Interviewing Swing’it Dixieband

Merging the centuries within the ’20s, their music blends modern music with a vintage sound. It’s a fantastic way to celebrate the 2020’s with the styles of the 1920s. Traditional jazz music was party music and that’s what they deliver in their songs and their concerts. Their versatility allows them to play for a range of audiences from jazz clubs and speakeasies to weddings to corporate events to festivals.

They’ve travelled all over the world showing off their musical talents to shows with a successful and passionate following in Norway and throughout Europe.

“Swing’it is one of the most popular bands to have played at the Candlelight Club. The combination of toe-tapping rhythms, effusive horns and five-part vocals created the perfect vintage mood and kept people on their feet all evening. I think I had more positive comments from guests about this band than any other”.

Review from Candlelight Club

Known for their music available on Spotify and YouTube, as well as concerts throughout the world. In 2019, they released their first single, Party Like it’s 1923, which describes the life of flappers and dappers within the era of the ’20s. It was also their first music video. This single brought them huge success as it hit 1 million streams on Spotify. Later on in 2019 and then again in 2020, they released two more singles Booze Cruise and Champagne.

Below is an interview with Martin Jarl, the band’s founder, and Dylanna Fisher.

How did the band get started?
It was actually my trumpet teacher that started it in the first place. I was only 12 or myself at the time and joined the band with some friends of mine. We were very cute, but not so talented at the time, so it fizzled out after a while. Then a couple of years later I decided to pick up the idea again and started the current band with some other friends of mine.  

Why did you decide to be known as Swing’it Dixieband?
We wanted something that was short and catchy and went for “Swing’it”, which is the name we mainly use. Adding Dixieband is just a mixture of making it clear what we do while also being a historical reference to bands from that era.  

How would you describe your sound?
We have a very vibrant, energetic and playful sound. There are different members and different instruments from time to time, so the overall sound varies from a 20s marching band towards a more 30s swing sound. But I’d say energetic, vibrant and playful are very describing.  

Who are your musical influences?
Lots of different people, ranging from 20s musicians like Louis Armstrong, through 30s, 40s and 50s jazz to current jazz and pop singers like Jamie Cullum. Personal favourites are among others Chet Baker, Jamie Cullum and Armstrong.  

Who is all included in Swing’it Dixieband?
We’re a big group of people, around 17 in total – so more of a collective of musicians than a band. This is because the group has been living separated in Trondheim, Oslo and London since it was founded and flying in people for every gig is often not financially possible.  

You mentioned that there is a different one’s time to time as a kind of a collective, could you tell me about that?
As I mentioned, I met the band members in various places. Three of us moved to London at the same time, but we couldn’t afford to fly the rest over for every concert. Therefore, we got some friends from our University to join us instead, and suddenly we had a whole band in London.

Similarly, we needed more members in Norway and suddenly we had enough members for 2-3 bands. We’ve actually done several concerts at once in various cities (or countries) with different line-ups!

How did you meet the current band members?
We actually met in different situations. Some are friends from my hometown, Tønsberg, where I grew up, while some of the members I met during the time I studied in London. A couple is just friends of friends that I’ve met at parties or similar over the years.

Were you known as the Swing’it Dixieband back then?
Yes, we’ve been known as that back to maybe 2013 or 2014. However, we recently changed our name to Swing’it after the BLM movement, due to the fact that dixie has some racist connotations and we wanted to take a stand against racism.  

What inspired the band to have a kind of vintage sound?
It started when my mum used to take me to the local jazz club when I was a kid. Every week we would go to the jazz club listening to traditional jazz bands. That interest and motivation have just grown and blossomed over the years into a passion.

Why choose to have a 20’s/30’s style?
The energy in this kind of music is so fantastic. We’re also big fans of the 1920s and the idea of optimism and freedom. There are also very few people at our age doing this kind of music and we thought that people need some Dixieland in their lives. Lots of people have never heard it before, so we really hope we can bring the 20s vibe back to the streets!  

Why do covers in particular?
It’s very standard in the Dixieland and swing jazz scene to do cover songs, but mainly the standards from the 20s and 30s. We decided to do a twist and choose songs that people would have heard before but in a different format. That said, we do increasingly more original tunes at the moment and are currently recording our first original EP.

How would you describe the songs within your EP?
Our songs are based around historical people and real events in the 1910s and 20s in America, from the Prohibition Era and Great Gatsby’s glamour, but with our own twist. We released the EP in April 2020 and have now recorded a full album that’s due to be released in 2021. The album is a concept album where there’s an overarching story that takes the listener through New Orleans and the music from the early 20th Century

As your first EP, how are you feeling about it?
We’re really excited about the EP and even more about the upcoming album! We’ve worked on this for several years now and presenting our first full album will be very exciting. Just imagine holding your own, freshly printed vinyl! 

How do covers tend to compare to the originals?
Some of the tunes are not so far away from the originals, like Bare Necessities and I wanna be like you, while others have a completely different style, for example, Can you Feel the Love Tonight 

What’s the draw for Disney covers do you think, as a band?
We were inspired by how Postmodern Jukebox was so successful covering pop songs in various genres, so we decided to try something similar – and there are just so many good Disney tunes to choose between. We already had a couple in our repertoire and thought to ourselves “who doesn’t love Disney”? 

What is the typical process of creating a cover?
We have this thing where we joke about every song with a swing feel. Suddenly sometimes it just sounds very right, while most of the time it is just good banter. If we think it sounds good as swing, we just jam until it sounds the way we want  

What was the process of collaborating with other musicians?
It was partly because we tried doing the Postmodern Jukebox thing and partly because we wanted to mix the videos and sounds up for the listeners. We don’t really do that anymore and lately, we stick to the same group of core members 

Are there any specific ones that stick out as favourites?
Ami Oprenova is a brilliant singer and arranger and has become a really good friend of ours. The clarinet player Gustavo was for a brief while a member of the band before he got too busy doing other projects, but he was amazing to play with. Last, but most important: Jonah Hitchens! From the very first time he sang with us he’s just been incredible on stage and is the funniest guy. Now he is one of the most important members of the band.  

Why did you start on YouTube and Spotify?
We were big fans of Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox and thought it was a good idea to do a similar thing. For those who don’t know them, they’re making vintage and retro videos of pop tunes. We decided to do the same, just with Disney songs in the 20s or 30s style. With more than 400 000 views on YouTube and participation at the semi-finals of Norway’s Got Talent, it seems like it was a good idea  

How do you think YouTube functions as a platform for musicians?
It has ups and downs. To get lots of views and followers you have to post content very regularly, which for some types of entertainment is very easy while recording, arranging and filming music videos are very costly. It is still a very good place to get seen, but not the most important for us. 

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out on YouTube?
To be honest, not really. It is just having an original idea and create good content, which is easier said than done.

Are you available on other music streaming platforms? 
Our Disney music is only on YouTube, while our original songs can be found on every streaming platform. 

Is there a preference? 
Personally, I use Spotify, which is very common in Norway but can’t say I’ve used many else so can’t really answer this one 

How do you feel about the internet in the music business?
I’m very mixed about this. I think it’s great that it’s easier for musicians to get their music out there and fantastic that you can discover artists from other parts of the world that you otherwise would never hear of.

On the other hand, it’s very hard to make good money out of streaming, and it’s really just the big artists that get the money from streaming. At the same time people seem to get used to getting music for free and these days it’s almost expected not to pay ticket prices for smaller bands. This makes it increasingly hard to be able to live in music which we all do. 

How has the internet affected your music career?
I think less than the average band. We are more of a live band than anything else, and most people know us from our live performances. But through the internet people from other parts of the world have discovered us and booked us to France, Spain, Netherlands, UK and more, which is amazing.  

What are some of your fondest memories throughout your music career?
There are so many to choose between!

Playing big stages at festivals are the best thing in the world. We’ve played some great gigs at for example Edinburgh Jazz Festival and Kongsberg Jazz festival. We played support for Dr. John once, and also for Aha, which was absolutely crazy! We’ve also started our own Prohibition parties called “1923 – Oslo Prohibition Party” where everyone comes in outfits from the 20s and there are dancers, music, cabaret and all that jazz. We’ve had two sold-out shows which both have been among the best nights of our career  

What are some obstacles throughout your music career?
There hasn’t really been many, to be honest.

We’ve become steadily better and more popular getting more gigs along the way, just how it should be. Obviously, it’s hard work trying to live off your music and at times it has been tough, but that’s something you expect when going into this type of work.

Another thing living as a musician touring around it can be hard keeping up with friends and family as you’re never there when things happen. Luckily, we’re all really close friends, so playing together is both works and like being with your best friends. 

How can your fans best support you?
We’re a live band, and the most important thing is to go to live concerts. Obviously, that’s not ideal just at the moment, but when the pandemic is over: Go see your local bands and support them! The big artists often get all the attention, but there are so many great bands out there waiting to be discovered. Rather than doing like everybody else, wouldn’t it be fun discovering a great band before everyone else? 

Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Hopefully touring the big stages and festivals around the world. While the music we currently making has great potential, we think the electro-swing sets have the potential of reaching bigger masses and can be played at much bigger stages. Hopefully, that will catch on! 

How could smaller bands make it when they’re competing?
I think the most important thing is to try and do your own thing, instead of copying what everybody else does. Do your own thing and believe in it will differentiate you from the other thousand bands trying to accomplish the same thing. 

What advice would you give to bands just starting out?
Have fun! Life in the music business is not luxurious and you gotta love it to be happy. My teacher once told me that if there’s anything else in the world you’d like to do, then you should do that. If music is the only thing you want to do, only then is music the right option. 

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