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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 8 2001


Dinosaur guys' push power pop
But Swag members are happy playing 'the fun stuff'

Nashville, Tenn.   Is there room in a Jennifer Lopez dance music world for the jangling guitars and yearning male tenor vocals of old-fashioned power pop - made in the capital of country music?

Swag, a Nashville band consisting of moonlighting members of the Mavericks, Sixpence None the Richer, Cheap Trick and Wilco, isn't really sure.   In fact, the reason the band got together was to put those concerns aside, and just have fun.

Swag's "Catch-all" CD, to be released Tuesday on Yep Roc Records, harkens back to the days when the melodic rock 'n' roll of the Beatles, the Kinks and the Zombies ruled the pop charts.   More contemporary artists such as Matthew Sweet and Fastball have walked the same territory in recent years with some radio success.

"It is a real square peg today, perhaps", said Robert Reynolds, who sings and plays guitar for Swag.  He's the bassist in the Nashville band the Mavericks.   "I think it's our reaction to modern music.  We all do that for a living, and this is another love that we have, early pop music.  It's not that we've given up on modern music."

Also in the band: bassist Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, drummer Ken Coomer of alternative country band Wilco, keyboardist/singer Jerry Dale McFadden of Christian pop band Sixpence None the Richer and solo artist Doug Powell.

McFadden joined Reynolds for an interview at a busy coffee shop.  By coincidence, Coomer was there and joined in.

For those unfamiliar with music-industry slang, swag is the term for freebies such as T-shirts and promotional CDs.  "The name came because we all make our livings playing in other groups", Reynolds said.  "Swag is the free stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff that at the time doesn't matter.  Somehow it fits."

The idea for the band began on the Mavericks' tour bus. McFadden was traveling with the band as a backup musician.  They liked all kinds of music, but shared a common love of garage and pop bands of the 1960s.

"Late at night on the tour bus, we would play each other classic music that we loved", Reynolds said.  "Usually it wasn't relative to country music.   It was a relief from that, a release."

Swag has played occasional shows around Nashville for the past four years, depending on the schedules of each player's principal job.  In December, they performed at a John Lennon tribute show that marked the 20th anniversary of his death.  They've also contributed a version of "Don't Let Me Down" to an upcoming tribute album to Jeff Lynne.   The band characterizes its material as "about girls and love, not heavy and occasionally stupid."

Without the marketing muscle of a major label behind it, Swag isn't counting on much radio support.   And the band knows its brand of pop music isn't hip.  "You could conceivably end up in some magazine, where the guy reviewing it was into the latest whatever", Reynolds said.    "And he'd say, 'What the hell is this?'"

McFadden finishes the feared review: "Look at these dinosaur guys making dinosaur music."

Jim Patterson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 8, 2001

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