In 1986, a Kirkland, WA mother laid her five year old child on the living room carpet, put speakers on either side of his head, and played him Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 psychedelic masterwork Axis: Bold as Love. The album opens with "EXP" - two minutes of eerie guitar distortion panning from speaker to speaker, and schizoid voices questioning the existence of UFO’s and “space people.” That child was and is Tyler Swan, of Truckasauras, Flexions, Foscil, and Seattle’s the Rolling Stones. As he lay there, with Hendrix bouncing from ear to ear, Swan was struck full of an insatiable musical curiosity. It was early Spring, Swan’s mother was making Earl Grey Tea. Cumulous clouds in the shape of bowed up cobras scrolled by in the sky outside the window. Swan would soon discover drums. He’d grow up to be a beat making guru, and a drummer with diamond cut exactitude. Axis: Bold as Love it seems, shot Swan with an awareness of what beat should placed where, and the ability to play it.
Swan’s Rolling Stones play Capitol Hill Block Party, Cha Cha Stage, tomorrow, Friday, at 11:30. Members include vocalist Jordan Blilie (Blood Brothers, Past Lives), Justin Deary (Whalebones), Devin Welch (Shoplifting, Flexions, Blood Brothers), Nat Sahlstrom (Chromatics), and reggae extraordinaire Chava Mirel. They put their own spin and take on the Stones’ songs and sounds. Swan and I met at Summit Slope Park to discuss. Cobras were in the clouds above.
Whose idea was it to form a Rolling Stones cover band? Swan: Jordan Blilie and Devon Welch hit me up.
What was your reaction? I thought it was a joke at first. I was like, “Hell yeah.” Then they hit me right back with the first four songs to learn and when our first practice was, and at that point, I knew it wasn’t a joke. When a homie hits me up to play some Charlie Watts shit, I’m down.
Growing up in Kirkland, what music had the biggest effect on you? I learned how to play drums listening to Led Zeppelin records. I was a total Led Zeppelin nerd. My Dad played the Stones and Dylan all the time. My Mom bumped the Pink Floyd. A lot of these Rolling Stones songs are engrained in my head. When I was in second grade, my parents surprised me and pulled me out of school for a day to take me to see the Stones in Vancouver. It was the Steel Wheels tour. I got to see them with original bass player Bill Wyman playing. Devon Welch was actually in that class with me that I got taken out of.
Bill Wyman, who’s wife’s mother is married to his son, right? Yeah, he’s like his own grandfather or something. I thought he married his ex-wife’s kid.
Whose idea was it to call your Rolling Stones the Rolling Stones? It was last summer when we started messing around with it. We’d go down to Jordan’s rehearsal space in Georgetown, get drunk, and play Stones songs. We just always called it Stones rehearsal. When it came time to actually call ourselves something, that seemed like a natural name.
Do the real Rolling Stones know about your Rolling Stones? I don’t know.
I think they know. Yeah, Mick Jagger has satellites, and eyes in the sky. They’re watching.
What do you have to say to the real Rolling Stones? It’s more like see what they say to us. It’s funny, when we realized we actually had a show, we didn’t want to suck, so we rehearsed a bunch. Everyone involved, we weren’t going to half ass it. Once we committed to performing, it got super nerdy. It’s just really fucking fun to rock out on Stones tunes. Growing up, my Dad always talked about how good Charlie Watts was. I understand more now.
Why is Charlie Watts such a good drummer? He does more with less. It’s more about pockets and feels, than fancy fills. He’s one of my favorite drummers by far. And Keith Richards, in my opinion, is the best rock n’ roll rhythm guitar player ever. If you pick apart these songs, there’s a reason why people love them so much.
What’s your favorite Rolling Stones story? I like when Charlie Watts told Mick Jagger that he wasn’t his drummer. Watts said Mick was his singer. I guess Watts punched him. Who knows how much is true. And before he punched him, apparently he shaved and cleaned up, and put on a suit.
Does your being in a Stones cover band change the way you think about them as a band? I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan. We all are. Picking the songs apart, you realize why the Stones rule.
Why do they rule? When you’re playing the songs, you really know when you’re doing it right because it feels like you have a million dollar song.
What did you think when you saw the Stones in concert? What do you remember? Living Colour opened. They had that song “Cult of Personality”. I remember the view from our seats. We were nosebleed.
What is Jordan's take on Mick Jagger? I think he does a really good job. It’s not a mimicry thing, he’s putting his own voice into it. He really loves the Stones’ songs, so it’s some honest shit. We’ve put a lot of time into learning these songs. Figuring out how they recorded them in a studio, and what the parts are. We looked at tons of live clips because live, it’s totally different. We nerded out hard on the material, and put energy into giving the sound our own two cents.
What’s the hardest song to pull off? “Loving Cup” is tricky. It’s hard to play. There’s more instrumentation on that one.
This doesn’t seem like a Stones cover band, it seems like a group of Seattle based musicians who are friends, playing Rolling Stones songs. It feels more like a project to me than a gigging band. We have fun, and that’s the point. We’re not hustling ourselves as a band, we’re playing Stones songs, and totally having fun doing it. There’s no weight or pressure.
Speaking of actual bands, when did you and your brother Adam (Truckasauras, Foscil) start doing music together? It was early, we were young. My Dad played music so there were always instruments around. And my Grandpa on my Mom’s side, who died before I was born, was a musician. There was a piano in the house. My Dad’s band played stuff that sounded like the Stones. I picked up drums super young. Adam messed around with everything. He played guitar for a while.
Adam is a shredder at heart. Exactly. And Devon grew up down the street. We had a little band in grade school. Then we kinda went separate ways, growing up in different crowds, then reconnected with Flexions. He and Jordan wanted to do this Stones band. Jordan and his sister Hannah, the drummer for Gossip, also have Kirkland ties. I met them in junior high. We were all into the same bands and hung out. Basically we split off from them because Ryan Trudell (Truckasauras, Foscil) and I started skateboarding, and they didn’t.
A skateboarding rift. What bands were you into? Fugazi. I watched a bunch of skateboarding videos and got into that music. Then heard Aphex Twin and old Tribe Called Quest for the first time, and got into making beats. Justin, I didn’t really know, and Nat I met a few times back in the day hanging out with Chava, who’s the singer/keyboard player, is the older sister of Devon’s wife. We’re all some old homies.
Unrelated question, what do you think about that Representative Weiner guy? They guy who Tweeted pictures of himself and his weiner to chics. While possibly about to run for Mayor. Your name is Weiner, you should never take a picture of your boner and send it to anyone. That’s just stupid. It seems unnecessary. Especially if you’re running for office. I say wait a while and think before you send boner pictures.
Who was the mayor in DC who smoked crack with the prostitute and got busted? Marion Barry. Which happens to be my favorite flavor of yogurt.
Does Marion Berry yogurt taste like crack? It tastes like Marion Berries and cream.
When is the new Flexions album coming out? Early August, with a release show around then. It’s going to be a 12 inch, 33 LP. Cairo is putting it out. They put out a comp, and now they’re really going for it with this Flexions full length. Strath Shepard is doing the artwork.
Any surprises on the album? Free jazz? I think the fact that it’s a three-piece now, not a two-piece makes it a little different. Morgan Henderson guests (Blood Brothers, Fleet Foxes). Total free jazz.
And your roto-toms. Lots of roto-toms and china cymbal on the album. Double kick drum.
This story has been updated since its original publication.