Swell (band)

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OriginSan Francisco, California
GenresIndie rock
Years active1989 (1989)–present
LabelsTalitres, Badman Recording Co, Def American, pSycho-sPecific
Associated actsMazzy Star
MembersDavid Freel
Past membersMonte Vallier
Sean Kirkpatrick
John Dettman
Tom Hays
Doran Bastin
Niko Wenner

Swell is an indie rock band formed in San Francisco in 1989 when David Freel (vocals/guitar) and Sean Kirkpatrick (drums) decided to record an album.


The band recorded a self-titled debut album and released it on Freel's own pSychosPecificMusic label in April 1990. Swell's influences range from 80's post-punk bands, Pink Floyd to folk, noise pop and Ennio Morricone film scores.

Freel, Kirkpatrick and Mark Signorelli (bass) spent the summer of 1990 busking on the streets of Europe, mainly in Spain. They returned to the States in time to pick up a support slot for Mazzy Star at San Francisco's I-Beam. But before they even played this first US show, Signorelli moved to New York City and passed bass duties on to Monte Vallier, and John Dettman-Lytle had joined as a second guitarist.

This configuration toured around California during the fall of 1990. By early 1991 their booking agent in Belgium was calling them back to Europe to play shows in France, Germany and the Benelux.

That same year they recorded a second album, ...Well?, which was released in February 1992, also on the pSychoSpecificMusic label. Though Dettman left the band soon after, Freel, Kirkpatrick, and Vallier carried on, receiving an offer from Def American to give ...Well? a wider release one year after its first issue.

Adding guitarist Tom Hays following the sojourn of Pete Vogl on guitar, Swell kept up a heavy touring schedule of Europe and the US. They began recording their third album, 41, in 1992. It was released by American in November 1993. In 1993 Niko Wenner (Oxbow, Jellyfish) replaced Hays, and toured with the band on guitar, backing vocals, and keyboard through 2003. Subsequent albums include 1997's Too Many Days Without Thinking and 1998's For All the Beautiful People. The latter album included Wenner on guitar and backing vocals, and Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey, Laika, Spleen) on drums.

Swell / Be My Weapon[edit]

Everybody Wants to Know, more a Freel solo album than anything else, appeared in spring 2001. Whenever You're Ready- recorded with Sean Kirkpatrick - and the compilation Bastards and Rarities both appeared in 2003. Early 2004 Swell toured the States for the first time in six years.

Swell also toured Europe again in 2004 and played shows in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Spain (Primavera Sound Festival) and in France. The tour band consisted of Mat Mathews on drums, Greg Baldzikowski (keyboards and guitars), Doran Bastin (bass) and David Freel (vox, acoustic guitar).

After three years of silence David Freel started recording new songs in spring 2007, assisted by Nick Lucero (ex-Qotsa) on drums. The new album South of the Rain and the Snow was released on 12 December 2007 on Freel's own label pSychosPecificMusic, together with The Lost Album, a 9-track compilation of rarities from the 1995–1997 era. Both records were also released by the French label Talitres in 2008.

Swell toured Europe in October/November 2008. The band played dates in France, Austria, England, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Belgium where the tour ended on 26 November with an extra show in Heist-Op-Den-Berg. David Freel's sidekicks on this tour were Ron Burns (drums) and Brian Mumford (guitar & fx).

In March 2009 David Freel released the album Be My Weapon, for the first time without using the name 'Swell'.


  • Swell (1990) pSychosPecificMusic
  • ...Well? (1991) Def American
  • 41 (1994) American (US)/Beggars (EU)
  • Too Many Days Without Thinking (1997) Beggars Banquet Records
  • For All the Beautiful People (1998) Beggars Banquet Records
  • Feed (2000) Beggars Banquet Records
  • Everybody Wants to Know (2001) Beggars Banquet Records
  • Bastards and Rarities 1989-1994 (compilation) (2003) Badman Recording Co
  • Whenever You're Ready (2003) Beggars Banquet Records/Badman Recording Co
  • South of the Rain and Snow (2007) pSychosPecificMusic / Talitres
  • The Lost Album (compilation) (2007) pSychosPecificMusic / Talitres
  • Be My Weapon (2009) pSychosPecificMusic
  • Greasy (2014) pSychosPecificMusic



External links[edit]