What is Schwervon!? Nothing less than Shawnee, Kansas's contribution to the world of ultra-catchy indie rock. Formed by Matt Roth and Nan Turner in New York City, Schwervon! are a prolific musical force with a catalog chock full of albums, EPs and singles, not to mention their own side projects and national and international touring schedules. They have worked with such indie luminaries as Belle and Sebastian, Guided by Voices and Speedy Ortiz. We are excited to share an interview with the couple about their recent European tour and other subjects. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourselves and describe your music for new listeners
Nan: We're a two piece rock band. I play drums and sing. Matt plays guitar and sings. We started playing music on the lower east side of New York City many years ago. I like to describe our sound as "an expression of imperfect love through jagged rock minimalism".
Matt: We like to have fun at our shows and I think we really enjoy it when people appear to be having fun or letting loose a bit. I think our secret weapon is that our lyrics reveal a darker side of us. I think it’s maybe a little more to chew on when you’re listening alone in the car or on headphones.
How did your upcoming European tour come about? Who did you play with?
Nan: We had a great European tour. We've been touring Europe for about 13 years now---we try to go once a year or every two years....usually in support of a new release. We've had help of small labels and bookers in the past but now we do all the booking ourselves. This time we played a lot in Germany and the UK. We played with a fun band in Regensburg, Germany called 2am Decaf and a band from Vienna called Schmieds Puls and also a last minute show in Bristol, UK with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)! Also in the UK our friend Bob Nastanovich (from bands Pavement and Silver Jews) came along and dj'ed at the shows.
Matt: All our UK shows were with Bob Nostanovich (Pavement, Silver Jews) DJing. He also put out this 7” record for us. Bob is a great guy. It was real adventure. We also had a chance to play a show with our friend Lisa from one of our favorite bands out of Cincinnati called Wussy. Her solo project is called "The Magic Words". Other memorable opening acts were: The Cornshed Sisters, Schnick Schnack, Swearing At Motorists, Cosines, Savage Mansion.
We’re been going to Europe for a long time, since we lived in New York. It’s just, roughly, a six hour flight from there. Our first opportunities there were with a label in Glasgow called Shoeshine. It’s run by Francis Macdonald. Francis is a very talented jack of many trades. He plays drums for Teenage Fanclub. He’s also the manager of Camera Obscura and The Vaselines.
Talk about your songwriting process. How has it evolved over the years in the life of the band?
Matt: I think our songwriting process involves a lot more “process” than it used to. It kind of used to be the this fun little hobby. Now it kind of feels like a metaphor for our life.
Nan: I second that. It's always a learning curve and we try different things from each of us coming up with lyrics separately to writing together. Whatever can work - is how we work.
You’ve toured with artists like Speedy Ortiz, Belle and Sebastian and Guided by Voices, among many others. What have been some of your most memorable performances?
Nan: I think touring in Europe with Belle & Sebastian was pretty wild. We probably played for our biggest audiences and the sound was massive. After the shows we would have a dance party backstage for a couple of hours. Those belles can boogie! Playing with Speedy Ortiz in a now-defunct DIY space called Big Snow Buffalo Lodge was a trip- right as they were on the cusp of getting big- there was a little crowdsurfing. Other memorable shows: In Tubingen, Germany - a girl dancing wildly by my cymbals almost bashing her head on them for the whole show. The Brick (in KCMO), where we played with our good friend Jeffrey Lewis (from NYC) and the power went out midway through our set. We did rest of our set acapella/acoustic where I played drums stomping with my tap shoes. Playing in Nottinham while Bob Nastanovich played drums during matt's poetry break and I danced with the audience.
Matt: I’ll still never forget the first show we did where people got up and danced. It was at a student cafe in Leipzig, Germany. It felt like a movie. I think I went out of my body. It was the first time I felt like maybe we really had something to offer people. It inspires me to this day.
What brought you to Shawnee from New York City in 2012?
Matt: I was born in Shawnee. I moved to New York in 1994. The real estate market in New York is so crazy that, unless you own a place (which very few people do), you’re kind of always thinking in the back of your mind about getting priced out of your apartment or neighborhood. After living in the same place for 14 years, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, we were starting to really feel the pressure. Around the same time my father, who was still living in Shawnee, was having some health problems and I came back for about a month to take care of him. After hearing me talk about the stress we were going through he made an offer to us to come back to Kansas and live with him. The idea was that we’d look after him (get him to his doctor appointments and stuff), take care of the house and more or less crash in the basement. Nan was willing to go along with it. The rest is history.
What inspires you about original music in Kansas City?
Nan: What inspires me about the scene here is that there seems to be more resources for artists here and the city seems interested and invested in creating opportunities for musicians (e.g. Midwest Music Foundation/ Middle of the Map/ Midcoast Takeover).
Matt: I think there is a lot of support here. KCUR 90.1: Mark Manning at Midday Medley and John Todd at Under The Radar are both really great resources for local music. There are a lot of amazing venues in the this town as well. There are some nice local music labels as well. Feels like KC has kind of been on the verge of something for a while. I’m still discovering new stuff here all the time. Probably one the more inspiring things, for me, are all the underground basement and house shows. I think there’s a healthy underground if you know where to look for it.
Schwervon's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. A great book to jumpstart your creative projects
Carsick by John Waters. I loved this book! A hilarious adventure adventure.
A People’s History Of the United States Of America by Howard Zinn. Do they teach this in High School yet? If not they should.
Where I’m Calling From: Stories by Raymond Carver. Inspired me to study creative writing in college.
One of my all time fave movies is Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing the Fabulous Stains. It was groundbreaking at the time that movie was made to see teenage girls playing rock music.
Trainspotting, The Outsiders, Spinal Tap, Cool Hand Luke, Chasing Trane (a documentary about John Coletrane)
Love Waxahatchee "Out in the storm"
Pixies, Neil Young, B-52’s, Yo La Tengo, Robyn Hitchcock, Pedro the Lion, Wire, Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile