The ladies of Swan Island blew me away when I saw them perform this spring break in San Francisco. Something about them grabbed me right away. Maybe it was because they were playing in a kitchen, or because they were from Portland and I’d never heard of them. I know is something caused my heart to skip a beat and immediately I was in love. We met up earlier this week at Aubree’s house over Coronas, root beer and tortilla chips.
Hi, who are you?
Brisa: My name is Brisa Maria Gonzalez of the Jungle and I play the vocal chords.
Aubree: My name is Aubree Bernier-Clarke and I play guitar.
Torrence: Should I say Torrence or Torri? It gets confusing because everyone calls me Torrence but that’s not really my name. My name’s really just Tory but we’ll just say Torrence. So my name’s Torrence Stratton and I play guitar, as well.
bob: I’m bob and I play the bass.
Vera: I’m Vera Domini and I play the drums.
A: She dominates the drums.
So how did you guys start getting together and playing music?
V: Aubrey and I were out at the bar and I was like, “we should get together sometime and play some music.” So we just started jamming. We played with another bass player for a while and it wasn’t working out with the three of us and we were not quite sure of the future, you know, what was in the cards for us.
b : And I actually used to be in a band with the former bass player, Yaga, who is a radical bass player.
You guys have already been on tour, and recorded, and you’re on a label. Is it pretty exciting since this is your first time in a band?
T: Yeah, I mean I don’t really care so much about the success. It’s just really fun playing and we’re all really good friends, so it’s just nice to be able to hang out twice a week. And I don’t know, it’s nice to play shows, too.
Speaking of tour, what made you decide to go so quickly? I’d never even seen you in town and then it’s like I see you two nights in San Francisco.
B: That’s maybe our ultimate dream is to travel and play music. We had the opportunities because we’ve all toured before and we were just like, it’s a good way to get to know each other and to see if we would really work out. I feel it was just kind of us trying each other out on the road and it was kind of a short enough time to see if it worked and it really did.
I mean you guys survived through some really horrible circumstances.
b: Exactly, we had some health issues.
B: Her (Vera’s) leg fell off.
The drummer needs the legs.
V: Yeah if I’d have been playing guitar I could’ve sat on stage but, we did have to cancel the last show because of my condition. Only one, though.
And bob, you had a sty?
b: Yes I woke up one morning with food poisoning which resulted in me throwing up in someone’s bathroom while they were trying to have their morning tea, a sty in my eye, and it quickly moved into a respitory infection or the flu. I don’t really know. It was like a triple illness. I was sick and the whole day they were really nice and let me sit up in the front seat and I realized that I could probably go around the world with them.
You guys recorded at Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls? Can you tell me more about your involvement with them?
V: Pretty much all of us have worked there, other than Brisa and Torrence but hopefully we’re going to get her to work there too.
b: I’ve been a volunteer for the last four years, since it began.
A: I didn’t start teaching there until the after school program in the fall.
B: There are so many Portland musicians involved. It’s come a long way in the last four years and now it’s an after school program that actually pays the instructors.
You guys kind of have a progressive sound.
V: Yeah we’re totally communists!
b: Everyone has to do their part.
It doesn’t seem like your songs are very, verse-chorus-verse-bridge. It’s kind of more like A, B, C, D, and then maybe an A again and I like that a lot.
V: It’s very communist.
B: Yeah we’re radical up in here.
So what’s worse, a cold sore or a sty?
Everyone: Cold sore.
I hate it in music reviews when they say sophomore album for the second release. Do you guys hate that too?
Everyone: I totally hate that. I fucking hate it.
OK, good. Thanks for the root beer.
Swan Island is on 16 Records, which is bob’s baby and is run out her home. You can find out more about them and other amazing bands at www.16records.net. To find out more about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, please visit www.girlsrockcamp.org/.