The seven members of the Swarmius-Haussmann Project say they’re “trying to make music that is classic, not classical.”
What kind of music would Mozart make if he were currently living on the beach in southern California? “The Swarmius-Hausmann Project is a new melding of two groups that have each been around for several years,” says Joe Waters of the seven-piece collaboration of the Swarmius Trio and the Hausmann String Quartet. “We merge classical music with rock, hip-hop, jazz, and world-music genres by creating music that’s easy to get into, with strong hooks and grooves, that also has additional levels with all sorts of things to discover, like musical references, juxtapositions, and palindromes.”
Though ostensibly rock and roll, Waters notes that performances demand classically trained players. “The music is extremely demanding, like extreme sports. The songs are composed, not improvised, and the musicians are reading music onstage or have their parts memorized. The electronic sounds are all created from scratch, a painstaking process that’s necessary in order to realize the unique vision of the band. There are elements of electronica, surf, dubstep, gypsy, video-game sounds, and thousands of other things.”
Waters sums up their sound as “Moby gone over to a dark side, where Yoko Ono is the dungeon master and Brian Eno keeps score. We’re trying to make music that is classic, not classical.” All seven members responded to our queries: Waters, Isaac Allen, Eric Chin, Angela Choong, Jeremiah Shaw, Todd Rewoldt, and Justin Dehart.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
Joe Waters: “Radiohead’s Kid A is an open, emotionally profound record that sounds unique and is very well crafted.”
Isaac Allen: “The Pixies’ Doolittle and Schubert’s last string quartet, D.887 in G major. I don’t know why, but I find aspects of both of these to be similar. Both offer wide ranges of expression, from minor to major, from tender to anguish.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “Sara Tavares, Balance. I love listening to music that’s so compelling that it doesn’t even matter if I can’t understand the lyrics.”
Todd Rewoldt: “NOFX, Punk in Drublic. Faster than the Ramones, and vocal harmony chops like Boyz II Men.”
Justin Dehart: “Michael Gordon’s Timber, one of the most profound sonic experiences I’ve had while listening to a CD.”
Joe Waters: “It was a brass band in Sharp Park, on the bandstand near the Cascades in Jackson, Michigan, when I was three years old. All I remember is the incredibly gorgeous golden blast of the sound, like the sun’s reflection off the beautiful instruments.”
Todd Rewoldt: “Nine Inch Nails at the Detroit Fairgrounds, around 1994. Finally, the tune ‘Reptile’ from the Downward Spiral album made perfect sense.”
SOMETHING YOU NEVER RUN OUT OF?
Isaac Allen: “Potato chips.”
Angela Choong: “Crunchy foods, like carrots, and Persian cucumbers.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “Party favors.”
Joe Waters: “I’d like to convince the world that art and science are complementary and opposite sides of the same coin.”
Angela Choong: “Start a concert series on Mars.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “Win a Grammy.”
ANY FEARS OR PHOBIAS?
Joe Waters: “Never having sex again.”
Isaac Allen: “Bees, to the point where I can’t even listen to ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’”
WHO DO PEOPLE SAY YOU LOOK LIKE?
Eric Chin: “Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee. Do we really all look that similar?”
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THE YOUNGER YOU?
Joe Waters: “Don’t squander time being angry.”
Eric Chin: “The more you practice and the better you get, the harder it becomes.”
BEST THING ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Joe Waters: “I live in a hidden pocket neighborhood in La Mesa, a post-WW2 housing project. It’s situated on a loop that’s connected to the outside world by a single umbilical, so there’s no through-traffic and only folks who live on the circle know it exists.”
WHERE DO YOU TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS?
Joe Waters: “The cactus garden in Balboa Park, which looks like the flora in Dr. Seuss books.”
Justin Dehart: “The desert.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “I don’t regret the partying, I just wish I’d balanced out the work and play thing a little better.”
BRUSH WITH FAME?
Eric Chin: “I played music at Robin Williams’s most recent wedding...he may be famous and successful, but, even though I’m Asian, I’m taller.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “The last Olympic gold medal that was made purely from solid gold was [awarded in] 1912.”
SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Joe Waters: “I always eat with chopsticks.”
Jeremiah Shaw: “I used to sell toilet paper for a living.” ■