Blount County’s Allen Swank returns to the stage with new band Indie Lagone
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
No matter how much experience one has playing rock ‘n’ roll, there’s always something more to learn.
Just ask Allen Swank. The Blount County resident who a few years ago was running a jazz bar in downtown Maryville has been in more bands than he can count. But his last project didn’t even get off the ground.
“With the Leapfrog Saints, we came up with a 35-song set, and then the guitarist and the drummer were, like, gone,” Swank told The Daily Times this week. “I was like, ‘Really? We put in four months worth of work and you guys are gone?’ With Indie Lagone (his new band), I’ve played with all of them before. I’ve patiently waited around for it, and they’ve fallen into place, so I’m pretty stoked about this project.
“We’ve been playing together for at least a year, because we didn’t want to come out half-cocked. We put in the footwork prior to going out live, and now everybody’s passionate about this band.”
Swank, the assistant director of Foothills Childcare and Preschool in Maryville, is a veteran of long-gone bands like Malice in Wonderland, a heavy, Pantera-esque group; Omega Rage, in which he played bass; Fallen, of which he was the singer; and Servant Radio, which steered him down a path of more original music.
As co-owner of Swank’s, he occasionally graced the stage of his own venue with the Blount County All-Stars; after the economy tanked and the restaurant closed, he tried to give music another go with The Leapfrog Saints, but it seemed live performance was out of the cards.
Writing music, however, was not.
“I went into this thinking, ‘You know what? I’ve got some spare time,’” he said. “I basically started writing music to pass the time, and then I started recording what I’d written, and the next thing you know, I’ve got a catalog of songs. So I said, ‘Shoot, they’re already done; I need to get some people together and play them.”
He didn’t set out to make music that fit into a particular genre; like Swank’s own particular musical tastes, Indie Lagone runs the gamut. It’s definitely rock, but the complexities of jazz, the nuances of pop and the barely muzzled ferocity of metal are all present and accounted for. There’s a sense of unease and urgency to the band’s music, which is apropos given that many of the songs deal with navigating the troubled waters of love.
“A lot of the songs are from little experiences I’ve had and watching the people around me,” said Swank, who’s been married to his wife, Lori, since 1999. “The subject matter in these songs has a lot to do with the building of love, watching it slip away and finding a way to deal with that. I didn’t say that I wanted it to be rock or jazz or anything like that; I just laid it out there just for me, and it turned into something that took on a life of its own.”
Even the addition of his bandmates was an organic process, he added: In Indie Lagone, Swank (who plays guitar and sings) is joined by bass player Scott Belcher (who also performs with local outfit House of the Rising Funk), drummer Josh Courtney (Swank’s old Servant Radio bandmate) and backup vocalist/keyboard player Jennifer “Miss Jen” Bell.
“I think the glue that binds everybody together is just a love of a great song,” he said.
This weekend, the band will perform at Preservation Pub in downtown Knoxville on Sunday as part of a “movie night” – the group will “score” the film “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which will be screened to patrons while the band plays. For Swank, who dabbles in the visual arts as well, the marriage of sight and sound is perfect for Indie Lagone, which hopes to release its debut album by August.
“They all go together hand-in-hand, sort of like how I came up with the name,” he said. “I was surfing the net one night, and I happened on a site about Dracula. I love old horror movies, and Indie Lagone was supposedly one of Dracula’s first victims. I saw the name, and regardless of the facts, I love the idea of old horror movies.
“I’m a very visual person, and I wanted the visual to match the music. I think the imagery is important, as much so as the music. It’s just a total art package.”