Sicily’s Swingrowers Take NYC For A Spin

Electro-swing trio the Swingrowers recently released their debut album, Pronounced Swing Grow’ers, and are in the middle of their first American tour. The Italian-natives stop in NYC this week to play A Speakeasy Swing this Friday, April 19th at The Box. I caught up with them to chat about swing music, swing dancing, Sicily and much more. 

Sound Dessert: Which swing elements do you most incorporate most into your music?
Swingrowers: We mix all different styles. On our album Pronounced Swing Grow’ers, you can hear everything from drum and bass, electro-house, hip hop and house with swing. It’s not genre-specific, we experiment with lots of different tempos and sounds and in the end it’s swing. For example on “Kiawami”, we re-arranged the song from a hip hop track to a pop track. We felt the song should be more happy sounding.

When the trio works together and all our ideas are mixed together, the final result is perfect. When Alessio Costagliola (guitarist) came on, he brought a more Manouche, Balcan and Gypsy style to the music. Whereas Roberto Costa (DJ, producer) came from bass and drums and has a background in electro. Loredana Grimaudo (singer) sang in a folk band in Sicily. So we combine these different backgrounds with swing.

SD: What kind of samples do you like experimenting with? How do you discover them?
We use samples from vinyls from the 20s, 30s, 40s. We cut and rearrange the notes to make new melodies and new sentences. We have 8 or 9 tracks with samples on Pronounced Swing Grow’ers, but we prefer to re-create the old sounds ourselves. When we recorded the album in Brighton, UK we collaborated with a clarinetist, trombonist, guitarist, etc. to get the right sounds.

We find samples online, from fans and their vinyl collections and Roberto’s father who’s a musician.

SD: What about the 20s do you find inspiring?
Loredana: The fashion!
Roberto: I love the warm sound of the vinyl recordings.
Alessio: For the musicians and the audience both, the music has a cheerful sound, a happy sound. I also like the improvisation from the musicians and same as Roberto, the warmth of the recordings.

SD: What’s the music scene like in your hometown of Sicily?
Swingrowers: There’s a lot of great artists, though there’s not as many opportunities so it’s difficult to be discovered in Sicily. The majority listens to commercial music. One of the principle reasons we think is, geographically, since Sicily is an island in the south of Italy, it’s far from a big music city or scene like London, Paris, Milan.

SD: How’d you discover electro-swing if it’s not a presence in Sicily?
Loredana: I discovered it from my friend who was in France and he gave me an album of Caravan Palace and I said, “I want to make this kind of music.”

Alessio: I discovered electro-swing in Paris at the biggest Manouche festival in the world there.  I didn’t know what it was and then I saw Caravan Palace play.

Roberto: I discovered swing when I was in Catalan in Sicily. I lived there for a time in a student building and met a DJ who also lived there. Every morning he played old music from his window to the whole building. There was a time he put on electro-swing and I said, “whoa what the fuck?” I went upstairs and said, “tell me, what is this?” It was love. Then I started to make remixes.

Photo by Saint Thomas Jacques

Photo by Saint Thomas Jacques

SD: Can you share some highlights from the US tour?
Roberto: I fell down on the stage in Montreal – oh, we had amazing homemade lasagne in Portland by the promoter.

Loredana: There’s a lot of stuff – every gig was different and amazing. The audience is very, very hot in America. We give them our music, energy and emotion on stage and they give us a lot of feedback and energy in return.

Swingrowers: It’s something that makes the band grow a lot. We understand by the feedback what our strengths are in the show. So we work on that and upgrade the rest of the show, to always make it better every time. From California to Canada, it’s been an escalation. The highlight for us so far was Montreal because everything was amazing: the people, the sound, the band. The more we play the better and better we get.

We love the collaboration with all the promoters, organizers, fans and artists that love the music and are passionate about pushing electro-swing – they really believe in it and really want to make it bigger. We think it can be so because it’s music everyone can listen to – it’s very happy music.

SD: Which artists do you listen to?
Loredana: Yesterday we we’re talking about this because right now we don’t listen to much music because we don’t have time. But we like Bossonova. I love Madonna, Italian singer/songwriters and musicals.

Roberto: I have all kinds of music from electronic to acoustic to rock, punk-rock, california-punk, drum and bass, electro, hip hop, Balkan beats, lots of that, electro-swing and ahh 90s dance. It’s really eclectic. Sometimes when I’m looking for inspiration and new songs I’d like to say, “okay I’ve never discovered this one, I’d like to take something to re-create.”

Alessio: I like everything from Django Reinhardt to old-swing to nu-jazz like Stefano Bollani. Lot’s of European East music, Tzigane music. We take a lot of inspiration from what we listen to — I also like prog-rock.

SD: What do you think of NYC?
Swingrowers: Everything is really different from our home but we felt really comfortable and everyone has been really friendly and amazing. I feel from the people, very welcome in general. I feel there very good, open people here. Open to meet and socialize.

If you want to make something, if you have a wish – here you can make it. If you have a desire, even if you are no-one you can find a way to make it work, to make it happen. I sense that also from discussing with other people and musicians I’ve met, so I think NYC is one of the better cities to create what’s in your mind. Probably tonight we’ll go out and there will be more than 100 gigs around and several kinds of music. You can find everything here. It looks at the future – you really see that. But NYC should look more at the past as well.

Loredana: I’m a person who has an active imagination and being in NYC I feel like I’m in a movie.

SD: Do you swing dance?
Roberto: We are the best dancers..(laughs). Lori is a good dancer, not swing maybe, but she tries.
Loredana: I feel the music and I can’t stay still. I have to move when I feel any kind of music. I dance swing but I don’t know the steps, it’s just an instinct to dance. I get lots of inspiration from music videos on youtube, musicals, sometimes I even take classes.

Roberto: I was a break dancer. Sometimes when I’m drunk I dance very good.

SD: What are your plans post tour?
Swingrowers: Work, work, work. Create don’t stop! We’re going to release an EP with new tracks. They’re almost ready so we have to decide on the release date. We’ll probably have one week for relaxing because once we get back to Italy we immediately have gigs and then we travel again to lots of summer festivals like Boomtown in the UK with Parov Stelar. We also want to go back to a lot of cities in Europe, and later on go overseas once again. Everything is in the planning stages right now.

NYC fans catch the Swingrowers at The Box this Friday, April 19th at 7PM!

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