Swirlies

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Swirlies
Origin Boston, Massachusetts
Genres Indie rock,[1] lo-fi, chimp rock, shoegazing, noise pop
Years active 1990–present
Labels Taang!, Bubblecore, Slumberland, Sneaky Flute Empire

Swirlies is an indie rock band from Boston that formed in 1990.[1] They have often been compared to My Bloody Valentine, and are sometimes referred to as shoegaze musicians.

Biography[edit]

Formation and early career[edit]

Guitarists Seana Carmody and Damon Tutunjian met each other in Spring 1990 when they joined a Go-Go's cover band formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tutunjian, Carmody, and drummer Jason Fitzpatrick learned two songs before abandoning their original objective in favor of writing originals. Under the name Raspberry Bang, the group released one song on a 7" compilation.

In November 1990, Tutunjian's high school friend Andy Bernick was enlisted to play bass and an M.I.T. student named Ben Drucker was recruited on the drums. The band began writing and recording songs characterized by shifting tempos, loud vibrato guitars played through numerous effects pedals, Tutunjian and Carmody's melodic vocal interplay, and occasional bursts of screaming and other noise. They completed their first 4-track demo in December 1990, and played their first show on January 25, 1991. Some of their later 1991 8-track home recordings saw issue as the band's first single "Didn't Understand," which was self-released as a cassette and then as a 7" record by the Slumberland label.

Signing and member-swapping[edit]

In 1992 the band signed to the Boston label Taang! records and released the seven-song EP What To Do About Them culled from previously released and unreleased home and studio recordings. The album featured cover art by cartoonist Ron Regé who also contributed lo-fi recordings that were incorporated in the record's sequence. The band also set to work recording their first LP, around which time shifts in the Swirlies' personnel began to occur. Bernick departed to pursue ornithology for the academic year and was replaced by Morgan Andrews on bass guitar and other noises. After a year of birding, Bernick returned and Swirlies enjoyed a brief period of performing as a quintet made up of two guitars, two bass guitars and a drum kit. Andrews left in mid-1993 to become a radio DJ, and Ben Drucker was replaced by Anthony DeLuca soon thereafter. A year later Carmody left to lead Syrup USA, and Christina Files took over guitar and vocal parts. DeLuca was replaced by Gavin McCarthy in late 1995. McCarthy manned the drum kit for two U.S. tours and then moved on to work in his own group Karate. Swirlies briefly played as a trio before Adam Pierce stepped in to play drums. Files left Swirlies to play with Victory at Sea and was eventually replaced in late 1996/early 1997 by guitarist Rob Laakso. The band played as a four piece for the next three years, though Seana Carmody (and sometimes Kara Tutunjian) often joined the band on-stage for live vocals. During this period, Mike Walker and Tarquin Katis occasionally sat in for Bernick on bass, and Ken Bernard occasionally sat in for Adam Pierce on drums. Deborah Warfield joined the band as vocalist circa 2000, also playing guitar and keyboards live. Walker continued as a replacement bass player into the early 2000s. Kevin Shea sat in for Pierce on drums and Vanessa Downing sang vocals in place of Warfield during a tour of the UK and NL in Fall 2002.

Recent and current activity[edit]

Since 1997, Swirlies have more or less maintained the Damon-Rob-Andy-Adam arrangement, while also taking on various guest members. The group, though sometimes sparse in regards to output, has never disbanded. This iteration of the band, plus Deb Warfield, played three shows in the northeastern U.S. in 2009, and four shows in the same region in July 2011. They also toured the eastern U.S. in 2013 with Kurt Vile, with Elliott Malvas on bass in lieu of Andy. In 2015, Swirlies co-founder Seana Carmody rejoined the group for a 2-week tour of the eastern U.S. and Canada to commemorate the band's 25th year of existence.

Releases[edit]

Swirlies released four albums and two EPs on the Taang! label before moving on to Bubblecore Records for 2003's Cats of the Wild Volume 2. Singles have also been released by Slumberland, Pop Narcotic, Simple Machines, and Nervous Records, among others. In addition, the band has produced a number of cassingles, CDs, and free, downloadable albums on its own Sneaky Flute Empire label, including a rock opera addressing harbored feelings of enmity towards Meg Zamula, a former writer for Pitchfork.com.

Swirlies offshoot The Yes Girls (the current lineup but with Lavender Diamond's Ron Regé on drums) toured the U.S. with Timonium and Denmark as an opener for Mew on their Half the World is Watching Me tour; endeavors which culminated in the release of both a limited edition album on Sneaky Flute Empire/Pehr and a limited edition live album on Sneaky Flute Empire. Singer/guitarist Damon Tutunjian produced Mew's debut album and has performed in some capacity on all of their albums.

A Swirlies tribute album, Sneaky Flute Moods: A Tribute to the Swirlies, was released online by Reverse Engine in April 2012.[2]

Side projects[edit]

In late 2013, Singer/guitarist Damon Tutunjian joined Swedish band I Am Super Ape on bass guitar and synth. He also produced their latest single "Monki", featuring Mark Lanegan on vocals. Swirlies bassist Andy Bernick also plays in Washington, DC garage rock band Wild Fruit.

Members[edit]

Original lineup (1990-1992)[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Damon Tutunjian
  • Andy Bernick
  • Adam Pierce
  • Rob Laakso
  • Deborah Warfield
  • Elliott Malvas

Other erstwhile members[edit]

  • Mike Walker
  • Morgan Andrews
  • Doro Tachler
  • Ron Regé Jr.
  • Anthony DeLuca
  • Baby Tonts
  • Christina Files
  • Gavin McCarthy
  • Ken Bernard
  • Kara Tutunjian
  • Vanessa Downing
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past
  • Junko Henmi
  • Tarquin Katis
  • Kurt Vile
  • Avery Matthews
  • Kevin Shea
  • Matt Sheppeck


Bernick and Tutunjian have been with the group for its entire duration. Numerous other members have come and gone.

Selected discography[edit]

Cassettes[edit]

  • Free Tape (Fast Forward - 1991)

Albums[edit]

  • Blonder Tongue Audio Baton (Taang! 1993)
  • They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons (Taang! 1996)
  • Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music LP (Taang! 1998)
  • The Yes Girls (Pehr/Sneaky Flute Empire 2000)
  • Cats of The Wild Volume 2 (Bubblecore Records 2003)

EPs[edit]

  • What to Do About Them (Taang! 1992)
  • Brokedick Car (Taang! 1994)
  • Sneaky Flutes and Sneaky Flute Music (Taang! 1996)

Singles[edit]

  • A Kinder Gentler Genocide (Swirlies appeared under the name Raspberry Bang) 7" compilation (Wasted Effort, 1990)
  • Didn't Understand 7" release (Slumberland Records, 1992)
  • Error 7" (Pop Narcotic, 1992)
  • Red Fish Dreams Double 7" split with Kudgel (Cinderblock/Villa Villa Kula, 1992)
  • Working Holiday Series: November split 7" with Pitchblende (Simple Machines, 1993)
  • Vents of the Ocean Floor split 7" with Iris (Bubblecore Records, 1996)
  • Orca vs. Dragon (Richmond County Archives/Sneaky Flute Empire, 2015)

Online releases[edit]

  • Swirlies' Magic Strop: At the Salon of WBCN (Sneaky Flute Empire 2005 - MP3 download)
  • Swirlies' Magic Strop: Winsome Zamula's Hammer of Contumely (Sneaky Flute Empire 2005 - MP3 download)
  • Swirlies' Magic Strop: Gavin's March To The Sea (Sneaky Flute Empire 2009 - MP3 download)

Compilation[edit]

  • Swirlies Magic Drive: Välkommen Till Ponyklubben (Sneaky Flute Empire 2013 - flash drive)

See also[edit]

  • Fat Day, authors of Cats of the Wild [Vol 1]
  • Chimp rock, term that predated "sneakyflute music"
  • Syrup USA, Seana Carmody's post-Swirlies band

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Beck, Richard. "The Return of Swirlies". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Sneaky Flute Moods release announcement at Free Music Archive, posted by curator Dave Merson Hess on April 8, 2012.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]