WL//WH Review/Interview: Dark Echoes from South Texas // SWORD COLLECTOR

WL//WH Review/Interview Sword Collector 

In 2020 long-time friends from Corpus Christi, Texas, Kyle McCoy (bass, vocals), Ryan Johnson (guitar), and Carlos Cooper (synth, drum machine), form an Alternative/Darkwave trio, named Sword Collector, blending echoes of UK post-punk’s greats of the ’80s with the modern resurgence of the genre in their country, and release a debut self-titled EP, via fellow independent label Hybrid Records.

Four spellbinding tracks of visceral extraction that soothe the ravaged soul through universal symbolism, latent guilt, and positive mental evolution.

Tragedy bleeds through mythological esotericism, eliciting a shared catharsis of tonal hues to tune into each moment, in a revelation of glimpses drawn from abstract literary concepts, poignant and metaphorical lyrics, and a heightened level of engagement. Minimal instrumentation feels primal, as it sways in a symbiotic flow between high and low frequencies with virtually no invasiveness, whilst deeply evocative layers of vocalization ease latent despair with rich emotion and compassionate humanism.

We begin the journey from a primordial pool of ‘Long Despair’, where sharp droning guitar reverb, zapping synth waves, and distant, decrepit distorted vocals reciting a Charles Baudelaire poem conjure the feeling of floating timelessness through a nightmare, struggling to wake up. 

‘Inherit the Scepter’ builds anticipation with ominous tribal beats, ringing, abrasive guitar swathes, and dirty bass pulses while urgent, soaring vocals layer with sparse electrified back-ups and cold sinister whispers to form a multidimensional universe fueled by prophetic lyrics channeling the misdirection of the veil found in The Wizard of Oz.

Distortion meanders through ‘Drenched In Honey’, while hypnotic beats and menacing bass throbs expand under dire prickling guitar melodies, to surround the dramatic interplay between anxiously fearful lead vocals and beautiful siren-esque choral exhalations in a release of painful memories into the future consequences of warm, glowing synth strains and high-pitched frequency ending.

Fatalism ignites ‘The Chill’ (ft. Madison Campbell of Marley Moon) with bittersweet reverb tinged guitar nostalgia over a trudging undertow of dangerous bassline and asymmetric spatial synth auras to form a shifting vacuum around downtrodden, remorseful dual vocals, that rise and fall in agonistic exctasy, then disappear completely into the Earth’s collective unconsciousness, that spins in the off-kilter time sequences of the fabled Looking Glass.

I had an interesting chat with Sword Collector‘s bassist, vocalist Kyle James McCoy.
  • Tell me about the origins of Sword Collector
Carlos, Ryan, and I all grew up in the Corpus Christi punk scene, occasionally playing in the same bands, so this band formed very organically. Sword Collector initially started as a passing thought in our group chat. As the idea evolved beyond a whim, I bought some album art from my friend Brian Morgante and we all said, Let’s actually make this happen.
As for the name and concept, that’s on me. In junior high, I was really into the goth counterculture and I collected swords. After years of being out of the goth fold, it was a nostalgic decision by me to name our gothic rock band Sword Collector.
  • Can you see a reflection of South Texas in your body of work?

You know, that’s a tricky one. At face value, I might say that, no, our music isn’t necessarily identifiable as South Texan; but the more I think about it, I realize that all three of us were molded by our experiences growing up in South Texas. Maybe the geography of our upbringing attributes some sense of beleaguerment that informs our writing. We’re leftists who spent our formative years in a red state, after all.

  • How do you create songs that stir the subconscious psychological realms of shared human experience?

In order to tap into that communal space where we all connect, I try to be as vulnerable as possible. I use our songs to find the courage to talk about my queerness, my politics, my struggles with trauma; all so that, hopefully, someone will see themselves in my lyrics and realize they aren’t alone. I want to normalize expressing pain as a step in processing that pain.

  • What distinct nuances does each band member bring to the development and richness of your sound?

This is honestly my favorite part of our band. I’m 100% a structure-driven minimalist, Ryan is an untethered creative mind, and Carlos is the glue that keeps us all together. Ryan or Carlos will offer up short riffs, out of which I’ll build a song structure and vocal melody. They’ll then compose additional instrumentation over that structure and melody, I’ll rein in any excess, and eventually, we’ll have created something of which we’re all proud. If I’m being too rigid or Ryan is floating off into the clouds, Carlos will cast a deciding vote. I highly recommend always having an odd number of band members for exactly that reason.

  • Is minimalism an intentional attribute in the crafting of songs? 

Haha, well… I think it’s intentional for me, at least! Ryan will sometimes build these epic walls of sound and I’ll pull them back brick by brick to uncover specific melody or instrumentation that I find special. That said, I think the final goal for all three of us is to make an emotive song first and a technically complex song last.

  • Who are some of your favorite collaborations and why?
If we’re talking Sword Collector, I love every collaboration we’ve done, so it’s hard to pick!
Madison Campbell (aka Marley Moon) did a stellar job on “Drenched In Honey.” She came into my home studio, dealt with my all of gear’s bumps and bruises, and graced our song with pure brilliance.
Working with Jenny Espino and Corpus Christi Dance Collective on our video for “The Chill” was wonderful, too. It was great to see Jenny’s choreography brought to life by her students and dancer Ninfa Gonzalez.
I also loved working with actress Emily Thyme, videographer/editor Aaron Garcia of Primera Luz Media, and production assistant Kevin McDermott on our yet-to-be-released “Inherit The Scepter” video. They took my directorial vision and made it better than I could possibly imagine. I hope you’re prepared for some vibrant occult imagery.
If we’re talking collaborations outside of Sword Collector, I absolutely ADORE Lingua Ignota‘s work with The Body. I’m really diving into experimental music with a theatrical touch, lately. There’s something so deeply evocative to me about the joining of those artists. I also adore Scott Walker‘s work with Sunn O))) for the same reasons.
  • What artists/bands are you listening to recently?

I will try my hardest to make this list short. Lately, I’ve been listening to late-career Scott Walker, The Body, Lingua Ignota, Jen Kutler, Drab Majesty, Sisters of Mercy, Depeche Mode, Behemoth, The Mountain Goats, Type O Negative, Bear VS Shark… that’s a good spot to stop, I think. My musical taste jumps all over the map.

  • The year 2020 has been a spectacular year with both COVID19 and the elections looming around us. What are some of the current socio-political themes that reveal themselves in your EP?

This EP is largely an expression of identity, which I think sharpens our spear for future socio-political commentary. For instance, while “The Chill” is about seeking an existential purpose, it relates to my feeling that the USA’s capitalist oligarchy is antithetical to the working class’ pursuit of our dreams. While “Inherit the Scepter” is largely about overcoming trauma and abuse, it ties to my desire to see the toxic cis-heteropatriarchy dismantled in order to facilitate the end of hurt fathers hurting their children. It’s my opinion that identity and politics must connect in these ways for us to build a truly humanistic future.

Sword Collector‘s “S/T” EP in colored Cassette Tape edition is available on preorder via the band’s Bandcamp and Hybrid Records.  

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Photo by Tera Elwell