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Music

Violinist Ari Swan to release her debut EP, Symphonie Plastique, this Thursday at Casa del Popolo

Posted by Greg / September 16, 2013

20130916-AriSwan.jpgEven if you don't know it, you've probably seen Ari Swan perform before, whether in Folly and the Hunter, or accompanying Little Scream, or in her previous band, Heirloom. This staple pillar of the Montreal music scene has also been playing solo for a long time, and this Thursday, she will finally release her debut EP, Symphonie Plastique. Recorded with former Unicorn/current Island Jamie Thompson, the songs on Symphonie Plastique are lush, melodic, and intimate - perfect companion pieces for the coming Fall season.

Listen to "Black Eyes" and read an interview with Swan below.

When did you write the songs for Symphonie Plastique? What was it like putting them on record?

The songs on the EP are all from the past year and a half, which is pretty much when I decided to start working on a solo project. One in particular, a track called "Reprieved", is the very first song I wrote so it feels great to have it come to fruition like this. Putting the songs on the record really made me think about what I wanted out of them! You start to think about it from a listener's point of view. It's really easy to get caught up in what I hear in my head and loose perspective when performing live. Recording totally changes that.

How was working in Jamie Thompson's studio? Did you choose to work with him for any particular reasons?

I met Jamie when we were both playing with Little Scream a couple of years ago. It was basically my first touring gig ever, and Jamie has been doing this for years, so he was really sweet about giving me touring advice. He's got such artistic integrity and an aesthetic that really aligns with mine, so when I started working on a solo project I knew that I would want to work with him somehow. As luck would have it, Jamie was looking to start recording more artists and I wanted to do an EP, so tha'st how I ended up working in his studio. It's been a really positive experience, really low-key and creative.

When you write songs, do you conceive of them being performed live solo or with backing musicians?

I've been trying to write with the idea of working with more musicians, but it really depends on the song! Practically, I have to think of how I can do things solo, since I have a rotating cast of band members who are amazing but super busy, so they're not always available. That has sort of meant trying to expand into more pedals, more technology that can fill out the sound, etc.

What do you like about being a solo artist, and what do you not like so much?

I'm kind of a mico-manager, so being solo allows me to practice wherever (and as often!) as I want. However, it's just so nice to perform with other people and have their interpretations / energies / whatever on the stage with you. Plus having the perspective of other people's opinions can be really helpful so you don't fall into a weird Kanye West "I am a god" spiral.

You've contributed some great work to some amazing Montreal bands and artists, in addition to your solo work. Do you have an all-time favourite gig or recording session you can tell us about?

Oh man, that's hard because I've been so intensely lucky with the groups I've played with here.

One moment that was particularly meaningful was at the end of the tour with Little Scream a couple years ago. Like I mentioned, this was my first touring gig and honestly one of my first (non-classical) gigs in general. I learned so much during the process and really grew as a musician/person thanks to the awesome people around me. We had been touring with Sharon Van Etten and at our very last show both bands got on stage to sang this really slow and kind languid version of "she drives me crazy" by the Fine Young Cannibals. The song is kind of silly, but it was really amazing to be up there with such strong leading ladies who have both influenced me as a performer and bandleader.

What's next? Touring, working on more songs, getting some rest?

I have to finish my master's thesis, I'm still a student at McGill! But I want to keep working on new songs and perhaps do some out of town shows back in the old country (aka, the USA). Really I'm just looking forward to collaborating/jamming with friends here and seeing what comes out of it, continuing to grow as a musician, maybe starting an electro-pop band? who knows!

What are you listening to these days? Anything you can recommend to readers?

I am really into Julianna Barwick, I think her new album is so magical. I'm constantly in love with the music of Timbre Timbre, and am really happy to have recently discovered Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, such a great combination of sonic and visual heaviness.

Ari Swan performs Thursday, September 19th, at Casa del Popolo with Pietro Amato & Mathieu Charbonneau and Ohara.

photograph by Tyr Jami
stylist: Zuzu Knew

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