A&E » Arts

Black Swade moving up quickly

CD release party Saturday, Merlin’s



By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: Black Swade

When: Saturday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m.

Where: Merlin’s

Admission: Free

Guitarist Alex Toews recounts Black Swade’s humble beginnings. The rest of the just-turned-teen Squamish crew moans at the memory, only one year ago.

“I think originally our first gig was when our music teacher got us to play at a sports day at lunch (at school),” Toews remembers. “Word got around and we started playing at the ice cream shop and we moved on from there.”

“We are over that phase,” pipes in drummer Iain Rommel . “Way over that.”

But a lot can change in a year, or at least that was the case with Black Swade who moved from ice cream shop to First Night mainstage for 2007 New Year’s Eve celebrations this year.

Despite being just old enough to attend a PG-13 movie, the five-member rock band of Toews, Rommel, Liam Alvernini, Luke Kyle and Scott Verbeek, have also recorded their first full-length album. That’s being followed up with a CD launch party Saturday, Nov. 25 at Merlin’s.

The ambitious fivesome have been touring their music the past year with shows in Squamish, Vancouver and Whistler. The mountain town was first exposed to the wild vocal antics of Kyle, whose vocal prowess challenges anyone three times his age, at the 2005 Battle of the Bands competition. While the band didn’t win, a special invite was extended to the group for an early performance at Merlin’s — one of the few concert bar venues that can have youth on the premises until 8 p.m. The audience couldn’t stay in their seats as the teens unearthed a full-on assault of originals falling somewhere between Rage Against the Machine and Led Zeppelin.

The Black Swade self-titled album sports 11 original tracks, with lyrics reflecting the life experiences of any normal 13 to 14-year-old boy.

“We just write about stuff that we go through everyday,” Rommel said. “Girls, peers; losing, making friends.”

“We take influences from everywhere,” Verbeek added. “Every member in the band likes their own artists. We kind of put it together and make it ours. Iain really likes reggae. Alex likes old stuff like Led. We put it all into one pot and make it our own.”

The boys started getting ready for the album in the spring, with recording starting in the summer at Manic Media Studios under the guidance of Brian Marchant. Studio time wrapped up with the start of the school year. Now the band is scheduling as many live concerts as they can fit in.

“I think we’ve really worked hard with our music, especially with the album,” Toews said. “We are getting our music out as hard as we can. We still have fun doing it and you get a better result because of it.”

Practicing twice a week in a garage keeps the boys on course to a dream not hindered by life experience.

“I think we ultimately want to be famous; like everyone’s dream,” Rommel said. “I’ve heard it is hard to do. That is what we ultimately want to be, but it’s also about playing shows and having fun.”

The next big concert date for the Don Ross Secondary School students is First Night in Whistler. But already the boys are becoming role models, with a smaller set in December at the local elementary school where they will not only play but share information about what it takes to get a band up and running.

So what advice does the teen team want to pass on?

“You have to love playing the music,” Rommel said. “I’ve been banging pots and pans since I was three. You have to enjoy what you are doing. You have to have a good relationship with the people you are playing with too — and I guess maybe you need a little bit of talent.”

Check out how much talent they have at the album release party this Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Upper Village.

To purchase an album, visit www.myspace.com/blackswade or cdbaby.com.