HomeInterviewsHappy Mondays Interview Series: The Swiss Guard

Happy Mondays Interview Series: The Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guard
Photo Credit: Peter Boyce

There’s something brewing down in Lambertville. The hip little town located in the Western corner pocket of New Jersey has always been known as a hub for the arts. However, recently, it seems more and more bands are coming out of this town, and making their way to the City that Bruce Built.

One of those bands is The Swiss Guard. The purveyors of “loud music for quiet people, and quiet music for loud people” are starting to make some noise with their killer sound. We caught up with the band to talk about their forthcoming EP, the Lambertville scene, and more as they get set to play Happy Mondays at Wonder Bar tonight.

Swiss Guard is (Members & Instruments They Play): Justin Pope (vocals/guitar), Brian Green (lead guitar), Evan Straley (bass), Steve Thomas (keys), and Ryan Whittemore (drums).

Story Behind Our Name: It’s a play on our singer/songwriter, Justin Pope’s name. The Swiss Guard are the elite, colorfully-uniformed soldiers who guard the Pope.

Year We Formed In: 2018

We’re Based Out Of: Lambertville, NJ

Our Sound Has Been Likened To: A party band for people who think Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen and the Walkmen make party music

You’ve Seen Us in Other Bands Such As: Brian (Sugar Cicadas, Sourland, The Poet Ebeneezer), Justin (High Hearts, Sourland), Evan (Hot4Robot), Steve (The Whyte Stuff)

Famous/Awesome Bands We’ve Shared the Stage With: Lowlight, American Dinosaur, Above the Moon, Those Looks, The Inflatable Head, Mercury Brothers, Foes of Fern.

Over the summer you guys were recording an EP — can you talk about the EP’s release, and how this recording stands out from the rest of your work? OR, if this is your first recording — talk about the process of recording together for the first time?

We started working on our debut EP earlier this year, and we’re mixing it right now. We’ve been lucky to work with a producer, Brian Strouse (The Lawsuits), who has been great in coaxing out some great performances from each of us, while keeping our most infamously scatterbrained members (Justin) focused on keeping the project moving forward. The EP will be four songs that were a great capsule of where our set was in early 2019, with some fantastic guest work on strings and vocals from some very talented friends. We’re excited for the opportunity to share them with the world very soon.

You guys are from Lambertville — we’ve interview a few artists out of that scene — can you talk this hip towns music scene and how it’s helped you guys as a band?

It’s been great to come up artistically in a place that’s so welcoming and supportive of its artistic community. In Lambertville and its sister town, New Hope, PA, you have at least four venues with live music opportunities within a walking distance, not to mention the many gallery events and private events that spring up through the year. Having all that so close gives each of us opportunities to stretch out musically, whether it’s Evan and Brian playing in a jazz combo, Justin’s frequent acoustic performances and the weekly open mic he hosts at Triumph Brewing Company, or Ryan sitting in on drums at John & Peter’s famous “Invitational” jam session, there’s such an opportunity to just stay busy and keep playing without having to trek out too far from home.

Can you talk about your description “Loud music for quiet people, and quiet music for loud people?” 

You can say a lot in a whisper that might get lost in a scream. And sometimes keeping things quiet too long can have explosive results. Our band is split about down the middle with guys who are more reserved and guys who are more outgoing, but you’d be surprised after a show to learn who’s who, because chances are, the loudest moments in a set will be from some of our quieter members.

What do you love about being in this band?

What started out as a project to put out full-band versions of Justin’s songs has very much became a band of collaborators, and very quickly and naturally. Everyone brings something unique to the table to create the whole. We like to joke that the best and worst thing about our band is that no two songs really sound the same, and we tend to run a wide gamut through a setlist, with stops off at gentle folk, lounge-y ballads, fuzzy blues-rock, country, four-on-the-floor 00’s indie… we keep ourselves interested in making music together by keeping the music interesting.

What are you most excited for, musically for the band, in 2020?

We’ll do some shows when the EP is out, celebrate getting something out there into the world. Since we first went into the studio earlier this year, we’ve written another EP’s worth of brand-new material, all full-band collaborations. I think we’ll probably head in again to record those songs, maybe put out some singles after the EP. We’ve built some great relationships with bands both back home and down here in Asbury Park, so hopefully we’ll do some show-sharing between our two scenes, and keep the creative exchange program going. Oh, and merch. Gotta get some of that merch out there. All in, should be a very exciting year!

The Swiss Guard performs tonight at Happy Mondays at Wonder Bar along with Cranston Dean Band, New Narratives, and Dave & Tom. The show is free!

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


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