perfectly authentic 50s style comic book full of articles and advertisements created around the disc's song titles. It's a thing of beauty. If every band made CDs that looked like this, nobody would ever be stupid enough to download music. Also included is the video for "How Do We Do," which is a dark Tim Burton-esque computer animated feature. Simply amazing. Check 'em out on the web, but whatever you do, track down a copy of this disc for yourself! � http://tellthebandtogohome.com/newmusic.htm

*Swank - The Survival Issue (Independent)
These guys have been somewhat of a Vancouver secret for a number of years now. Strangely, many missed out on their first great release Pappy's Corn Squeezin's . Do not make the same mistake with this album. These guys manage to be what all country rock performers aspire to... as country as Hank Williams, and as rock as The Replacements. And the whole package itself... whoo... for those of you who bemoan the demise of actual record albums �cause you don't get all that cool packaging with a CD, here's what you can do with a CD package if you have real imagination.
� Red Cat Records

The Survival Issue
By Kerry Doole
This is a real cool disc, one that demands a scare-the-neighbours level of cranked volume. These Vancouver cats won fans with their Pappy's Corn Squeezin's debut, and they kick things up a notch with this sophomore effort. Their whiskey-fuelled sound gleefully plunders from country, folk and rockabilly sonic treasure chests. They launch The Survival Issue with a zippy instrumental, "The Incident At Rock Creek," then move right into the righteous romp "How Do We Do," featuring guest vocalist Ana Bonbon. The energy level rarely flags, and there's enough variety on the 15 cuts to keep it interesting. Convincingly gruff-voiced singer/lyricist Spencer McKinnon adds virile harmonica, while his four Swank-y comrades chip in with dobro, banjo, lots of raunchy slide and steel guitar, and beefy backing vocals. The Survival Issue was produced, recorded and mixed by Howard Redekopp (54-40, the New Pornographers), and he does a fine job of keeping things gritty but not messy. A luridly fun CD cover and graphics done in an old comics style is another bonus. Fans of Southern Culture on the Skids and the Sadies should check this one out. Let's hope they take their show on the road too.(Independent)
� Exlaim Magazine, December 2004

Swank, The Survival Issue (Killbeat)

Whiskey-drenched, cotton-pickin', often dark and old-timey but full of spirit and humour, this wonderful little album comes complete with a cover that is a real work of art. Produced by Howard Redekopp of New Pornographers fame, you can't help but smile as each track is revealed in all its animated glory. Rockabilly, Elvis Presley, the great god Nick Cave, Tom Petty, blues, soul, roots, pop, country...everything is squeezed in and performed with abandon. It's obvious that the five members of Swank have moved on from their rockabilly roots and have decided to throw everything into their swampy melting pot. Check out the groovy "Reverend Pleasant," with its chunky, soulful beat, the sinister, bluesy, slide-guitar drenched "Neighbours" or the uplifting "Harvest Time," complete with gum-suckin' harmonica, for a good time. With The Survival Issue, Vancouver's finest really have something to swank about. - john stacey

Additional Press can be viewed in the Media Section at

- Various


Campfire Psalms (Summer 2008)
The Hollow Tree EP (2006)
The Survival Issue (2004)
Pappy's Corn Squeezin's (2001)



"Braying harmonica, raunchy gospel singalongs, banjo, yodeling and the double punch of rumbling guitars conspire to make "The Survival Issue" one wild ride through Hank Williams country all the way to Rocket From the Crypt with a detour through Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion."
9 out of 10 stars -- Americana U.K. (International)

Swank inhabits the lawless borderlands between Americana, Punk and Rock & Roll. It is gospel perverted by hillbillies, soul wearing three-day stubble, punk in a pasture, bluegrass sporting brass knuckles and a chip on its shoulder, folk stinking of car exhaust and a three-day bender, the blues pointing and laughing at existential dread, and country wrought from the rat-infested back alleys on the wrong side of the tracks of as west as one can go.

Now promoting its third full-length album, Campfire Psalms, and its accompanying Karaoke DVD, the band recently returned from three performances at The Folk on the Rocks Festival and a western Canada tour.

Recorded with producer Howard Redekopp (New Pornographers, 54-40), the album is garnering rave reviews nationally and its songs are receiving national airplay.

The band's music was featured on a recent episode and the Season Four DVD gag reel of TV show Supernatural.

Vancouver-based Swank followed the accolades for its second album, The Survival Issue, on 2005 and 2006 tours of the U.K. and Ireland. Performances included two headline shows at the renowned Kilkenny Rhythm n Roots Festival.

A video for Survival Issue single, How Do We Do, directed by Patrick Carroll (Spiderman - the animated series) debuted at 2005's Indie Music Video Festival and airs regularly on Bravo. The Survival Issue is the follow up to the critically acclaimed rockabilly blues flavoured debut Pappy's Corn Squeezin's. All three albums -- and the 2006 Hollow Tree EP -- are available online and at finer music stores.

The band also has songs on the Canadian rockabilly/psychobilly compilation Zombie Night in Canada Volume 2 (Stumble/Universal), on the Vancouver Roots compilation Showdown (Black Hen), and on the hockey song compilation Johnny Hanson presents Puck Rock Classics Volume 2 (Sudden Death). Swank's songs are played on national radio, numerous international podcasts and college stations around the world.

Live, the band performs up to three sweaty sets of truly original songs with high-octane, foot stomping barroom belligerence and is equally at home on electric and acoustic stages.

The five members of Swank - Phil Addington (Bass/Vocals), David Badanic (Electric/Acoustic Guitars/Vocals), Kirk Douglas (Drums/Percussion/ Vocals/Guitar/Dobro), Doug Liddle (Electric/Acoustic Guitars, Slide and Steel Guitar/Dobro/Banjo/Saw/Vocals) and Spencer McKinnon (Lead Vocals/Harmonica) have opened and headlined countless shows to an ever growing fan base in Western Canada.

For booking information, please contact Doug Liddle
phone: 604-874-4198 email: dougliddle@gmail.com