“We want to take the listener on a journey,” says Antonello Perfetto, Sawak’s drummer, “and bring them back fascinated but unharmed.”
In their effort to do just that, the band certainly traverses a lot of stylistic territory on their full-length debut. And whether it’s the ambient opening of the record, or the pieces that hint at punk and even jazz, Sawak manages to weave the disparate threads into a unified whole.
Though firmly rooted in the formula of two guitars, bass and drums, Sawak’s arrangements aren’t afraid to surprise you with their varied instrumentation. “We put a few guitars flat on some keyboard stands,” explains Shaun O’Neill, who usually fills bass guitar duties. “Then put them in various open tunings and hit them with mallets.”
You’ll also find in the mix organs, a celesta, a mandolin, double tracked saxophones, hand percussion, a stylophone, samples and (only very occasionally) vocals.
Perhaps the source of all the musical diversity is the diversity of the musicians themselves. Perfetto is from Naples, Italy and O’Neill from Donegal, Ireland. The lineup is rounded out by Bogdan Markiewicz and Greg Nieuwsma, both guitarists and both from Chicago. “We both used to go to a lot of the same places, but never met until Krakow,” explains Markiewicz.
Sawak came together in the autumn of 2014, but their watershed moment came several months later when they moved in to their own permanent rehearsal space. “It gave us a chance to explore musical ideas that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” explains Nieuwsma. You’re not exactly going to bring your mallet guitars to a room you rent by the hour.”
They've hosted many other musical friends in the “pit” (as they call it), some of whose contributions can be heard on the record. A special lizard incubation lab was next door to them, with the quirky and enigmatic 'Lizard King' at the helm. Lizards love eating grasshoppers, so when some escaped we would often have some fine musical accompaniments. Not all visitors have been welcome however, such as when the rats that had nested in the alley outside began to get bold. Through a policy of poison and perseverance, Sawak weathered the assault and kept recording.
The result of that process is well worth a listen.
All tracks written, recorded and mixed down the pit by Sawak