Elanore Swede finds success, taking its psychedelic, folk punk weirdness to New Orleans and beyond
Published 7:05 am Friday, August 11, 2023
What began almost 20 years ago as a lo-fi living room folk punk project of 4-track cassette recordings in Natchez has evolved into the dynamic and eclectic show that will be swinging into New Orleans on Sunday, August 13, when Elanore Swede hits the stage at Gasa Gasa to kick off their 2023 Fall Tour.
Elanore Swede, consisting of Summer Milliken-Thompson, Andy Guida, Drew David, Richard Burke, Lance Harris, and Ben Long, is 6-pieces of psych/prog weirdness nestled full of earworms, that can go from catchy synth jams to de-tuned blistering thunder on a dime, while still having time to mix up Latin grooves with spaghetti western licks, post-punk vibes, old school punk hat tips, reggae drops, beautiful piano passages, jazz flavors, metal mania, psychedelic improvs, and anything else they can think of to create what is known inside the band circle as “the treatment”.
After moving from Nashville to Natchez, the band began as a solo project of Guida’s in the mid-00s.
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“Ha, yeah, back then, and for the first ten or so years, the band was called ‘The Elanore Swede Dream Sequence’,” says Guida from Swede’s Red Dark Records studio. “I was writing a ton and just recording everything onto cassettes with this old Tascam. I’d bang one out and move on to the next.”
Over the next 15 years, the scope, method, and equipment changed, but the process remained the same. Bang one out, and move on to the next.
“It helped that I could passingly play drums and various things well enough to be able to get stuff down as full demos,” Guida says with a chuckle. “I was able to stockpile a bunch of songs.”
Around 2019 Guida finally decided to attempt to put an actual band behind the band name, so he reached out to his lifelong friend Milliken-Thompson about handling vocal duties.
“Summer is my sister from another mister, and we’ve been best friends, classmates, you name it, since before we were old enough to even pick our friends. She had sat in many times with my various bands over the years, and we had many late nights together jamming on acoustics with friends on piers and back porches, but we had never done an actual band together. So I was like, hey, we’re gonna do this thing…and she was like, uh nah. Hahaha….but she eventually caved and agreed to give it a shot.”
Milliken-Thompson’s delivery has drawn comparisons to artists such as Siouxie Sioux and Kate Bush, and it was sitting around with friends ‘jamming on acoustics’ that she cultivated that sound.
“Growing up, I never thought I would be singing more than a few songs here and there at parties with friends or maybe occasionally sitting in with Andy at his gigs,” said Milliken-Thompson, “but here we are doing this crazy eclectic music that includes about every genre I could imagine.”
It was at this point that the two of them recruited the multi-instrumental Drew David to fold.
“Drew and I were in another band together at the time,” said Guida, “and he is just such an amazing musician and beautiful human. I knew that whatever we were doing, I wanted him to be a part of it.”
The 3 of them got to work, recording a batch of demos that included early versions of the songs Revel, Fear Child, Better Years, A Waste, 10 Days, Knifebone, Atom Red, Oceans Away, and Something Before You Go.
Milliken-Thompson recalls the evolution of the band’s sound from those early demos to now.
“It’s wild,” she said. “When we started recording demos I could have never imagined where these songs would end up. The ‘treatment’, this process, it’s just astonishing to watch and hear.”
Also included in that batch of demos was an early version of Duae Animae, for which they released a “quarantine cut” video on May 2, 2020. By the time the quarantine cut video was being shot, bassist Lance Harris had been added to the band, and by the video’s release guitarist Richard Burke had joined the lineup as well.
“Lance is a punk guy from the Hattiesburg hardcore scene back in the day, and Richard was in a screamo band called Platypus Rex. He’s also an absolute musical savant. Stuff like ‘oh, see it’s a diminished third over a chromatic build which resolves to the harmonic minor of the flat over a 7th’ and the rhythmic meter sequence is pancake-raspberry, soft potato-hardshell’…. It’s great,” chuckles Guida.
All that remained was finding a drummer, and they went through a handful over the next several months.
“Yeah, it’s like Spinal Tap or Pearl Jam or something…we just couldn’t find a drummer that worked or didn’t spontaneously combust. My fiancé did know Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam bassist) growing up in Montana so maybe there’s some cosmic connection there or something,” laughs Guida. “But really I guess a part of the issue is the music we write can be pretty demanding of the drummer, and I think the other part is that we sort of always were expecting Ben to eventually join the band, so anyone else didn’t feel right.”
Ben is drummer Ben Long, and he was the final piece to the puzzle.
“Ben and I have been playing in bands together off and on since high school, and when these songs were being worked on in their infancy years ago, it was with the idea that Ben would be playing on them. They sort of already had Ben’s feel ingrained into them as they were being written,” says Guida. “When we first started getting the band together Ben was living in Arizona or something, and then he came back here but we had someone else playing with us. So it just took a while for it to all line up, but once it did the whole thing just clicked instantly.”
Over the next two years the band wrote extensively and performed selectively, and to date they have only performed 3 official full band shows, all in their homebase of Natchez, MS; Locust Alley (2021), Natchez Brewing Co (2021), Longwood Music Festival (2022) and 1 pop-up mini set at Natchez Brewing Company for a Visit Natchez video shoot in May of 2023.
That all changes this fall though as Elanore Swede is hitting FIVE limited select cities during their 2023 Fall Tour, which kicks off August 13th in New Orleans, LA at Gasa Gasa and concludes November 10th with a show at a yet to be announced venue.
The tour also includes a hometown show on October 21st as part of the 38th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival. Following the announcement of the Balloon Festival lineup, the band stated on social media, “It is an absolute honor to be invited to play the Natchez Balloon Festival. This is a festival that we all grew up attending and we are beyond pumped…”
Guitarist Richard Burke had this to say.
“Bucket list item – play at Natchez Balloon Festival, check.”
In addition to New Orleans, Natchez, and the yet-to-be-announced location, the Fall Tour also includes stops at Mid-City Ballroom in Baton Rouge on September 29th and Duling Hall in Jackson, MS on October 6th.
“We couldn’t be more excited!” said Guida. “We’ve got the Fall Tour coming up, and right now we’re in the studio putting the finishing touches on our first album. It’s looking like we’ll have the first single out sometime this fall, with the full album dropping pretty soon thereafter.”
One thing is for sure. You won’t have to wait long to hear Elanore Swede, because the Fall Tour is on the way.
Joining Swede for select dates on this run are New Orleans psych wizards Planet of the Little Green Men. There will also be appearances by Eclectic Soul Project, Basically Vacant, and Byron Daniel & The Five Dead Dogs.
Tickets to all 2023 Fall Tour shows will be available at www.elanoreswede.com