Local spotlight: Andrew Graham and Swarming Branch offer warped take on classic rock

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the May 9, 2013 edition

You don’t have to listen hard to understand Andrew Graham is fed up with his peers. One song: “This generation is in a bad way/ We want less responsibility and more praise.” The next: “Everyone you meet is so outrageous or boring.” Rewind to the beginning: “There’s no hope in the future/ There’s no shame in the past.”

Even those who can’t keep up with Graham’s delivery probably notice his music’s debt to yesteryear — part Dylan and Bowie, part Rodgers and Hammerstein, part Malkmus and Mark E. Smith. His folksy rock ’n’ roll is hyperactive and unmedicated, as whimsical and brittle as decades-old pages from the J.D. Salinger novels Graham mines for inspiration.

He admires old folks for the same reason he admires the Glass family, frequent characters in Salinger’s books: “brash confidence.”

“You don’t see as many older people glancing at mirrors or glancing at their reflections in shop windows as they walk by,” Graham said. “It just seems like every year there’s more and more mounting pressure for people to behave in a certain way.”

The fictional Glass clan is one lens through which to view Classic Glass, Andrew Graham and Swarming Branch’s densely rollicking new LP, to be released Friday with a tour kick-off show at Carabar. Another reference point is old, irregularly pressed panes that tweak the images on the other side.

“We were trying to make a classic rock record where everything is a little bit warped and twisted,” Graham explained.

The “we” is mostly Graham plus longtime collaborators Dane Terry (keyboards) and Sean Leary (drums). Rather than the revolving-door approach employed on 2010’s Andrew Graham’s Good Word, Graham opted to stick with a stable lineup even if neither bandmate lives in Columbus anymore.

“I just made a decision to play with my best friends that are great musicians rather than trying to keep a steady lineup here,” Graham said.

It’s the kind of decisive gesture Graham hopes to inspire in other people.

“I know the songs are really wordy and kind of convoluted,” Graham said, “but I would hope that they would act as like a protective charm or almost a secular prayer that would help people feel tough and good about themselves without any sort of aggression.”