Indie post-punk dance rock trio East of Sweden includes ex-Syndicate drummer Jeffrey O’Brien alongside Eric Sellers (formerly of Chula Vista group SocketSeven) and Andrew Loc. None are from anywhere near Sweden.
“I actually do have a little Swedish heritage,” says O’Brien, “which had nothing to do with how we came up with the name. But I did like it for that, really.”
The band name is a twist on the Steinbeck story East of Eden. “When we were going through hundreds of names, trying to come up with something for the band we each went into our little artistic corners.” In the end, he says it was Eric Sellers who came up with East of Sweden.
“He actually has the book. I saw it on his bookshelf.”
Sellers sings and plays guitar. He gets a big airy sound that rings and lingers and almost chimes in the manner of U2’s The Edge. Andrew Loc plays bass. The members come from past local bands the Syndicate and SocketSeven. They started the band in 2010 but O’Brien, who moved to Normal Heights in 2005, says the promo machine began in earnest in summer 2011.
After recording a demo, the band began work in early 2012 on an 8-song full-length called Sink or Swim with Mario Quintero at Black Box Studios on Broadway in Golden Hill. “All artwork and packaging for the CD was created, printed, and put together by the band,” says O’Brien, who learned to play cello for the album. “The cello is a pretty difficult instrument. Having played guitar, I thought some of those skills would transfer over but no. I’ve always wanted to learn...it took a long time to get around to it.”
Asked about the title and the ominous cover photo (a bleak sky of line-sitting crows), O’Brien says “Although we want people to come to their own conclusions about the meaning of the album, the overall feeling that is portrayed with the art and music is the conscious and unconscious reaction of being stuck in a situation, without knowing how it’s going to end up and sort of feeling powerless to do anything about it. Like, when you’re a kid and your parents have this control over you and tell you what to do and not to do, except that this is now coming from an adult perspective in the same position. Parents are replaced with norms, society and government.”
“It’s also about repetition and routine, and continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. It’s a record that tries to capture a personal and at the same time universal perspective.”
So what does O’Brien think will enable East of Sweden to stand out in a town loaded with indie post-punk dreampops? “I think it’s the style of the music. It is powerful rock with big sounding guitars, and a locked in rhythm section which is not ordinary for a three piece. People are amazed at the sound we project from so few musicians. The tracks also seem to identify with people. The music is rock at its core, with dancey undertones that make people want to groove along.”
“It’s reminiscent of post-punk rock glory days, with a just a hint of modern mixed in, which makes it familiar and new at the same time.”
O'Brien says the band is “rapidly rising in San Diego,” a somewhat generic assertion that we asked him to elaborate on. “Rapidly rising as we have been getting support from who I would consider some of the important music personalities in town, from Tim Pyles to Robin Roth, NBC Sound Diego, SD Dialed In, and Owl & Bear...all of this is within just a few months of putting out our first demo and playing our first show.”
“Granted, we have history with previous bands [Syndicate, SocketSeven, etc], and had contacts to get the music out there, but the positive feedback and continually growing list of opportunities has been extremely encouraging.”
That said, it hasn't been all that long since the band experienced what O’Brien calls “Our worst show ever, on opening night of the tour. We played Bakersfield, we won’t mention the venue, but they stuck us in this back room while the DJ continued to spin in the main room while we were playing. Let’s just say our audience boiled down to a bartender and one cool-ass local who gave us props the whole time.”
“That same night, someone got smashed in the face with a barstool, and multiple people got arrested for fighting. We love Bakersfield!”
The aforementioned cool-ass Bakersfield local can be seen at the beginning of the band’s video for “Murphy’s Lawyer.”