Artist of the Week: Swift Technique

Written by  Published in Featured Artist Wednesday, 14 December 2011 18:09


Swift Technique is a funk band with Philadelphia in their bones. With a foundation in the roots of hip-hop, drawing on inspiration from Led Zeppelin, James Brown, and the streets of Philly, this six-piece combines hip-hop, funk, jazz, soul, and rock to create their own fresh and unique sound that has gotten kids swinging from water pipes in basement shows in the shadiest parts of their hometown, and everyone dancing all out at their shows across the Northeast and beyond.

Bassist Jake Leschinsky and guitarist Andy Bree grew up playing music together, influenced by bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and the aforementioned Zeppelin, started an AC/DC tribute band at the age of 12.  They split up to go to different colleges in Pennsylvania, and Leschinksy started looking for an MC to collaborate with. “My original idea was to loop and layer bass lines to create textures for an MC to rhyme over,” he says.

He started connecting with different musicians at Temple University, and during a jam session Sean McCann came by to pick up a hi-hat stand. He heard the music in the basement, and went down to get on the mic. After that spontaneous jam and bonding over Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 by Guru, Leschinsky and McCann started what would eventually grow into Swift Technique. Pulling inspiration from local philly legends ?uestlove and Blackthought, as well as Guru’s combination jazz and hip hop, they began to form their live hip hop band. “I think the improv and melodic phrasing in jazz are a major part of the foundation of Swift Technique.” Leschinsky notes. This is when they pulled Bree back into the fold, and also recruited drummer Rich Agren.

Their first gig together - a open mic at World Cafe Live – set the bar high for the group. Their immediate energy precipitated the band being picked as a “stand out performer” by the venue, and offered another gig. That’s when they got serious, building on their energy and expanding their horn section. They began playing basement parties all over Philly, defining their live show with the wild energy the band exuded. "I just remember these basements being dangerously packed and seeing kids dancing and swinging from the water pipes thinking they were going to bust," Leschinsky recalls. From these experiences the group formed a philosophy of not separating the audience from the band. “Everyone is exchanging this positive energy together and we just happen to have the instruments.”

Since then, they’ve been elevating minds and making audiences get down at over 500 shows, sharing the stage with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Keri Hilson, Kermit Ruffins, Questlove of the Roots, Wale, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Mr. Lif & The Fela! Band, and they’ve received accolades such as being included in Deli Magazine Philly’s Top 10 Hip-Hop Artists list. Although since then they’ve parted ways with McCann and moved more in the direction of a straight up instrumental funk band, they’ve kept to their philosophy of traveling the world, representing Philly, and elevating spirits through their music, as well as keeping it fresh with their evolving creativity. Their immediate plans are to record their first studio full length, and they have dates lined up through the next few weeks in Boston, Vermont, DC, Annapolis MD, and Philly, including a big New Year’s Eve show in NYC.

Last modified on Friday, 16 December 2011 11:36
Kelly Knapp

I grew up listening to the music my parents listened to. My mom gave me some of her “Golden Oldies” cassette tapes, and I could sit in my room for hours harmonizing with The Ronettes, and staring at Del Shannon, who I thought was a total stud in his tiny black and white photo on the glossy fold-out insert. I listened to Willie Nelson because my Dad admired him so much, and I wanted to understand what was so great about him too. My first concert wasn’t a huge life changer; I saw Inner Circle at a local Jambalaya festival in Central Florida. Their biggest hit was “Bad Boys,” the theme song to COPS. If anything, that concert should have traumatized me. But, at the time I had no comprehension of any crassness. I just remember the guitarist making eye contact with me and smiling, and feeling excitement over having a brief connection with someone who was making me dance.

It’s the same thing with listening to music with words in another language. It’s not necessary to understand words or literal meanings. It’s the way the melodies and rhythms evoke feeling. It’s like that saying about art, how you may not be able to explain it, but you know it when you see it. I can’t always describe music (although obviously, I sure as hell try to), but I know what I like when I feel it, and I think those who can evoke that feeling deserve to be acknowledged for it. That’s what I want to describe. That’s what I want to share.

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