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by Sandy Auden

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January 2010
Supernatural Actor Rob Benedict talks about his band Louden Swain

Rob Benedict, November 2009
A Brand New Hurt: Overall
With a similar sound to bands The Killers and Keane, Louden Swain deliver a mixture of rock and pop like The Killers but feature the more intelligent lyrics of Keane. There's abundant melodies, played by a talented bunch of musicians with lots of energy, making the CD a real treat for the ears.
Louden Swain - A Brand New Hurt
A Brand New Hurt: Vocals
Most people lose any accents when they sing. Not only does lead vocalist Rob Benedict manage to keep some of his accent but he also retains elements of tonality from his normal speech. The result is a series of expressive vocal tracks that convey significant emotional depth through a combination of words, intonation and music.
Louden Swain - Suit and Tie
A Brand New Hurt: Lyrics
The lyrics range from the surreal (in "Holiday") to more obvious meanings (in "All I Need") and they're often rooted in down-to-earth situations you can relate to easily -- an effect that's emphasised by a liberal use of everyday sayings (like "If there's a will there's a way" in "Pop Tart Heart"). There's also clever wordplay ("For a mitten girl she fits like a glove" in "Mrs Vance"); a sprinkling of humour ("I may be crazy at least I'm medicated" in "Medicated"); and some technically challenging words (as in "Nebraska").

Actor Rob Benedict is a familiar face to fans of the Supernatural TV series -- he plays Chuck Shurley, the writer and prophet who just happens to be protected by archangels. But Benedict also has another creative role as the lyricist, lead singer and rhythm guitar player in his band Louden Swain. With their new CD -- A Brand New Hurt -- out now, Benedict took the time to tell us how the band was formed and give us an insight into the tracks on the new album.

Naming Conventions

The name comes from a character played by Matthew Modine in the 1980s wrestling movie Vision Quest. The character he plays is called Louden Swain. The band members were all fans of the movie -- it's a quintessential 80s high school movie, and yet different from the rest because it was edgier. And Modine played it so quirky.

In The Beginning

We met through various mutual friends who went to university together and we started playing together. Two of us played guitar, then we met our drummer Steve Norton and once you get a drummer you've got a band. That's when the other guitar player became the bass player. We've all been friends for a long time and have the common denominator of liking the same kind of music and really enjoy playing together.

Back in the late 90s, we just started kidding around but we'd started taking it seriously by the end of the 90s so we've been together about ten years. We made an EP called Overachiever and then the full length CD, Suit and Tie and it all started to sell online really well. Then the shows got bigger. Well, they're gigs I guess but we think of them like shows. We play to full houses in LA and do mini-tours around the west coast too.

But the band has always been what I do when I have downtime. So when I'm not acting I work on the band and if I'm out of town working I don't have as much time to do it. As an actor you have spaces between your jobs so that's when the creative energy goes into the band. And you've got to put it into something otherwise you go kind of crazy. I love it when the band is playing a lot -- the brain is alive and you feel really charged up.

Energy = new CD

A Brand New Hurt is the third full length CD we've made and probably our most mature in terms of reflecting where we are as a band. Our first CD was all very garage rock and this is a little bit more advanced. We allowed ourselves the room to improvise more. We have a new member in the band, a guy by the name of Billy Moran, who's an incredible lead guitar player. That really allowed us to take our music into places we weren't able to go before. We also hired a keyboard player for about four of the songs so there's a fuller sound than we've had before.

I really feel the CD reflects where we are in our lives. In the past, a lot of our songs have been a darker, more sad, pessimistic view of things. By the end of the new tracks, you get a more optimistic outlook. Like the first song is called "Better" -- Better's What You Got. You go through life thinking there's got to be something better than this, then you realise that it is better, you can actually see that what you have is good and worth appreciating.

One song -- called "All I Need" -- is about a guy who goes out, kind of a true story but he goes out with some young hipsters and spends the night at a club, staying up late and being hit on by this girl. Then ultimately he becomes kind of sick of the whole thing, the whole club scene in LA and goes back home and gets into bed with the woman he's with, realising that she's all he needs.

There are also songs about unrequited love -- it's a recurring theme -- but these are more about embracing what you have and enjoying what you have rather than longing for something else, which is what I was writing five years ago.

Artistic Arrangement

When you sit down and decide the order of the songs, you want to start off big. You always want to open with something good and loud. The first four songs on A Brand New Hurt are all pretty high energy; the middle brings it down a bit; then you go back up a bit; then you end on a soft note, the slower, sensitive songs that are more thought provoking. Along with that there's also the vibe of the songs that suggest a pattern.

People seem to like the song "Medicated" at the end of the album about a guy who meets a girl on a bus and falls in love with her. Then it's her stop so she gets off leaves and that's it. It's like a chance encounter and he's left thinking about what might have been. People seem to like the song because it's just guitar and vocal, very raw sound.

But none of the songs have anything "supernatural" happen, although a lot of the lyrics kind of get existential and surreal. Sometimes it's the way I choose to describe things or when I get all non-linear and use metaphors and things. The trippiest track is called "Silverspoon." It's a dream-like song and that's about as supernatural as it gets, and that's only because the lyrics aren't realistic, like I woke up and had a coffee and went to work. They're a lot less linear. It's fun to be creative like that and not choose to describe things in a straightforward way.

Future Ambitions

The band has always been icing on the cake for me, because acting is my main thing and the band has always been a release, my extra curricular activity. So anytime some good happens to the band, it's a bonus.

We'd love to keep it going how it's going, building a fan-base. The Supernatural show has opened up a lot of opportunities for us, because these fans have been loyal. We've had a lot of requests to come and play the east coast of America and the UK and Australia so we'd love to travel around the world a little bit and play. It'd be great opening up for another bigger band and travel around with them too.

So the sky's the limit, anything that happens would be great and if nothing happens that would be good too. It's really just gratifying for me to have this CD to show this is the work we've put into the band and I can be proud of that.

For free tracks from the new album, A Brand New Hurt and information about the bandů

This article would not have been possible without the kind support of Rogue Events, organisers of UK (and other European) Conventions.

A Brand New Hurt: Favourite Track
We are constantly subjected to the opinions of the people around us and sometimes it can really get to you. "Downtown Letdown" combines a gorgeous guitar melody with the complex emotional reaction that humans have to personal criticism. A deep and very satisfying track.
 
A Brand New Hurt: Least Favourite Track
"Kind of Guy" is a song about identity and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with most of this track but the vocals are a little too gravelly for comfort on some of the more aggressive notes, making it less enjoyable than the rest of the songs.
Louden Swain - Overachiever   Louden Swain - Able-Legged Heroes

Copyright © 2010 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.


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