Union Transfer

1026 SPRING GARDEN STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19123 Ι 215-232-2100

The Sword

The Sword

Purson, From Beyond

Fri, May 20, 2016

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA

$20.00 - $22.00

This event is all ages

The Sword
The Sword
There’s an unspoken edict handed down through the ages when it comes to rock bands: there are no rules.

Nobody picks up a guitar to be constricted or oppressed. It’s all about feeling free artistically. Now, The Sword—John Cronise [vocals, guitar], Kyle Shutt [guitar], Bryan Richie [bass], and Santiago Vela III [drums]—cut out boundaries since day one. Their style never stood predicated on a trend or a template. They always create what feels right and let the results speak for themselves.

When it came time to record the group’s fifth full-length album, High Country [Razor & Tie], Cronise landed at something of a spiritual crossroads. Following the final tour for their critically acclaimed Apocryphon, he holed up in his North Carolina home and eventually began writing new songs. The material began to veer into a different space that at the time Cronise felt was somewhat outside of The Sword’s sphere.

“I didn’t even intend for the demos to be Sword songs,” he explains. “But then I realized that I had taken on a sort of limiting view of what The Sword was, and that wasn’t actually what I wanted it to be. I think the new album is more reflective of the music I listen to and where our heads are at collectively. With each of our albums, it’s become less about fury and bombast and more about trying to write good songs. We realized that our music can go wherever we want it to go. There’s no pre-determined course here now, and there never was.”

High Country became new territory for The Sword, and they began doing things differently. That approach included more attention to backing vocals and harmonies, implementing more synthesizers and percussion elements, and tuning to E-flat instead of all the way down to C. As a result, the guitars stand out as more vital and vibrant than ever.

“I felt like the low tuning had become more of a crutch than a tool,” he says. “It was all a matter of trying to keep things fresh, and not fall prey to habits or expectations. We wanted to break out of any classifications and just put out a good rock record.”

Inspired, the boys headed to Church House Recording Studio in Austin, TX to cut High Country with Adrian Quesada of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma producing, Stuart Sykes [The White Stripes] engineering, and J. Robbins mixing. Over the course of four weeks, they hammered out the album’s 15 tracks in the old converted church. Thematically though, Cronise’s head was still in North Carolina.

“There are a lot of lyrical themes that run throughout the album,” he explains. “I live out in the mountains, so nature really inspired the whole record. That’s a large part of the lyrics.”

The title track and first single “High Country” springs from a transfixing guitar melody into a sweeping refrain, illuminating the group’s inherent dynamics. Over those rolling riffs, the singer paints a thought-provoking topography.

“That was actually the first song I wrote that ended up going on the record,” he says. “The title can have quite a few meanings. Physically, it might mean mountains and literal high country, but it can also refer to a plane of being; a place of wisdom and enlightenment.”

“Empty Temples” opens with a psychedelic buzz that quickly ramps up into towering guitars and another robust vocal display evocative of rock’s golden age.

“It’s loose and swinging, but it has these epic moments,” says Cronise. “Lyrically, it’s about letting go of the past and moving on. You just have faith if you embrace change and be unafraid, and you’ll find where you need to go.”

The gathering storm of “Early Snow” eventually gives way to a rapturous horn section, another first for the band, while “Mist and Shadow” stirs up a haze of blues that’s instantly thunderous. “That song is based around riffs written by Bryan, which is a new thing for us. He contributed quite a bit of music to this album, and in many ways it’s our most collaborative work to date.”

Both “The Dreamthieves” and “Tears Like Diamonds” have titles inspired by the work of science fiction author Michael Moorcock, though Cronise insists the lyrics have lives of their own. “I’d prefer to let people interpret the songs how they want,” he says, “which is one reason the lyrics aren’t printed in the album sleeve this time. I think they’re pretty intelligible and accessible, and I didn’t want them to distract from the music.”

The Sword’s impact continues to expand. 2012’s Apocryphon debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200, marking their highest entry on the chart. Since first emerging with 2006’s Age of Winters, the group has been extolled by everyone from Rolling Stone and The Washington Post to Revolver and Decibel. Metallica personally chose them as support for a global tour, and they’ve earned high-profile syncs in movies including Jennifer's Body and Jonas Åkerlund’s Horsemen. However, High Country is the band’s biggest, boldest, and brightest frontier.

“I want to make positive, uplifting music,” Cronise leaves off. “High Country has moments of darkness and thoughtfulness, as anything I write probably will. But at the end of the day I want to put smiles on people’s faces.”
Purson
Purson
There is a magic place where folky warmth meets lurid technicolour horror, where progressive rock complexity and all out skull-crushing doom combines with classic songwriting to flesh out a sinister but romantic vision of twisted dreams and lurking threats hidden just out of view. That place dwells in the debut album by Purson.

The Circle And The Blue Door finds the missing link between Pentangle and Pentagram, by way of David Bowie’s dream reality and The Beatles’ feel for the perfect melody. And while it owes a debt to front woman Rosie Cunningham’s clear love of the late 60s and the early 70s, it is her poetic, evocative lyricism, tight song craft, sonorous vocal style and dedication to deep musicality that takes this wonderful album far beyond the waters of pastiche. Only an original mind could come up with a line like "ex dwellers of Spiderwood Farm, though they live here, they mean you no harm" — and set it against a mellotron solo.

"Spiderwood Farm is about ghosts," says Rosie. "I was looking through a copy of Sounds from 1972 when I saw a band mentioned called Spiderwood Farm. From there I thought of a song about ex-dwellers, who are, of course, dead. The council are trying to evict them, but they’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just hanging about."

There are not too many 21-year-olds out there who are familiar with the early 70s golden age of satanic flute rock, when bands like Coven and Black Widow terrified Middle England with slow yet ominous odes to the devil, all the while dressed like sociology lecturers from the Open University. But Rosie Cunningham has gone her own way from a young age.

Rosie grew up as a child obsessed by The Beatles. "For me, they are music," she says. "I liked all the usual pop things my friends liked, but my real love was The Beatles, The Faces and Led Zeppelin, which they didn’t like."

The other key influences are Slade and David Bowie. "Slade is a much underrated group, with a collection of perfectly crafted pop songs. Bowie is one of those people you can listen to forever and keep on hearing new things. I love all of his classic albums, but I’d have to put The Man Who Sold The World as my favourite. Tragic Catastrophe" — the final song on The Circle And The Blue Door — "takes a lot of inspiration from Bowie."

Rosie was 16, and already an electric guitar virtuoso, when she left her native Southend to pursue music, forming the short-lived Ipso Facto in London. Dubbed The Female Horrors for their gothic take on psychedelic rock, Ipso Facto split when Rosie realized people were more interested in the way these four pretty, heavily stylized teenage girls looked than any actual sound they might make.

"We were getting a bit of hype, but it wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t feel ready for it. Everyone told me I was doing the wrong thing by splitting the band but it felt like something was happening that I didn’t ask for; that we were being taken advantage of because we were so young. And I didn’t have the sophistication to make the music I wanted to, even if the ideas were there. It’s taken this long to get it right."

After various aborted attempts to start another band, Rosie met Ed Turner, former assistant to Liam Watson at Toe-Rag Studios, multi-instrumental virtuoso and fellow enthusiast of the more arcane corners of early rock. So begins the story of Purson.

"We fell in love within five minutes," says Rosie. "It was very romantic. I left my boyfriend, who I had been with for four and a half years, to be with this guy I had only just met. We dropped the rest of our lives to be together, writing loads of songs and forming the ideas for Purson along the way. Ed gave me the confidence and studio know-how to do what I wanted to do and it was so appealing and so natural; it was confirmation that I was on the right track."

The intensity of the relationship, however, proved impossible to maintain. "Ed is a genius. I’ve never met anyone like him. But he’s also deeply complicated. Within a week of us living together I realized we couldn’t live together and it spiralled out of control, but that’s not to say that great things didn’t come out of it. Ed’s no longer in the band but his contribution to the album is significant."

Ed left half way through recording and moved to Wales, but his imprint is marked: the incredible riff to Spiderwood Farm is one of Ed’s, while The Sailor’s Wife’s Lament, a beautifully melancholic ballad augmented by seagull cries and whirling organs, is about the year and a half he and Rosie spent together. "A lot of my songs are fictionalised versions of real events," she says. "That one is about waiting for Ed to change."

The band is now in a stable place, with Rosie’s childhood friends Sam Shove (keyboards) and George Hudson (guitar) making ever-greater contributions to the Purson philosophy and aesthetic. "We’ve been through everything together, we’ve been sharing musical discoveries since we were kids. Now Purson is our shared vision," she says. Barnaby Maddix on bass and the Columbian drummer Gomez complete the line-up.

Influences may be rooted in the classic period of late 60s / early 70s rock, but the lyrics reflect a young woman’s vision of the world. Rocking Horse is about retreating into the innocence of childhood, although in Rosie’s hands this takes on a sinister edge, with lines like: "in our own secret garden we play, I the spider and you the fly." "It’s about remembering childhood in a hazy way," she explains. As for the Bowie-esque Tragic Catastrophe, it describes her dreams of being a rock star and feeling like a girl out of time. "It starts with me as a kid, going through my dad’s 70s music magazines in the attic and being fascinated with these people, and wondering how on earth I could ever do guitar music today."

She answers her own question with The Circle And The Blue Door, a fantastical rock classic with its own vision and purpose. And there are subtleties. Purson, named after the great god of Hell, may evoke the colour-saturated English countryside of early 70s Hammer Horror movies, but they do so with Beatles-esque sophistication, baroque charm and minor key reflection. The Circle And The Blue Door proves that those impossible dreams of the little girl in Tragic Catastrophe weren’t so impossible after all.
From Beyond
From Beyond
Space doom metal band from Houston, TX.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123