The Big Sway formed in the Valley in 2007 and have been in their current lineup consisting of Joe MacFadzen, Tim Zucco and Mike Grenier since 2013.
Their genre-bending music is a shopping spree where there is something for everyone all in one spot. Combining punk, indie rock, psychedelic and jam-band’isms, they are as equally fun to see live as they are to listen to at your leisure.
Being noted for playing over 300 shows as a band, they are definitely one to see if you haven’t seen them play yet — fun, energetic and easy to lose yourself in the live experience. They are a band with a following that often pops up at popular music fests in the area.
Their latest release, “We Made This For You,” is available for streaming, but it’s also a video album you can view on YouTube. If you crave visuals with your audio — I recommend checking out the videos for your first experience with the album.
The first track, the intro is only 11 seconds long, starts the video album off with a video of equivalent time launching the artful cinematographic visual album. Each song/video has their own personality. The visuals and audios compliment each other very well. Listening to these songs later on through speakers in your car or home stereo, you may catch glimpses of the videos in your mind tied to the memory of the song.
“The Wolves” features the band playing in a cool black noir-esque feel, super sped up to match the beats to the song. “The Loop” has this cute little illustration resembling a dust ball with a face, arms and legs. It’s fun … the song is a jammy one with screaming guitar solo’s while the dustball little man follows their human around the house until they meet friends in shoes. Yes, something you have to experience on your own.
I really enjoyed “Gun Fun in Rifle City,” which is like a short film about an outlaw and a devil having a fight in a vacant, snow-filled stripmall parking lot. Primus and Motorhead vibes in this one for sure. Must be a fun song to see (and to play) live.
“Bide My Time” is a short and sweet documentary-style showcasing the band in old family home videos, shots of the band performing live and even some skydiving videos. That one is a sentimental one that was produced artfully well to pull at the heartstrings.
I was able to catch up with the trio with some behind the scenes insight on The Big Sway.
Jennifer Levesque: With such a multi-genre sound, what are each of your influences for the band?
Tim Zucco (guitar, vocals, art): Musical influences for me have transformed throughout the years. When we first started off I was a big guitarist kind of guy and my influences matched! Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson (although they’re still one of my favorites) … really anything with a great guitarist! I still love a good guitar solo but definitely appreciate bands with strong songwriting now a bit more. Some of my more recent influences would be King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Soft Kill, Black Marble, and Diiv. Then there’s Talking Heads who always remain relevant to me.
Joe MacFadzen (bass, vocals, art): I’m a punk rocker at heart, and have been playing in punk and hardcore bands, in addition to The Big Sway, for over 15 years. A lot of my playing is influenced by the bands I’ve met touring and photographing within that scene all over the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.
Mike Grenier (drums): I grew up pretty heavy on classic rock and that has always stuck with me. John Bonham, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland… The rock legends. I also got really into the Grateful Dead and Phish and love those styles of drumming as well. As I get older, I like to think that my taste is more eclectic and I pull from a lot of different styles of music. Dance music, psychedelic rock, hip hop, disco, soul, jazz, funk and punk. Lately I’ve been all about King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I love what Mickey Cavs does on the drums.
Levesque: “The Big Sway” has been an active band in the Valley for such a good stretch of time. Can you share with the readers any special show moments that stick out to be memorable?
Grenier: We played a huge annual party at a skydiving center in Lebanon, Maine called Skydive New England a couple times that was just an absolutely amazing experience. We skydived during the day and played for the party at night. Skydivers really know how to party! That one will stick with me for the rest of my life. We also did a tour through Canada that was a ton of fun, as well as playing in Puerto Rico. Some great, great times and beautiful places that I might not have experienced if not for the band.
Zucco: There’s quite a few! We’ve had so many memorable shows and lots of great times. My most cherished though are ones with friends and family that are no longer with us. Specifically there were a couple of Strange Creek Music Festivals where my brother, Jeff, and one of my best friends, Keith Gendreau were at. Looking out at the crowd and seeing them enjoying the music sticks with me to this day. I think about it every show.
Levesque: The title of your latest album, “We Made This For You” has me wondering if this is dedicated to a specific someone, or is it a playful note to the listener?
MacFadzen: The title came from a sort of exhaustion of trying to SELL stuff to people. The music, the shows, the albums, the merch… It was exhausting trying to think of the band as a business, and I wanted to just say screw it, if it’s really about the music, then forget everything else and let’s make this album as best we can and just give it away for free. So, I wanted a title that reflected that intention, and when the phrase “We Made This For You” came to mind, I realized that the word “You” in this context held a lot of potential meanings — some relating to how the album would be released, and some that matched with the content of the songs. I pitched the title to the band, they liked it, and it stuck pretty quick.
Levesque: Can you explain to the readers the concept behind releasing this album with an accompanied video album?
MacFadzen: We had the audio for the album mixed, mastered, and ready to release in the spring of 2020. So, when the pandemic showed up, and everything stopped, we really didn’t feel good about putting out an album at that point. So, as time dragged on, and more of our social interactions were happening online, I had the idea that a good way to reach people with this album would be visually, online. I always thought it was cool when bands had those “full album” videos on YouTube, but wondered why I had never seen one with some kind of quality video accompaniment all the way through. That’s an idea that’s been with me for a while, and this seemed like a good time to give it a shot.
Levesque: Out of the 11 videos, which one(s) were the most fun/rewarding to see finalized?
Zucco: “Within My Reach.” We had such a good time making that one with our friends. It was awesome to see the final product.
MacFadzen: Yea, “Within My Reach” was really satisfying because it was the first video we were able to make by gathering people together again. For me, personally, “Bide My Time” was a really big achievement too because, along with “Dexterity,” it was one of the two videos I decided to make myself. With all that time during the pandemic, I wanted to teach myself how to do some basic video editing, and those two videos were the result. “Bide My Time” was definitely the more ambitious of the two, both because of its length of over 5 minutes, and because of the added element of collecting and digitizing VHS tapes. In my opinion, this recording of this song is one of The Big Sway’s most beautiful and emotional recordings ever. Tim’s solo at the end of the song has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. So I wanted to make a video that would do justice to the song. After a full year in the making, I was happy to have learned a lot about video editing, but to finally have it done. It’s one I’m really glad that I worked hard on, and that I’ll have to look back on later in life.
Levesque: I spotted an easter egg in the “Almost Home” video. There was a bottle with the label “Big Sway Birch Beer” on it … is that a thing, or was that made specifically for the video as a prop?
MacFadzen: I love this video. It was made by my friend and former co-worker Damon Bishop. I have always absolutely loved his work, and we had talked about doing a video a few times over the years. Damon delivered the “Almost Home” video to us, DONE, in one cut. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe the amount of work he put into it, and how well he nailed it on the first shot. I was so honored to have this video for this song. There was only one note however that I wanted to make, and it was that there be some indication that the drink being poured toward the end of the video was non-alcoholic. Personally, I stopped drinking over four years ago, and I feel strongly that I don’t want to promote that kind of stuff in my art any more. So I mentioned it to Damon, and he suggested making the birch beer label. I loved the idea, and a few months later he surprised me by sending me the bottle in the mail. It’s on my mantle.
Levesque: I once read an article in a Rolling Stone or Spin magazine where they had the band Kittie dump out their purses to reveal what they needed with them while on tour. When you guys hit the road for a non-local gig, what are your necessities?
Grenier: Trail mix, water and my favorite pair of black jeans!
Zucco: I’m pretty easy going! As long as I’ve got my gear, a place to stay (or Mike’s excellent driving skills to get me home!), and maybe a creature comfort or two I’m good to go!
Levesque: Dream line up to a show you guys could play — dead or alive, local or national — what would it be?
Zucco: Talking Heads reunion, with Adrian Belew on guitar, King Gizzard as direct support and The Big Sway opens! That would be a blast if you got any leads… 😉
Levesque: Anything coming up in the new year, any projects or shows you want to tease?
Zucco: For the upcoming year my focus will be on writing new songs. I’ve got a couple that I’ve been working on that I can’t wait to flesh out. Hopefully people will hear them later on next year!
MacFadzen: I’ve joined a new band out of Salem, MA called ONE FALL. We put out a three-song EP a few weeks back. For fans of Wilhelm Scream, Bouncing Souls, Blood Command, etc.. It’s been really fun!