Over the course of nearly two decades, the world-class D.I.Y. rock quartet known as Louden Swain has quietly built a powerful body of recordings, earning a fervent grass-roots fan base and an impressive backlog of critical acclaim. The resourceful Los Angeles combo has released a series of impressively accomplished albums, toured successfully throughout North America and Europe, and emerged as a popular Youtube sensation—all without the support of a mainstream record label.
The upbeat energy and irresistible melodic sensibility that have already endeared Louden Swain to their loyal fans are all over the band’s seventh album No Time Like the Present. The sterling set offers 12 powerful examples of the band’s dynamic songcraft, from such infectious, lyrically evocative tunes as “Leg Up,” “Juliet,” “Change The Locks” and “This Is How” to more intimate acoustic numbers like “Numb” and “Over Before It Began.”
“I think that this album is an evolution for us, but what it has in common with our other records in that you can’t really pin us down,” states drummer Stephen Norton. “We’ve always tried to do our own thing stylistically, and this record is no different. I think that this is our best sounding record to date, and we couldn’t be happier with how everything came out. Our playing is tighter than ever, and that was evident in the recording process. We did a lot of these songs in two or three takes and didn’t spend a ton of time overdubbing.”
“This is our most mature album we’ve ever done, and there are some big emotions in these songs,” adds singer Rob Benedict, stating, “We approached the recording differently. In the past, we practiced and wrote until we felt 100%, and then went in and recorded. This time, things were a lot looser. We took a few old songs and a batch of new songs, some of which were barely written, and filtered them through the band that we are today. A few of these songs were written in the studio, and some of them were recorded before the lyrics were written.
“That was a great process for us,” Benedict continues. “It knocked us out of the comfort zone a bit, and the result is an album that’s more raw and fresh than anything we’ve done before. Also, we’ve been playing live more in the past two years than ever before, and I think that confidence shows on this album.”
No Time Like the Present’s title reflects the sense of immediacy and positivity that runs through Louden Swain’s songs. “A lot of the lyrics on this album.” Benedict says, “come from a very personal space: dealing with life in the present, living in the moment, realizing who you really are and taking life on full steam. It seemed appropriate. And while this album dips in and out of positive and difficult emotions, the title evokes a happy, positive place, which is how I want people to feel.”
“The phrase ‘No Time Like the Present’ comes from the chorus of the song ‘Present Time,’ Norton notes. “As we were going through potential titles, we wanted something that reflected where we are as a band. We felt that we have a great sense of urgency, and that that’s a mantra for how we operate. Over the past few years, we’ve learned the power of saying yes and embracing the opportunities that have come our way. You only live once, so what better time than now to do what you want?”
A knack for seizing the moment has been a key element of Louden Swain’s character since day one. Taking their collective moniker from the plucky protagonist of the ’80s film Vision Quest, Benedict, Norton and bassist Mike Borja launched the band in 1997, after meeting at Northwestern University in Illinois. Their raw, punk-inspired early sound quickly expanded into a more adventurous and experimental sensibility, while maintaining the appealingly tuneful, emotionally open approach that first endeared the group to its fans on the early releases 2001’s Able-Legged Heroes and 2003’s Overachiever. The addition of lead guitarist Billy Moran in 2006 allowed the longtime bandmates to finally create the music that they’d been hearing in their heads. Those epic visions manifested themselves on the albums Suit and Tie (2006), A Brand New Hurt (2007), Eskimo (2011) and Sky Alive (2014).
The release of Eskimo was followed by extensive American and European tours that included instantly successful shows in New York, London, Chicago and Berlin, and the appearance of Louden Swain’s music in the CW television series Supernatural. But the band’s career momentum ground to a temporary halt when lead singer Benedict—also a busy actor with a resume that includes the films Waiting… and Kicking and Screaming and the TV series Felicity and Supernatural—unexpectedly suffered an ischemic stroke, throwing his future—and the band’s—into question. By January 2014, he’d made a miraculous recovery and come up with a passel of inspired new songs. Those tunes became the foundation of the widely acclaimed Sky Alive, which demonstrated the band’s literal new lease of life.
Benedict attributes the band’s longevity and perseverance to their time-tested friendship. “We’ve grown up together,” he says. “There is a shorthand that we all use, and a mutual trust we have when we play music together. We might fight like brothers, but when it comes making music, we’re solid.”
The band maintains a similar rapport with its audience. “Our fans never fail to impress us with their loyalty and passion,” Benedict states. “They seem to really connect with the songs, and give incredible response to what the music and the message means to them. They party during the fun dance songs, and they light their flashlights in utter silence during the emotional songs. The common thread is that they are really getting something empowering from our music.”
“Our fans really are a community,” Norton adds. “They get together and come up with audience participation things at each show. It might involve lights or signs or kazoos, but it’s incredible to see how much energy and enthusiasm they bring and we feed off of that.”
With No Time Like the Present now a reality, Louden Swain is set to once again take its music on the road, reconnecting with old fans while seeking out new ones, and reasserting the can-do spirit that’s gotten them this far.
“We’re excited about spreading the word and letting the world hear us,” Benedict asserts. “And for those who hear and enjoy it, hopefully imparting with them a sense of relief through music and lyrics that say it’s OK to be weird, it’s OK to have bad days. You get back up, embrace your weird, or whatever problems are holding you back, and you keep going, cos that’s life.”
“If we have a message, I think it’s to stand up and say, ‘Hey, sometimes life is tough, but if you persevere, good things will happen.’ We embrace the idea of bringing joy into peoples’ lives through music. When someone comes up and tells you that they were able to connect to another person through your music, that’s an amazing feeling.”