|Also known as||The True Poets of Zwan, Djali Zwan (acoustic)|
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
Zwan was an American alternative rock supergroup that was formed by Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin, lead singer and guitarist, and the drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins respectively, after they disbanded in December 2000. Other members included bassist Paz Lenchantin, of A Perfect Circle, and guitarists David Pajo and Matt Sweeney of various prior bands and projects. The band released only one album, Mary Star of the Sea, in 2003, before breaking up acrimoniously that same year during their world tour to promote the album. Following the disbanding, Corgan released a solo album, TheFutureEmbrace before reforming the Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, with Chamberlin in 2006. Despite allusions to multiple album's worth of material written by band members, no further material has surfaced beyond their only studio album, and none of the material has ever been revisited in performances by any of the members outside of a brief 2017 tour by Corgan.
Formation and Mary Star of the Sea (2001-2003)
Following the breakup of the Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin joined forces with Matt Sweeney (formerly of the bands Chavez and Skunk) to start Zwan. Corgan had been friends with Sweeney since early in his career and Sweeney was thanked in the liner notes to The Smashing Pumpkins album Siamese Dream. Juan Alderete was one of the musicians who auditioned for the bassist position, before Sweeney recruited David Pajo (member of Slint, Papa M, Stereolab and many Drag City acts). The band debuted as a four-piece in late 2001. Later, former A Perfect Circle's bassist Paz Lenchantin joined the band in 2002, and Pajo was moved as their third guitarist.
Zwan had two different incarnations. The first, and more common, version, the True Poets of Zwan (or simply "Zwan"), used three guitars, bass guitar and drums. Zwan's only album, Mary Star of the Sea, is attributed to the True Poets of Zwan in the liner notes. Zwan is credited with being a bridge between the success of the Smashing Pumpkins in the 1990s and the further career developments and experimentations undertaken by Corgan in the 2000s, as well as his shift from his sombre, dark themes towards more hopeful lyrics in line with his spiritual development at the time.
Djali Zwan, an acoustic incarnation of Zwan, which also featured cellist Ana Lenchantin, Paz's sister, was to film and record the making of a new album in the studio in the fall of 2003, with an album and DVD to be issued in early 2004. Corgan spoke with Rolling Stone about his plans: "We're going to do it Let It Be-style," Corgan said, referring to the documentary about the 1970 Beatles album. "The album would be recorded live, with the cameras rolling. When you get the DVD, you can watch the takes on the album being done." He described the songs he'd written for Djali Zwan as "more folk-driven, rooted in traditional music. I don't want to compromise veins of material to fit into an electric band, which I often did in the Pumpkins. With Djali Zwan, I can write an acoustic song and not worry how it's going to stand up against some rock epic."
Billy Corgan announced the band had broken up on Chicago's WGN, on September 15, 2003. "I really enjoyed my experience with Zwan, but at the end of the day, without that sense of deeper family loyalty, it just becomes like anything else," Corgan said.
On April 24, 2005 in the Chicago Tribune, Corgan commented briefly on the breakup of the band: "The music wasn't the big problem, it was more their attitude... Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders. Pajo sleeping with the producer's girlfriend while we were making the record."
In the May 27, 2005 edition of Entertainment Weekly, Corgan elaborated on his version of what went wrong:
|“||Sex and drugs and junk. Tick off the list: heroin, band members having relationships...You don't trust the person next to you. I'm on the bus. I send an email to somebody and I throw my BlackBerry in my little day bag. The next day, my ex-girlfriend calls me screaming. Somebody in the group went into my BlackBerry and forwarded her an e-mail that another girl sends me. I mean, that's the kind of stuff we were dealing with.||”|
Pajo denied Corgan's accusations in the same article. "Pretty much everything that he said has been exaggerated and blown out of proportion," he said. "The drug stuff in particular. I know there was sex but no heroin." Adds Lenchantin, "I believe that we were a really good team. I am moving on and onward. I hope that our paths will meet again in peace."
In the same Entertainment Weekly article, Corgan disclosed that things went wrong at some of the very first recording sessions. "...it was like, 'What do you mean the guitar's out of tune? What do you mean I have to be there at 11? What do you mean I can't order $100 of lobster every day?' I mean, like, bad. But it was too late. It was already public. The album was going out. So I did what I always did: try to make the best of a situation and start covering up. Put on a good face. And honestly, I'm glad the thing didn't sell, because if it had sold well it would have been really tough. I would look like I was going to walk away from something that I'd just built."
He also stated that he can no longer listen to Mary Star of the Sea, because to him it sounds like "thousands of lies upon lies upon lies. It's a shame because there's tons of music unreleased that will just sit in a box until I can stomach it." When asked which of his two former bands would ever reform, he said, "Pumpkins. You'll never see Zwan. I'll never go anywhere near those people. Ever. I mean, I detest them. You can put that in capital letters. Bad people. James and D'arcy are good people. They might be misguided people, but they're good people."
A decade after Zwan's demise, Corgan's stance would soften regarding performance of its material. He included Zwan songs in a set of mostly Smashing Pumpkins material during a solo show in August 2014, and the following year announced a Smashing Pumpkins acoustic tour that would also incorporate Zwan material in its sets. Zwan songs were also featured in Corgan's tour to support his 2017 solo album, Ogilala.
Matt Sweeney, who initiated the band with Corgan, said in 2017, "We had a friendship from before he was famous. One on one, we had a pretty great thing going. We had a great year where we made like a hundred songs. Nobody’s ever heard that stuff. But once it went public, everything was different. I was confused, it started to feel like fulfilling a commitment where the game had changed. It was interesting, I’m still sort of unpacking that experience. We all had to sign confidentiality agreements, so I can’t really talk about it." Pajo was also still negative about the band in 2017. and a reunion is not planned.
Zwan's debut and only album was described as "an efficient exercise in the kind of American alternative rock with big choruses that makes the boys at the front jump up and down." The band's style is mostly pop-oriented and closer to mainstream pop rock, evoking "the candied pop that characterized much of the Pumpkins later work." Nevertheless, the songs also contrast with late Pumpkins material, being described as "bright blast of tuneful guitar rock, as effervescent as the late Pumpkins material was gloomy." In addition to being considered as power pop, the band's work also features guitarist David Pajo's post-rock textures.
- Billy Corgan – guitar, lead vocals (2001–2003)
- Matt Sweeney – guitar, backing vocals (2001–2003)
- Paz Lenchantin – bass guitar, backing vocals (2002–2003)
- David Pajo – bass guitar (2001–2002), guitar (2002–2003)
- Jimmy Chamberlin – drums (2001–2003)
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|Mary Star of the Sea||3||6||4||17||10||14||30||10||17||33|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Honestly"||2002||3||7||26||17||86||42||18||92||35||28||Mary Star of the Sea|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
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