Current Swell gets boost from new boys

IN CONCERT

What: Current Swell with Carmanah
Where: Royal Theatre
When: Saturday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $46.50-$57 from the Royal McPherson box office (250-386-6121) or rmts.bc.ca

After 17 years together, members of Current Swell had developed a non-verbal shorthand to communicate. Conversations didn’t need to happen for ideas to be expressed in the popular Victoria rock act.

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“After touring together for months on end, you can look at someone and they know what you are saying on stage,” said singer-guitarist Scott Stanton. “It’s easygoing.”

But things have changed in recent months. Marcus Manhas has replaced longtime drummer Chris Petersen, while singer-guitarist Dave Lang, the band’s co-founder and co-songwriter, has stepped away from touring due to the recent birth of twin daughters (Evan Miller has been added to the lineup in Lang’s absence).

Stanton and bassist Louis Sadava are currently the only original members on tour with the group, which also added Phil Hamelin (keys and trumpet) and Dave St. Jean (trombone) to the lineup for its string of 19 dates in Canada and the U.S.

“There’s something special about having new guys in the band,” Stanton said.

“They breathe a little bit of life into it. They are young guys, and they are stoked. We’ve been doing this a long time and we’ve played most of the venues on this tour many times. To see these guys having fun, it’s a reminder of why we do this.”

Stanton said the new unit, set to play the Royal Theatre on Saturday night, didn’t find a proper groove until four shows into the tour. “As much practising as you can do, there’s no substitute for playing the same set every night and working on what you did wrong from the night before.”

The band is touring in support of its seventh album, Buffalo, which was released on Oct. 16, so a portion of the set will be new to everyone on stage and in the audience, Stanton said. Any kinks should be smoothed out by the time the tour wraps on Dec. 7 in Washington, D.C. — especially if Stanton can get his new bandmates to be a little tougher on him.

“Evan and Marcus don’t talk to me the way they need to yet,” Stanton said with a laugh. “If I screw up, I need them to tell me. But they are the new guys and they don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable yet. We’re all trying to put on the best show and we can only do that if we are all equal. But that will come from being around each other a lot.”

Current Swell recorded Buffalo in Brentwood Bay with producer Colin Stewart, who has worked with everyone from the New Pornographers and Dan Mangan to Black Mountain. The set (with Lang as a full-time member) was a wholly different experience from the sessions that produced 2017’s When to Talk and When to Listen, which they recorded in Nashville with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacquire King.

That record felt like it was made for other people, Stanton said, whereas Buffalo is a record for Current Swell and its longtime fans. “When we made the record with Jacquire, we weren’t listening back to it as a whole. Every song sounded like it wanted to be on the radio, and that put me off a little bit. That’s not who we are at all. With this album, we’d record three songs, go home, and listen to those songs before asking: ‘What else does the album need?’ ”

Stewart and Current Swell spent more than a year making the record. Much of that time was spent finessing the finer details, Stanton said, which wasn’t possible when they were working with a producer of King’s stature due to cost.

“I would not change what we got to do with Jacquire for anything in the world. We learned so much. But we wanted to sleep in our beds every night, rather than living in Nashville for a month. And I’d do it again in a second.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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