Loquat formed in 1996, though the band didn’t really find its footing until 2001.
For five years, Swenson and guitarist Earl Otsuka spent their time in the studio, a slow lingering start devoid of the live shows that help to build a following. “We were, I dunno, maybe too shy,” Swenson says.
Enter Anthony Gordon on bass, the man who helped convince Loquat to hit the road and who would eventually become Swenson’s husband. Gordon brought in drummer Christopher Lautz, creating a mischievous duo who had known each other since the seventh grade and could jam their way into a new tune together without so much as a nod. With the addition of keyboardist Ben Kasman, who has since been replaced by Ryan Manley, the band was complete.
Swenson displayed musical leanings from an early age. At 9, she convinced her mother to get her piano lessons, then ditched the teacher for being an alcoholic and hired her own.
That doesn’t mean she didn’t have an awkward adolescence. In fact, she has her share of geeky skeletons in the closet. In school she played the alto sax, and even owned a soprano version of the marching band staple. She could have been another Kenny G, but at 17 she picked up the guitar instead and started strumming.
Report cards from her nursery school days reflect a child who loved to sing. “Apparently all I did was walk around singing to myself,” she laughs.
She didn’t take her first real vocal lesson until mid-way through the group’s latest album. She was having trouble hitting just the right note in part of “Go Hibernate.” But after one lesson, Swenson said, she went back into the studio, sang the lines once, “and that was it.”
Largely, Swenson has schooled herself with an eclectic musical taste. She’s one of those rare people who claims to have one and can actually back it up by rattling off favorites from Roy Orbison to Kool Keith. “It’s pretty hard hip-hop,” Swenson says of Kool Keith’s “I Don’t Believe You” re-mix with Lil Kim. But the lyrics, like a line about working at the 7-11 make her laugh.
Strong women in the business have also been an influence, from the ultimate tough-girl Chrissie Hynde to Bjork, who Swenson says “can engineer records like a man.”
But even as she acknowledges that the music business can be a bit of a boys’ club, Swenson doesn’t seem to be fazed.
“It’s important to be confident that you know what you’re doing,” she says.
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