Will Swan has celebrated and elevated radical guitar music through the course of nine frenetic, volatile @Dance Gavin Dance albums, a pair of releases with his psychedelic post-hardcore side project Sianvar, and the creation of his @Blue Swan Records label. The common thread is his hue of beautiful dysfunction and his ethos of pushing the instrument (and its sounds) forward.
Make no mistake, Swan can play the guitar. His style is equal parts violence and grace, with pit stops at all points between. He terrorizes the frets as well as he tenderly dances on them—and the results can be chaotic or calming. But what most excites him about guitar is making it not sound like a guitar.
“I really like those tones that take the guitar far away from its normal sounds,” Swan explains. “I like to layer those with typical guitar tones, and to mix cool sounds with interesting-playing parts. I need both of those elements to enjoy the experience.”
“I’m self-taught, so I don’t know music theory, so when I’m writing I don’t know what things are going to sound like. I’m just messing around and seeing what catches my ear. It’s similar to the way I explore pedals. I don’t quite know what’s going to happen, but if I come across something that I enjoy, I’ll use it and don’t question it.”
The afternoon of Dance Gavin Dance’s headlining show at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works, Swan detailed his signature Kiesels (and the other Kiesel he’s been preferring), explains how the Friedman Small Box is (phenomenally) filling the void of his favored vintage Rockerverb, and breaks down why his pedals help him embrace the textures and tones of other instruments.