By Owen Maxwell
Photo by Nigel Somerville
A lot of bands cut and run from Ottawa when they start gaining momentum, but local heroes New Swears decided to stay and work hard, which you might not expect from a band known for fighting on stage, chugging litres of beer each set, and occasionally wearing diapers on stage.
After four years together, their hard work has paid off, signing a deal with Dine Alone Records. With a new album on the way soon, they said staying in Ottawa is what made it happen.
“It’s harder for bands in Ottawa to stick out but it pushes you to work harder,” said guitarist Scru Bar. “Bands from bigger cities resent bands that move there to make it because why not make a name for your community?”
The band sits around their back patio, their picnic bench covered in beers and Viceroy’s lit. They use a lighter to open a beer, popping the cap three feet into the air before opening up about their recent deal.
“We thought it would be some bureaucratic situation with lists of what to do, but it just felt like working with real people that get you and have faith in you, not a board meeting,” said Scru Bar.
The label doesn’t have any desire to rein the band in.
“The guys are hilarious and truly genuine,” said Dine Alone Records president, Joel Carriere. “We were fully into having them as part of our vibe, and I believe they felt the same about us and their vibe.”
It’s no surprise the band’s live show was what caught the attention of Dine Alone Records, as they’ve become infamous for putting on shows that get out of control, with costumes, confetti, beach toys, human pyramids, and entire crowds rushing the stage.
“We just want to give it all we’ve got on stage. We’re always pushing it on the road but in Ottawa we push even harder because our fans expect it,” said Scru Bar. “We do stuff like the human pyramid to get high, physically high, that’s what we mean in our songs about getting high, not substances.”
This unpredictable show has resulted in some memorable moments from the band, for better or for worse.
“We got Wireless gear at Arboretum. Sammy went to get food while playing, Scru Bar disappeared, and Ben climbed the fire escape. We all ate poutine while playing when Sammy got back, we even ran the beep test during the show,” said drummer Nick Nofun. “I also had fire hit me in the chest when we tried setting up fire on my bass drum.”
They don’t try to reproduce on record and instead explore their songs in ways they can’t on stage.
“We use god’s metronome, which is the human heart, we just try everything you know. Maybe this’ll sound good, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Scru Bar. “There are always some little treats that we never play live—it’s like a chocolate.”
Their deal with Dine Alone has them working on a new record, one that found them deconstructing and rebuilding it for a year.
“This one was a struggle. We had to rework every song, and it was the first time we had to trim the fat off a record—that’s an industry term,” said Scru Bar with a grimace. “We had a full album but we had time to get sick of them, so we decided to start fresh.”
Their first venture on the label is the track “Brand New Spot”, out on Nov 4, it’s lighter sound part of their effort to stay unpredictable.
“You don’t just want to write the same stuff over and over, but the songs still have the same heart to them,” assured Scru Bar.
The band will be playing at Zaphod Beeblebrox on November 12 and they have a lot to show their fans.
“We’re going to be testing some new songs especially the ones on the album. There will be a good mix. Some old stuff too, like Beethoven, cavemen banging a rock on a wall,” said Scru Bar. “If you wanted to know if we ever regretted something we’ve done on stage, come on the 12th.” •