The Swedish Models formed in early 2007 after guitarist Andrew Bernhardt, original bass player Mark Wiskowski, and drummer Dustin Paul called it quits with their band Cape May. The trio then picked up guitarist/vocalist Ryan Waller and added second drummer Andrew McNally. Bass player Keith Hilton, who also played with Bernhardt in Vinyl Radio, recently came on board to take over duties on the low end.
Bernhardt came up with the band’s name during a “break” at one of their first rehearsals. “I went to the toilet to talk to an old man about a mule and came back to our rehearsal room, opened the door, and said, ‘Where are all the Swedish models?’ It would have been sweet to open the door to a room full of hot models, but instead it was just our sweaty and half-drunken band. So we continued on as the Swedish Models from that day going forward, and if you have just enough to drink, we really do look like Swedish Models.”
The band’s songs cover just about every nook of the rock and roll pantheon. Bouncing keys, crunchy chords, soaring guitar solos, smart harmonies, and that rare attack of two drummers sharing one kit. If a comparison were to be drawn, it would be to the late-’60s/early-’70s incarnation of the Kinks.
This spring the band plans to record their debut full-length. “Our songwriting process usually starts with hooks that stick in our heads that need to be laid down as songs,” says Bernhardt. “It’s the reason why we take part in this wonderful wasteland called music — vocal hooks or instrumental hooks or just a groove. There’s so much material that we grab from each other. We try to go for the hooky stuff that we’ll love playing over and over. There’s a stony, catchy pop vibe in a lot of the material. We’re all multi-instrumentalists to some extent, so when we write, someone naturally goes for what they feel like playing, and it works out by natural selection.”
Bernhardt continues, “We’re shooting for tasty harmonies on our first full album. The sound of a person’s voice is unique, and if we utilize each of our unique voices as creatively and originally as we do with our instruments, this is going to be a fun and trippy album to listen to.”
Bernhardt: “Led Zeppelin. An all-encompassing, ever-ruling rock and roll composition of songs that hits from the heaviest/sexiest and most tasteful areas of voice and instrumentation. Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham — they deserve to be mummy gods or wizards living in a really cool castle. Cassandra Peterson [Elvira] would be the dog that guards the castle.”
Waller: “David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust. When I was 11 or 12, my parents used to keep me up at night partying with their friends and listening to this album. I love its epic feel and grand composition, and the songwriting is just really good. It is rooted with cool acoustic playing and good changes. I wonder what they were doing out there?”
Paul: “Queen, A Night at the Opera. This record takes you on a different, memorable journey every time you listen to it. May’s tones are comparable to a reflex hammer striking your elbow, and Mr. Mercury’s talented throat captures multi-part harmonies that are impossible to re-create during a live show — for this reason no one should ever attempt to cover any of the tracks on this record.”
McNally: “The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. My friend gave me this album two years ago, and I couldn’t believe I had never heard it. Sounds cheesy, but this album changed the way I wanted to write and my band to sound.”
Bernhardt: “Best in Show. I love cats and wish they would make a Best in Show for cats…it has most of the characters from Spinal Tap in it, and every animal fan or hater will crack up. And Parker [Posey] is amazing. ‘Go get Busy Bee!’”
Paul: “The Goonies, because everyone wants to find a map leading to buried treasure in their attic and narrowly escape booby traps while being chased by deadly villains and gain the support of crooked-eyed man-beasts.”
Waller: “This Is Spinal Tap. When it comes to movies, I’m pretty simple. I know it’s cliché, but I love This Is Spinal Tap.”
Paul: “Our first show at the Beauty Bar was memorable because we brought our bikes (my Schwinn Stingray and Andrew B’s banana-seated My Little Pony cruiser) and party favors consisting of noisemakers and horny-goat weed. A lot of folks went home with strangers and wrote us thank-you letters the next day.”
Bernhardt: “We played a show in San Francisco, and my friend Kimmy came up and handed me a mushroom chocolate during the first song, and by the third I could hardly stand. We started a song, and I had a lead to do in the beginning on a four count, and I fell to the ground. It was amazing…wait, I think that show was with a different band.…”
Bernhardt: “The San Diego House Party show that we played. We want to redeem ourselves and play there again because we were way too drunk because we’re OBcians and were drinking all day at the OB Street Fair. Ryan’s tuner was tuned a full step down — don’t know how that happened — and things fell apart.”
MOST PRIZED POSSESSION?
Bernhardt: “Alex, the cat. He’s our band mascot and purrs to our songs. See? He’s purring to ‘Victoria Prescott.’ ”
Paul: “I own a 1977 Elvis pinball machine, a Japanese slot machine, and a Hi-C vending machine, but my 1980 Vespa Piaggio was my favorite procurement — until someone snagged it from our side yard.”
McNally: “The band van. I sleep in it all the time. Never again will I get a cab, a hotel, or pitch a tent.”