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INTRODUCING: Sweeping Promises

Kansas-based duo Sweeping Promises made up of Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug who met after a chance meeting in Arkansas, have released a second album, ‘Good Living Is Coming For You’, on Feel It Records in North America and Sub Pop for the rest of the world. Crammed with pointy edged guitars and quick fire, minimalist art punk, these tightly packed anthemic gems are riven with punchy twists and turns: Mondal’s visceral vocals – captured live – bounce off the walls and wrestle with existential themes. Each song recorded semi-live in their bedroom studio retaining a scuffed up grit and imperfect character. If you are a fan of early Sonic Youth, Blondie, Young Marble Giants and the B-52s you will find much to admire here. Each track on the record is delivered with a relentless energy and ultimately reflects being thrust into a severely unpredictable world. 

The pandemic triggered an absurd chain of events for Sweeping Promises. Under financial strain, Mondal and Schnug surrendered their studio in Cambridge to take refuge with family in Texas. They completed over 50 demos between their Austin bathroom and a Marfa abode, but feeling unsatisfied, they sought another fresh start. When a disused church in Ohio proved too difficult to rehabilitate, they ultimately found lasting inspiration in Kansas.

Good Living Is Coming For You follows their 2020 debut, Hunger for a Way Out, and their insistent 2021 single, Pain Without a Touch. We caught up with Caufield from Sweeping Promises to find out more.

Hey, how are you today?

Good, thanks!

How did you meet? What did you think of each other?

We met in the small southern town of Conway, AR; I (Caufield) was 18, and saw Lira for the first time holding a bass gtr in the basement of our school’s music building (I was trespassing after hours to play the drum kit!). There weren’t many people with our inclinations in that city and we hit it off instantly, and began playing in bands, as well as watching movies relentlessly. Lira was and is very very bright and talented, and even back then a superpowered musician, that said we were probably more concerned with college radio and music file-sharing back then. We got more serious with band stuff in our early 20s.

I read Sweeping Promises started properly in lockdown,  were those initial sessions inspired by frustration? It sounds like you recorded your first all in in some unusual locations. 

We had to make do in Boston with no funding and few options for space and infrastructure. Frustration is a big part of our process as we’ve always secretly wanted our bands to be funded while also weirdly coveting the tribulation and chaos that comes from duct-taping a cheapo recording process together. We actually recorded the first SP just before lockdown. I was doing an art + media PhD and the school offered graduate artists a repurposed laboratory, a basement bunker with no windows (the school sold the building during the lockdown lol). The visual artists found it to be a somewhat somber and uninviting place, but it was perfect for us and our subterranean outlook!

You’ve just released a new album how would you describe it in five words?

Absurdist, hungry, lowered, work demon

I read you record in your home studio what do you think recording there adds to the recording?

Our house studio was previously functionalized for live nude figure drawing classes. We love having a tall/large and non-standard audio capture space. It has a distinctive – and sometimes overpowering – room resonance and echo. We are not into the various fetishes of controlling and beautifying sound that many current digital recording zeitgeists celebrate. We don’t use headphones, iso booths, control rooms, etc. 

I love the sound of the record. How do you achieve it? Do you record live? What’s the setup?

Semi-live; it’s just us two playing. Usually drums + bass first, then we improvise guitar and synths. Lira’s vocal parts and more determined. The process is quick. We use spring reverb and tape delay as sends and we will often re-project recorded audio in the room.

I read you are fans of Brutalist architecture, does that inform the sound and look of what you put out there?

Yes, it depends, we’re attracted to the buried socialist aspirations in the concrete, its palimpsestic quality in the city over time, the corpo kitsch. I used to work in the Carpenter Center in Cambridge, a Le Corbusier building which conveys the psychodynamic motility of a film strip (serialized windows, curving horizontal perspective!). The notion of brutalism is a complex assemblage of ideas (some are rather problematic!), but yes, I do believe we want our music to sound as basic and constructivistic as the spirit of concrete! 

I love ‘Eraser’ and all its pointy edges; what inspired it musically and thematically? 

It happened quickly, though the song went through like 4 versions. It’s about power and subservience, a twin type situation, of mentee plotting against mentor, or the ruinous psychology of the second realizing they are there only to prop up the first.

I read Good Living Is Coming for you is about aging, do you think aging can be a taboo in music?

No, on the contrary, it’s probably a subject people want to hear about more. Maybe indie artists in our generation (aging millennial?) have been denied standard markers of maturity and adulthood – esp true for ‘creatives’ – and the current industry does a laughably terrible job at nurturing time-sustainable careers. Too many zombie albums from aughties legacy acts age meekly and apologetically too. Another way to put it, just-in-time capitalism encounters a weird blind spot for the later-in-life side of our culture industries? Anyone in a band after their mid-30s has thought about this topic. I don’t think aging is a thematic taboo; maybe a logistical taboo, ha!

What’s on your playlist right now?

Little Annie, the new Pozi, Japanese healing music, lots of 90s house and acid, going back into peace punk and all its inspiring configurations.

I hear the influence of the likes of Young Marble Giants, B-52s and Blondie on your sound, did you have an idea of how you wanted to sound or is this how your sound has evolved?

Yes, I think that’s true. We listen widely and omnivorously, though we do really try to put on the blinders while we are writing. Serbian and Japanese punk was a proper influence too on the latest album!

What’s in your fridge?

Not much, ha!

What was the last book you read?

Lately… Digital Tarkovsky AND Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? – Metahaven; Pretty – Rosalind Galt; Chokepoint Capitalism – Rebecca Giblin, Cory Doctorow; the wonderful technical philosophy of GIlbert Simondon; hope to read the classic drama Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca on tour.

Have you got any dates lined up?

Yes, an infinity tour, both US coasts, UK and EU. Maybe more, a question of $ as always

What are your future plans? 

We have recorded lots of material for subsequent albums and beyond; a film score with Jessica Bardsley’s upcoming feature film; Caufield works as a producer/engineer on about 40 albums a year; do catch us as we tour the world, never stopping!!!

Pre-order album here: https://music.subpop.com/sweepingpromises_goodliving

Photo credit: Shawn Brackbill

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.