Swivel Hips’ bag of tricks | VailDaily.com

Swivel Hips’ bag of tricks

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyFunky, jazzy groovesters, Swivel Hips Smith, arrive courtesy of their Chevy, Vanna White, for a show at the Moon tonight.

“We’ve changed a bit,” said Erik Swartz, lead guitarist. “We’re more improv, more jamming, but we still keep it tight and danceable. Our new sax player is much better than the old player we had.”

In addition to Swartz, Swivel Hips Smith is Chris Long (bass, vocals), Luke Brown (percussion), Seth Garland (saxophone) and Shane Lieberman (guitar, vocals).

Originally, the project began at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, where several of them were studying music. Deciding they had something hot, they moved to Boulder for the music scene. Since the move, they’ve expanded their musical horizons.

“We do a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’re based more in a funk jazz thing, but at our show you get rock, bluegrass and then maybe a Paul Simon cover, “50 Ways to Leave your Lover.’ A lot of jam bands nowadays are genre specific – bluegrass, electronic, rock. We try to vary it, try to take it a little bit further.”

“Taking it further” brought them Garland, their new saxophonist. Described by his bandmates as “a rippin’, amazing horn player,” he helps fill up the sound. With a strong background in music theory to accompany his brassy prowess, he pushes the rest of the band. Though he can play the keys, the band prefers to challenge themselves and go without.

“It’s difficult for two guitars to fill up the sound without stepping on each other’s toes,” he said. “A keyboard is so different, it can be there the whole time and a guitar can just cut through. But that’s why we can sound different than everybody else.”

The bandmates share songwriting and lead instrument responsibilities, ensuring different dynamics with each song. Swartz describes their funky, jazzy style as a blend of East and West Coast styles.

“We like to fall into grooves,” he said. “We give each of the lead players the chance to kind of explore and find out where they’re going to go. We’re real upbeat, good for dancing.”

Despite their bouncy, dancing grooves, Swartz’s pet peeve is being referred to as a party band.

“When I think of a party band, I think bad ’80s covers. We’re professionals. We have a definite goal: to make a career out of this. We’ve played 112 shows this year. And we’re looking to 150 to 175 next year.”

To that end, they cruise around in their vehicle, Vanna White. By their own admission, their touring life is easier than most, as they have friends across the country.

They’ve played with the likes of Robert Walters, Merl Saunders and Garage Majal, and cite Vail’s Eagles Nest as one of their favorite venues they’ve played. As they’re snowboarders all, they like going to the mountains.

Swivel Hips Smith plays at Half Moon Saloon tonight at 10. For more information call the venue at 476-4314.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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