The Sweeps Interview
By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Thanks guys for taking the time to answer my questions today. I really appreciate your time!
Sweeps: No, thank you! We really dig what you do for the Chicago music scene!
DK: Thanks! We sure try! Now, you’ve been on the scene for about two years, correct?
Sweeps: Correct. Over 200 shows, a few albums and tours later, we’re finally hitting our stride.
DK: 200 shows in two years is definitely something to be proud of, great work! What is each of your musical backgrounds prior to starting the band? Were any of you in other bands?
Sweeps: Aaron actually just started playing the drums within the past five years. His dad played drums, but he never got into it into he started jamming with Santiago in college. Santiago and Bob both started playing guitar in High School and had a few small bands they played in. Bob had some moderate success with a few local bands and bounced from local project to project until he met Aaron and Santiago through a classifieds post and everything clicked.
DK: Did any of you take lessons?
Sweeps: None of us have had any formal training. We push it each other musically and rehearse 5 times a week, so we consider that our proving ground.
DK: What would you say sets The Sweeps apart from other bands?
Sweeps: Our live performance. We want everyone to leave wanting more and singing our songs all night long. We take pride in putting on an amazing show.
DK: In your two year career, what are some of your observations you’ve made about the Midwest music scene and the bands you’ve shared the stage with?
Sweeps: We’ve run the gamut when it comes to positive and negative experiences in the Midwest scene. There are a ton of talented and hard working bands that never get any attention. We’ve met many good friends and talented artists who have dedicated their lives to sharing their art with the world. On the other side of the coin, the “pay to play” scheme has crept its way into the Midwest and Illinois. This has led to a flood of promotional companies/upstart venues and other folks trying to make money off of young aspiring musicians.
It’s understandable that venues/promotional companies need to make money, but charging a $7-8 cover and paying the bands $1 a head if they draw 50+ people is absurd. Another popular scheme is asking for hundreds or thousands of dollars to get a song on a compilation that will not get properly distributed. It saddens us to think of how many amazingly talented bands have broken up or stopped playing because of the pressure or traps that’s put upon them instead of actual support.
DK: Yeah, you really have to be careful out there, my old band had similar problems and it will unfortunately probably continue unless we can collectively put a stop to them. Who handles all the business for the band, Bob, right,? Or do each of you have your hand in it?
Sweeps: Bob does handle all of the management and booking for the band. Santiago does almost all of the graphic design and Aaron contributes with art as well.
DK: It is so important that each member of the band be involved, even in a slight degree in the business side of the band. It is so helpful for each person to know what is involved in making things happen, but also it becomes so much less stressful if only one band member were handling all those details. How do each of you balance your time with the band verses day jobs and family, etc?
Sweeps: It has been very hard in the past and we walk a fine line. The band is our passion, love and full time job. However, it does not pay. In fact, it costs a lot of money to be in a band. Maintaining your instruments, renting a rehearsal spot, spending time promoting and playing shows hundreds of miles away, it unfortunately adds up very quickly.
So we need to each need to have supplemental incomes to support ourselves. It has created stress with loved ones and each other, but after two years, we’ve grown to understand each other like only brothers can. There is always uncertainty in our area of work, but we do our best to keep each other up to date on our individual situations.
DK: Now, you have two EPs out and a new self-titled EP on the way. You made 300 pressings of your second release and you’re almost sold out now. How many are you going to press out this time around on this release?
Sweeps: This time around we are going to print a limited edition Vinyl as well as 500 CD’s. We’re very confident that we will be able to move them quickly. We are very excited about the music which is going on this release.
DK: How much would you estimate each of you have invested into the band and how much of a return would you say you’ve received so far?
Sweeps: Between expenses every musicians face, each of us have put quite a bit of time and money into this project. We hope with another successful album release this summer, we can recoup some of our monetary investments into our love.
DK: Good luck with that, though I don’t really believe luck is going to have anything to do with it. You guys are very talented and it is really only a matter of time, just wait. Who are the songwriters in the band and where do you pull your inspirations from for your songs?
Sweeps: Bob and Santiago are songwriters. We each pull our inspirations from real interactions and experiences in each of our lives. A great song always has an amazing story behind it, and we feel the only way to properly convey actual emotion into our music is drawing from personal experiences..
DK: With “The Terrible Children” EP having been recorded in two days, it seems you guys don’t care for staying the studio too much do you?
Sweeps: We actually love being in the studio. However, we firmly believe in being efficient and prepared entering the studio. Too many bands leave it in the hands of the producers and engineers to let them know what sounds good and what does not. Far too many bands enter the studio unprepared in any number of ways. Our music gets put through the ringer of live audiences, other musicians we bring in to critique us and as friends and/or fans we’ve gained along the way we reach out to for honest input.
There also has to be a confidence in your own art and direction as some may not immediately understand it, but hopefully will appreciate it over time.
One major way we cut time is tracking our music live. Hardly any bands do this anymore for one reason or another. Growing up listening to our parent’s classic rock and Motown on vinyl, and now going back and re-listening and appreciating every little nuance of the studio/environment, instruments and artist, we want to carry on that tradition. These artists didn’t benefit from Pro-Tools or a computer and had to rely on their talent. They needed to be more than amazing to get noticed and phenomenal to be heard.
DK: I am very impressed with you guys actually, if you keep running the band as intelligently as you are, success will not be as much of a struggle for you to attain. Where were the albums recorded anyway?
Sweeps: The first two albums were recorded at Tesla Studios with Erik Widman. He has a rehearsal spot on the West side of the city with some great vintage recording equipment. He also mixed each album. The upcoming album will be recorded with Brian Zieske at the Gallery of Carpet Studios.
DK: With your desire to capture the live sound on your albums, do you plan to release live EPs or sell individual live tracks online anytime soon?
Sweeps: We will be releasing live performances and individual tracks in the future. Our next album release we are currently considering recording and releasing. If we ever play one of the great theatres in the city to where it would positively affect our sound, we would love to get a recording. However, bars and most clubs are not the greatest places to effectively and accurately capture sound without putting quite a bit of money into the proper equipment.
DK: Yeah, that is the unfortunate part of a lot of the venues in the area. Does it take much effort to “win the room” over when playing out of state venues? Or are the crowds usually pretty receptive?
Sweeps: We do try to connect with local bands that share a similar style and make sure the venues we pick to play are good fits for us so we do not run into a Blues Brother scene and end up playing Rawhide behind Chicken Wire all night. We’ve hardly run into any bad attitudes or personalities on the road, but every once in a blue moon they are people you cannot avoid. There’s been a positive response from the out of town shows we have played so far and we hope our luck continues.
DK: My old band was a speed metal band and we ended up playing a couple shows where we opened for glam bands, yeah, the vacant look on the crowds faces was pretty common. LOL, but it was an interesting experience. Before hitting out of state venues, do you try locating fans in those areas to help spread the word of the shows?
Sweeps: We start playing in areas we have friends, fans from social media or bands in the same position as us. This way we have a solid base to start with. Posters, stickers, buttons are mailed out and posted by our people and hopefully we get a few more people to really dig what we do live. And then next time hopefully they bring a friend and it snowballs from there.
DK: What are some highlights the band has had so far? How will these highlights help influence the band’s direction in the coming months/years?
Sweeps: Being featured in Metromix and the Red Eye only a few months after our first release as one of the top shows to see in Chicago next to U2, Bruce Springsteen and other major acts, we knew we were doing something right. After being asked to perform on the WGN midday news before our first major club show a few months later, a real excitement started to build.
That summer we were runners up for the Chicago Readers Best of Awards as Best Local Band. We decided to record a new EP which gained airplay online, in college radio and on Q101 and that solidified the feeling that we needed to pursue this 125%. We really feel our next EP will take us to another level as musicians and artists and hopefully Chicago will take notice.
DK: Most impressive highlights there, you each have a lot to be proud of! How would you say the band has picked up the most following? At your many live gigs? Or online?
Sweeps: Hands down from our live shows. Our fans online have been great, and our social networks continually grow, however we really get to connect on another level with fans who come out to see us live.
DK: How do you best maintain your relationship with your fans? What is the best tool you found so far?
Sweeps: Continually playing better and more interesting shows connecting with them live and then hopefully having them stay in touch through one our social networks has been the ideal way so far. Facebook and Myspace can be both amazing tools.
DK: At the stage that the Sweeps is at in your career, what would be the top three things you feel the band needs to take things to the next level? (i.e. management, street teams, etc)
Sweeps: First would be solid financial backing. That is always the biggest battle. If we had a label who firmly believed in our music and releasing it, we would only have to worry about making music, and none of the other stresses we currently face. A street team is currently in the works, and will fall into second place.
Having people other than you dedicated to spreading the word about your music and passion is simply amazing. It is overwhelming sometimes to consider people taking time out of their lives to help pursue your love and passion because they believe in you. Third would be management. Again, just like financial backing, this is something that would help us create more and better music and open more opportunities to share it with more people.
DK: Does the Chicago music community (i.e. venues, radio, resources, etc) meet your needs or are there some areas you feel there can be improvements to help bands along?
Sweeps: The Chicago community is great for helping upstart bands get noticed. There are tons of groups, utilities and individuals that are dedicated to local music. Some of these we have yet to take advantage of yet.
DK: Have there been any major hurdles that the band had trouble overcoming or have things been pretty effortless thus far?
Sweeps: There are always stresses and troubles anytime you ask three individuals to interact with each other daily in a small and loud rehearsal spot while under great amounts of stress whether it be personal or group stress regarding a big upcoming event or recording. We believe in talking and airing out what could help improve the group and always start and leave it there. So far we’ve got along great and it’s been very hard work to get to this point, but worth every minute.
DK: Does the band have any videos yet, be-it live or professional? If not, are any plans in the works for one?
Sweeps: We do have a few live videos on youtube. We are planning and in talks to do two music videos for our upcoming self titled EP.
DK: Getting back to shows, what do you have lined up for the next few months?
Sweeps: To start off April, we will be up in Wisconsin (April 2nd, Shawano, WI / Classic’s Lounge) and then April 7th at the Hard Rock Café downtown Chicago. April 11th we will be doing an acoustic performance and interview on Fearless Radio. To stay up to date on all our events, check our calendar at myspace.com/sweepsmusic or keep up with our posts at facebook.com/thesweeps
DK: What are some long term goals you’d like to see the band accomplish?
Sweeps: Being able to tour more consistently and gain major recognition in Chicago and the Midwest is our first goal. We’d love to be able to pursue this full time and share it with as many people as we can. As long as we have a roof over our heads, we are content with giving our all into this music.
DK: Well, I would like to thank you very much for your time with this interview today. It is sincerely appreciated!
Sweeps: Thank you so much for your time and do not be a stranger!
DK: We won’t and we wish you guys the best of luck on your careers!
The Sweeps Biography
The Sweeps are back with a brand new album, “The Terrible Chidlren”, released January 14th.
“Recorded in only two days, The Sweeps opted to replicate the raw energy of their live performances with a minimally produced live
recording. A good decision, for sure: much like the early Black Keys albums, this strategy amplifies the loose, invigorating style in which they seem to thrive.”, theDailyVault.Com raved of theSweeps new release.
Almost two years since the boys first met, and a over a year since their well received debut EP, “Midnight at the Box”, this new album is already drawing quite a bit of attention.
With over 200 live shows across the Midwest in the past 18 months, theSweeps are consistently touring and will be in a town near you soon.
“The Sweeps could never disappoint. Their songs are catchy, their stage presence is amazing, and the energy from their fans is intoxicating!” LoudLoopPress.com.
Check out their current album on iTunes, Amazon, Napster and more. Come to a live show.
Keep in touch with new videos, pictures and media sites coming this fall! The Sweeps are set to win over your heart.
Check out more great interviews here!