Riding the “Soundswell”
Surfing and music are about freedom and expression. No one knows this better than Evan Hammer. Evan is an avid surfer and a guitarist in the band, Soundswell. Soundswell is a Jam band, similar in sound to The Grateful Dead or Phish. The band is made up of nine talented people who are passionate about music and the ocean.
Soundswell consists of:
Evan Hammer (Guitar) Fred Diekmann (Keyboard)
Steven Mall (Guitar) Annie McInerney (Flute)
Keenan Boyle (Bass) Corey Swinson (Vocals)
Mike O’Rourke (Drums) Sydney Swinson (Vocals)
Brady Wilkins (Percussion)
Soundswell recently released their first album, “First Set.” Evan and I sat down to discuss it, along with his passion for surfing, art, and being in the band.
How did Soundswell become a band?
E.H: It has always been my intention to form a band of “good” people. More than talent, I was seeking a level of comfort. Sharing ideas can be intimate, and requires trust. Four summers ago, our bass player and I started surfing and playing music together. We were both at a place where we had a lot of passion, and were looking for an outlet. We decided to go out and find others like us.
Where did the band’s name originate?
E.H: The idea of the “Swell” comes from a groundswell. It’s about good waves! A soundswell is a movement of sound.
How has surfing played a role in your life and in your music?
E.H: I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, The water has always been there. I used to body surf with my dad as a kid. It wasn’t until going to college in upstate New York that I realized how much I missed the water, and the smell of the tide. 4 years ago, I bought a longboard, and found a way to be in the ocean all the time. Surfing and music are escapes for the spirit. Surfing helps us connect with the rhythms of the earth. Like the ocean, we want our band to take on any form, to shift, transport, cleanse, soothe and excite.
How would you describe the connections between surf and music?
E.H: Every wave is different. Surfing and performing music are all about rhythm and improvisation. Whether it be taking a solo, or paddling into a big set. There is a rush, and a challenge set forth. Both are ways to harness positive energy, and both take creativity, problem solving, and physicality. It requires hours of practice to get in the right spot on a wave, or to play the perfect rift, but the payoff is magical.
You designed the group’s logo. So, you make art as well as music, right?
E.H: Yes. I have studied art all my life. Ever since I was in high school, I would make art that related to band stuff, logos, guitars, and rock posters. Now, I get to do it for my own band. In the spirit of do-it-yourself, the band has been printing our own cd labels from a linoleum stamp that I carved. Each label is true to the spirit of our band, which is unique and one of a kind.
Tell me about your debut album, ‘First Set.’ How did this come to be?
E.H: We won the Battle of the Bay at last year’s Great South Bay Festival. Our prize was 30 hours of recording time at Dream recording studio. We laid down the music and vocals to 17 tracks. After a few more sessions, we realized we had two cds worth of music. We released ‘First Set’ this June, and ‘Second Set’ will be released later this year. The titles of our albums are a nod to the live show feel and a surf reference.
How have you managed to build success as a grassroots band?
E.H: We have played consistently, a few times a month, for a couple of years. We have been lucky that there is a thriving musical scene on Long Island. We are able to perform at large festivals and at great local venues. We have played a bunch of benefit shows for different worthy causes, women’s trafficking, and a few that involve beach clean up. If we can do anything to help heal the earth, sign us up.
What are the relationships like in the band?
E.H: The band has always functioned as a free space. Each artist gets to be unique and contribute as they wish. This kind of environment fosters creativity and collaboration. Everyone writes songs and shares ideas. We have grown into the best kind of family.
It sounds like you are living the dream? Would you agree?
E.H: This has been my dream for years. I remember feeling depressed when I was in 9th. I ended up watching a PBS special on Jimi Hendrix, and my world was changed. I knew this was what I wanted to do. I struggled when I was in high school, due to some family issues. I remember discovering the power of art and music at those difficult times. I love that I can now share my art and music with others who might be going through their own struggles.
Any advice you would give someone wanting to follow his or her own dreams?
E.H: Practice trusting the voice within. When we were young, we used our imaginations regularly. We listened to an inner voice that told us how to be. But as we grow up, external voices start telling us what to do. Everyone has the ability to be creative and imaginative, but it takes practice. It is never too late. It’s important to express your uniqueness. We need to be brave, and to trust that we know better than anyone else. So, my best advice is really to just follow that calm soft voice that resides somewhere inside you.
It is evident that the voice within Evan is deep and soulful. And, that soul manifests and multiples when he is put together with the members of his band, to produce the wave of magic that is there sound.
So, go. Check them out on Facebook or at the band’s website soundswellband.com and ride the Soundswell.
Who is Kelly Russell?
Where is her favorite travel destination?
Any place that has warm waves that she can surf
Where is her dream destination?
Maldives. She isn’t sure about the idea of soul-mates, but she believes in soul places. She hasn’t found hers yet, but Maldives seems to have all the characteristics.
Motto in life?
Believe in magic. If you don’t believe in magic, you will never find it.
Kelly specializes in booking impromptu surf trips under 500 dollars, making friends on foreign coastlines, and laughing at herself.
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