Way down in southeastern Virginia, bordering North Carolina there is a place called the Great Dismal Swamp. The swamp has a strange and eerie history of lost maidens, strange lights and murderers dumping bodies into the sinking mud. It’s perfect fodder for creative minds.
So it was with a stroke of brilliance that four garage-punk, rock and rollers from Norfolk, Virginia decided to call their band The Great Dismal Swamis. They sneer, they rock, and they wear their influences on their sleeve – and often drop them into their lyrics. Oh and they have impeccable taste. The result is a blast of sonic ear-worms that jump out of your speakers and drink all your beer. This is great stuff.
Singer Jason Rowland was kind enough to bring us up to speed on the Swamis.
Our sound might be best described as….
Mid-Atlantic Garage Punk Rock and Roll.
•Stephen Marsh- Guitar
•Doug “the Goose” Duncan- Bass
•Jeff Lomanno- Drums/ vox organ/ recording engineer
•Jason Rowland – Vocals
We are originally from…..
•Stephen (VA Beach) – has previously performed w/ Big Bobby & the Nightcaps, and the Lookers
• Doug ( Gordonsville, VA) has performed with a ton of bands including, The Candy Snatchers, Dirty Fingers, Phantom Creeps, River City Rapists…
• Jeff — ( VA Beach) has performed with the Rats, and the Hydeouts
• Jason- (Norfolk, VA) has performed w/ the Hydeouts, Shunts, and Mexican Connection
How we became a band…..
Started the Swamis, with the aim of having a good time and writing songs with the specific desire to record. Shows / gigs have always come secondary to recording and releasing records. That said, we have played with a ton of excellent groups such as the Hookers, Two man Advantage, Jake Starr & the Delicious Fullness, Juniper Rising, Lisa doll & the Rock n Roll Romance, Demon Eye, Born Loose, The Seers, Cheap Time, the Real Tears, Bottle Babies, Lonely Teardrops, Last Blackouts….and so many more.
What inspired the song Canadian Tuxedo? What usually inspires the band’s lyrics?
Doug came up with the song title for “Canadian Tuxedo.” I rather enjoy song titles that do not pertain to the lyrics of a particular song. Likewise, I rather enjoy metaphoric double entendre lyrics, making reference to sexual innuendos or systematic violent dismemberment. Ha. I try to entertain myself with weaving the names of “celebrities” into my lyrics…for no particular reason, but having the ability to articulate “back of my head, homicidal wish…back of my head the Olson twins…back of my head, mansion of death.” (Death Mansion, from Swamis s/t album)
Tell us about the Norfolk scene…
Undoubtedly, the Norfolk scene of the past has completely shaped my taste in music. The M-80s, Candy Snatchers, Black Jesus, Apostles, and all the bands that performed with these groups when I was a teenager, has significantly contributed to the genre of music I choose to play. Likewise, Black Lung Records has played a crucial part into the type of music I identify with the most.
Unfortunately, I don’t get out nearly as often these days as I would like… I am a proud stay at home father of two girls. Most of my time is spent with my family, so I don’t want to slight any local groups by not mentioning them…
I dig the Real Tears, The Seers, the Bottle Babies, Lonely Teardrops, the Mirrors…
What would you recommend visitors to Norfolk, VA do?
Something free and interesting to do would be to check out Fort Norfolk, small revolutionary war base/ structure, that has a fantastic view of our regions waterways and battleships. Also, grab a bite to eat at Legrand Kitchen, the restaurant owned by Stephen Marsh, guitarist for the Swamis.
Our most memorable gig was?
We played a house show at the “Wolves Den” at 2 AM. That was one of the more enjoyable shows that the Swamis have played.
If you play a gig with a hospitality rider what would you ask for?
Mexican coke…a cola.
Describe your show, visually and musically….
Wow. This is a difficult question to answer from our own perspective. I guess the best description…. “We aim for a genuine, organic, entertaining experience for people that come see us perform.” Importantly, we would rather play in a basement, living room, etc, than perform in some pay to play venture featuring some old punk rock group that was big 25+ years ago. Fun is what we seek.
What we are currently listening to….
Ar-Kaics LP on Windian Records, all the new 45s on Hidden Volume Records (Sick Thoughts, Delusionaires, Stents, etc.). And listening to lots of records I’ve traded with labels and bands.
If we could go on tour with any band it would be…..
Teengenerate— Jason and Jeff
Radio Birdman — Stephen
Pere Ubu— Doug
The one thing we want you to remember while your listening to us……
We recorded this ourselves- in a garage…just for fun.
Expect…………… From us in 2014/2015
“Surfin’ with Swamis” vinyl EP on Fandango Records came out released late April 2014.
“Phantom Tollbooth” 45 just released 8/19 on RZO Records. This record will have a couple special limited editions w/ alt covers/ graphics. Next week, Windian Records is releasing a special Mail-order edition limited to 67 copies. All the proceeds from the sale of this special Windian edition go to the Travis Jackson Memorial Fund, the owner of Windian Records that passed away earlier this year.
Also, Deadbeat Records is releasing a special mail-order edition –limited to 36 total copies. That should be for sale in the next few weeks.
More than likely, sometime later this year, the Swamis will release a free digital download album of 5 or 6 unreleased tracks.
For right now, we have a lot of things going on in our personal lives, so recording and putting out records continue to be our top priority regarding our band. Hopefully, time and schedules will allow some performances later in the fall / winter of 2014.
The Great Dismal Swamis have released one full length, and an EP and two singles.