In what seems to be a long time ago walking down Brookline Ave on my way to a show at Church I heard what seemed to be a funk/soul sermon going on at Copperfield’s. I walked in and I see this 7 piece band with this amazing scruffy looking guitarist whale away on stage while the whole band stomped and shouted like it was the return of PFUNK live and in the flesh. The singer was singing like he was possessed with the soul of James Brown and Ivan Neville. I never left to go to my own gig and stayed at Copperfield’s and joined the dance party. “Who is this” I asked a beautiful young woman who grabbed my hand and danced the night away with …. “the Othership” she shouted. Yes they were and still are storming stages from festivals to all sizes of clubs all over the East Coast.
Lead guitarist Bill Swanson has been in the business for a while now and his chops are unrivaled when hitting his stride. He is the backbone of the band. If Swanson is the backbone then bassist Sean McCormack is the glue in which the band sticks to with his thumping bass lines and smiling face it would be hard to imagine the band without him period. Co-Lead vocalists Bill Davidson & Bill O’Connell keep the crowds entertained with their one of kind dance moves, soul growls and singing.
Influence by Boston Party Legends Duke & the Drivers The Othership take off where Duke ended carrying on the tradition with long sets and long jams of catchy originals and B –Side and obscure funk covers. Their performances are also becoming legendary around the Boston area and are not to be missed. Here is a one on one interview with band leader Bill Swanson.
HNL: Bill try and sum up your music career to this point… What were you doing before The Othership?
Right before The Othership was started I was playing in the Jim Hogg Armada, featuring my old friend James Hogg on bass and vocals. The JHA was a down and dirty rock band based around some great original material that James had written. I got to play a lot of slide guitar in that setting which was cool.
Before that I was actually kind of dormant for a number of years while I was working as a guitar tech, organ tech, etc. for a handful of bands. Though I wasn’t playing much, that period of time was pretty important in terms of learning how to be in and lead a band beyond the “garage” level so to speak.
What was it like being on the road with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals?
The time I spent on tour with GPN was a definite highlight in my life. Straight out of college, right onto the bus! Like I said before, I learned a ton from that experience, and I got to meet quite a few of my heroes in the process.
Over the last couple of years the Othership has had some line-up changes. Who’s in the band now? Do you feel like you have the right band now and why do you feel that way?
Yeah, you could say that. Actually at our first gig ever The Othership was a trio! So presently the band is Sean McCormick on bass, Ari Rejman on the drums, Mike Razo on keys, Andrew Mitchell on trombone, Jon Morris on saxophone, Bill Davidson on vocals, and Bill O’Connell on vocals. This incarnation of The Othership is really unstoppable in my opinion. In the last year or so we have really broken through to the point where everybody can more or less anticipate what the other guys will do and that has made the jams in some of the songs really interesting.
Who writes all of the music and who writes the lyrics for The Othership?
That all depends on the song really. Earlier on I wrote most of the music and lyrics. Davidson and I have written a handful of songs together. In that situation the music is my responsibility and Bill will supply the words and possibly a melody. Recently we’ve been taking a more collaborative approach to the songwriting with involvement from the entire band. That’s been a lot of fun lately.
The band has a very Meters feel at times who are your main influences?
Well The Meters are certainly up there for sure. I think you’d get a slightly different answer depending on who in the band you ask. Certainly the JB’s, Galactic, Dyke and the Blazers, etc. have influenced the sound of The Othership. Anything good and dirty is what we’re into. Another important influence, at least to me, is the legendary Boston band Duke and the Drivers. The Drivers were a soul driven party band who I had the privilege of working for when I was in college. In many ways, the idea for The Othership came from working and hanging with those guys.
All the songs have this funky party vibe going on…was that the intention of the sound of the record?
I think that’s really the intention of the sound of the band in general. In terms of the record, we selected the songs that we felt would translate best into the studio environment.
So who has the El Camino in the band? What’s the song really about?
None of us have an El Camino, yet. We’re hoping GM brings back the El Camino based on the song, then we’ll each have one. I think the subject of the song is pretty self explanatory, it’s an ode to the mullet of the automobile industry – plain and simple.
Who is Don’t leave Me Hangin’ about? That’s such a deep and funky song but the music is upbeat and positive which I like a lot.
I suppose it’s about an imaginary woman that the narrator of the song is trying to get a second chance with. It’s really not about anybody in particular, but in my opinion it’s a really well written song.
It sounds like a lot of vintage instruments were used on the recordings. What kind of guitars and keyboards did you use?
I suppose it does sound that way. Funny thing is, the only “vintage” instrument we used was Razo’s B-3 and Leslie. That rig sounds totally awesome and it’s a shame we don’t get to use it live from time to time. The guitar was my thinline Tele run into a plain old Hot Rod Deluxe, nothing special there really. I think a lot of the vintage quality of the recording came from the studio gear, the mics and preamps really.
Where did you record the ep and who produced it?
We did the whole thing at a place called The Den in North Reading. I’ve known Doug, the owner, from back in the Jim Hogg Armada Days. He really does an excellent job getting the essence of the band onto the recording. Technically the recording was produced by The Othership, but for the most part we just played our arrangements and then let Doug get everything sounding just right.
Bassist Sean McCormick is an amazing player and he brings a lot of energy to the live shows. Do you work some of the set based off of his strengths? Who chooses the set list when you perform?
He certainly is. Being that we’re a funk and soul sort of band, the bass is really the glue to the music. We don’t really build a set around one player and we’re fortunate enough where everybody’s pretty versatile so we have a lot of freedom with setlists. In terms of who writes the setlist, it really varies. Sometimes I’ll do one by myself, sometimes Sean will do one, Andrew and Ari have been known to conspire on putting a set together from time to time.
What’s in store for the future of the Othership?
We’re always looking to add some new music to our repertoire, so I guarantee we’ll be working on that in the months ahead. There’s some movement on the show front as well: We’ll be doing a gig on July 19th at the Midway in Jamacia Plain. This is part of a “hippie hour” thing that they’ve been doing down there for a while. It’s really a great crowd, they really listen and dance their asses off too!
Looking further down the road, we’ve secured a regular gig at the Middle East Corner on the third Friday of every month starting in August. The corner is such a wonderful place to play, you’re always bound to attract some new heads there. We get to play there all night, which affords us the freedom to do pretty much anything we like. We haven’t really discussed all the possibilities, but I imagine we’d be going to lengths to make each engagement unique perhaps with a theme to the night, or maybe special guests. I guess you’ll have to see for yourself.
If you are a fan of music and old soul and funk you will do yourself a favor and check this band out. They are amazing. For more news and info check out www.theothership.com and give them a like on their facebook.
Un-carefully unedited by Mark Kaye