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Adam Svec

17 May

Adam Svec is all about waves of sound. Hard at work for a clinical doctorate in Audiology and a research doctorate in speech-language-hearing sciences from the University of Minnesota, it’s surprising that the former Glad Version frontman has time to make music. Fortunately, though, all Svec does outside of study is write and over the past four years, he has put out three solo records, the most recent of which, Weaks in the Waves, drops this week. Blessed with a mellifluous tenor (the result of ELCA church choirs, he says) and and excellent production help from Adam Krinsky, the No Bird Sing crew and with the additional, lovely vocals of Karen Salter, Weak In The Waves teems with tales of love and loss, feels close and intimate, and has hooks and choruses that cling on to you, like the air around a thundercloud rolling across the prairie. With a listening party tonight at Aster Cafe from 8-10 and a full CD release Friday at Cause Spirits & Soundbar with Aby Wolf and Linnea Mohn, CakeIn15 caught up with the busy Svec to talk about water and time, the release of songwriting, and proposed awards for longevity.
Photo By Emily Utne

CakeIn15: Between your solo debut Enemy Swimmer and now Weaks in the Waves, you have a lot of sad water imagery wrapped up in your work. How does that come about from a guy in a land-locked state?

Adam Svec: I think it’s maybe specifically a function of that in some ways. I get sort of linked to bodies of water that are close to me, for instance, the Mississippi shows up in a lot of songs, Lake Superior shows up in some of the Glad Version stuff and some of the newer stuff as well. I think because it’s novel, I really have an affinity for bodies of water and the way that they offer limits that don’t happen in places like Minneapolis. For instance, in Minneapolis you can drive for 24 hours in either direction and you’ll get to New York or Seattle or whatever but it takes 25 hours to get there. But if you’re already in LA or San Francisco or Seattle or New York or someplace on the coast, you have some vertical motion that you can achieve but you’re limited on that side by this interesting, other thing. Not only is it a pragmatic limit in that way but it’s also a really beautiful and interesting thing that we just don’t have access to here in the Midwest. So whenever I go to Seattle or even up to Duluth, I spend a lot of time just looking at the water.

C15: There’s also nostalgia and casting back of time in these songs. With lyrics like “You always live as if tomorrow’s never coming” from “Chariot Swinging Low and Mean”, and “Alma Mater Dear/Send me back 10 years/Our hearts are in the ground” from “Alma Mater Dear”, time also acts as a limit. Do you consider the limitations of water and the limits of time to be related in your songs?

AS: A little bit. I don’t know if I think about it in that fashion, but you’re right. I guess I tend to not be someone who dwells on the past much in my daily life, I’m constantly fairly future oriented, which has been pointed out to me as maybe not the healthiest of things. I’m always looking at what’s coming next and I don’t often allow myself time to celebrate what’s been accomplished or what happened a while ago. I think in the songwriting, that’s been a tool or a mechanism to celebrate or at least reflect on some of those things that have happened in my past in a way that doesn’t make me feel guilty about it or feel strange about it. Songwriting’s been a really great tool for a lot of reasons but one of them has been to look at things, not under the microscope as I usually do, but in more of a general wider angle view of the way things went down. There get to be some specifics in the songs, but I like that they get to breath a little bit compared to my days studying or my days in the clinic where I have to make sure that protocol is followed.

C15: When you’re writing and it’s looser, how much of it is autobiographical and how much is fictional or narrative?

AS: It depends on how the song starts. I would say that most of them are linked to an experience that actually happened to me but they may wind up being a whole bunch of stories combined, they may also be exaggerations of thins that happened and they may also be completely fictional but just linked to something common in the human condition. For instance, “Chariot Swinging Low and Mean” it’s not really about anybody, it’s about the condition of not thinking about yourself as a mortal thing, you know? Not thinking about the inevitability. So that doesn’t have any connection to a specific story, it’s just the way it goes does.

C15: You’re on Draw Fire Records– at a time when so many people are self-releasing and the label industry is supposedly in decline, what’s the benefit of being on a label for you?

AS: Draw Fire is good for a number of reasons. They are willing to give artists small no interest loans to try and release their records, and then the artists can repay them back over a period of time. Until you sell a thousand copies of a record, they don’t take a percentage of sales and so they’re really a volunteer organization that are doing some interesting things to support artists and I like working with David [Rachac] and Carol [Rachac] and Holly [Muñoz]. One of my reservations within the last couple years has been that since it’s a fairly casual volunteer organization, a lot of times the website will be down for a couple weeks and won’t be accessible, there’s some limitations as far as merchandise on the website, you know? I think it’s a cool label to be a part of, I’m really excited to be on a label with Carnage, you know, and Desdamona and all the other really talented people, but it’s definitely a fairly casual organization. So the benefit is that there’s no hindrance, there’s nothing takes away from what I would be doing anyway, so there’s no reason not to align yourself with that collective of artists.

C15: Since you talk about them and their work all over your press release, I would like you to answer this question in one sentence of 25 words or less, if possible: What is the best thing about No Bird Sing?

AS: Oh my God.

C15: That’s three.

AS: [Laughs] The. Best. Thing. About. No. Bird. Sing. Is. Graham. And. Bobby’s. Ability. To. Accentuate. Follow. And. Accessorize. Joe’s. Flowing. Fluid. And. Amazing. Ability. To. Engage. An. Envelope. Of. Sound. And. Lyrics.

“747” from 2008’s Enemy Swimmer

C15: Awesome. I’m going to have to space all those words out when I transcribe this to show the thought that went into that sentence. Here’s a final question: With all that we do well and have going for us in the arts here, what could we be doing better?

AS: I think Minneapolis is a fantastic town and I love the music scene, the theatre scene, the art scene. The one qualm I have with at least what happens in Minneapolis and this probably happens everywhere; the organizations at focus on local art are really good about promoting new things that happen but I think that sometimes the sustained members of the community get a little overlooked. Just thinking that City Pages has “Best New Bands” every year and that, just as an example, I think is really cool and really great, but it then doesn’t celebrate the idea of somebody being around for a long time. For instance, John Hermanson, good songwriter, probably one of the best in the Twin Cities. I don’t know what kind of songs he’s writing right now because I haven’t really read about it. Maybe somebody’s writing about it, but I haven’t read it. I think that Minneapolis is doing a really good job, that’s my only issue with things.

C15: We need a “Best 10 Year Old Bands”.

AS: [Laughs] Yeah, something, a “Best Third Album”, or a “Best Eighth Record” or something, you know?

Catch Adam’s performance on 89.3 The Current’s “The Local Show with David Campbell” here!

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