SMB Interview- Part 1

We did an interview with a journalist in Scotland a few months ago about the release of Awakening. We think it partially conveys who we are, what we value, and how we work together. We’ll put this up in several different parts over the next few days…its pretty long! Enjoy!

Let us know what you think.

SMB Interview- Part 1

First, if you could just give me a brief history of the band, what brought you all together etc.

SMB: Charlie Vanture, Claire Swindell, and Sarah McElhaney met years ago at church. They began playing music together and after probably six or seven years of hanging out and “jamming,” they decided to pursue playing music as a career. As a trio, without drums, they released their debut EP ‘Countdown to Silence’ in 2006. While touring and playing in support of ‘Countdown to Silence’ the Sarah Mac Band trio was introduced to Keli Swearingen, drummer for hard rock band, the Audience. The Audience broke up in 2007 and Keli quickly joined the ranks of the Sarah Mac Band as the fourth official member.

CS: Our band was really born out of deep existing friendships (to the point that we are often confused as a “family band”), so when the subject of finding a drummer came up, we didn’t go out and just search for someone with great musical ability. When it came down to it, we believed that when we came across a drummer who we really enjoyed hanging out with and really blended relationally with, then we would tackle the music….not the other way around. When we met Keli, we hung out with her a few times and almost immediately knew that she was a “fit.”

KS: I thought joining a band that was already established would be a really awkward transition, especially due to the huge stylistic change I would to have to make. Formerly I was in a progressive rock band with a very different style than that of the SMB. I think the transition went smoother than I had expected because to our ability to work together as a unit, which is greatly due to the strong friendships and family vibe Claire mentioned.

And individually, what do you all bring to the band?

CV: I bring the talent. 🙂

SMB: We’re a pretty diverse group—background, life experience, upbringing, musical taste, and the most obvious, that we span generations. Because of that, we often joke that if we had known each other in high school, that we would never have been friends. However, we work very well together, complementing each other’s personalities and bringing different strengths to the band dynamics. We’re also pretty good at taking care of each other, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Claire brings the wine. Keli brings the chocolate.

Initially, based on our different musical tastes and experiences, we all hear a potential song very differently. We use each ear to contribute and help build a song to its full potential. No song that we have is the creation of just one of us.

In addition to the “art” part of what we do, we’re very conscientious of the fact that there is a business aspect to trying to make a career out of playing music. Each of us brings a different strength to the business portion of our band: business plan, booking, contracts, sound, equipment and electronics, PR, etc.

SM: When we walk into a venue, almost immediately, Charlie and the sound people are best buddies. Charlie is always looking for new ways to use equipment and manipulate sound, so he likes to talk “techie” stuff. Also, Keli and Claire are really good at scoping out potential problems, whether it be logistical or otherwise, and then circumventing them before they ever come to fruition.

CV: Actually, I’m the “techie” guy by default. I truly only have a glib understanding of most of this “techie” stuff which is actually quite frightening to me as I know I have just enough knowledge to be really dangerous.

I found that the album displayed reoccurring themes of survival and
strength… would you agree? Also, is there a general theme, or even genre,
that you think the album fits into?

SMB: We definitely didn’t sit around and think, “Let’s write an album about survival and strength.” We do however, try very hard to write songs that are true to life, real life, either what we’re experiencing or what we’ve observed. Maybe it’s just that more often than people realize, they’re displaying tremendous strength and resiliency, and we just reflect that in our recounting of those stories?

More than keeping to a genre, we try to keep to themes that people can recognize, understand, and relate to even if they haven’t experienced it themselves. It may not be true with every song, but it’s pretty common for us to check ourselves to make sure that it will resonate with people outside of our little practice room.

SM: I write a good portion of the lyrics, although not all of them. It is not uncommon in the writing process for me to have a long conversation with Charlie about a song to try to decipher exactly what story we’re trying to tell, what we’re trying to say by telling that story, and then deciding if we’re really accomplishing that goal with what we’ve crafted so far. One of his questions is always, “Will people be able to relate to this?”

More to come….


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