Friday, 25 March 2011

The Swami Jane Equation Story : Told by the Trumpet Player

"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without."  ~Confucius

Swami Jane Equation
Confucius is right. We can't live without music. For some of us, we like to remain on the spectator's side and take in these beautiful tunes played for us. And then there are others, who actually create the harmonies we learn to enjoy. But how does one succeed in being the ultimate entertainer? In a sea of bands, musicians willing to show the spectators how glorious they are, the challenge is difficult. Not all of them carve their rightful spot in the music world. But I have come across one band that truly stepped off the beaten track and decided to try a sound that I haven't really heard before. They are still a young band, reaching for the stars, and I hope they will succeed. It's a sound I enjoy, a blend of all sorts of genres we love and this blend is just sensational. 
Now, I hope you won't get upset, this band isn't from Montreal, which would have been a typical choice on my part, but actually from South of the Border! Yes, from the US of A and more specifically BALTIMORE! It's important to encourage music from all over. And well, the trumpet player from this band (4th from the left on the picture you see here) is a friend of mine and since I enjoyed his sound so much, I decided to introduce you to them and hopefully you will also enjoy the sounds of ska, rock, jazz and funk of this young up and coming band. I interviewed Nick DeSantis, he talked to me about his band, his crazy stalker and his passion. 

1.     So who are you?

Nick, Trumpet Player, Swami Jane Equation

2.     What got you into music?

When I was about 11 years old, my mother gave me a mixtape with two songs: Hummel Trumpet Concerto in Eb 1st Movement and 'Informer' by Snow (N. can't go wrong with the Informer!). I have wanted to be a musician and an entertainer ever since.

3.     So you’re in a band! How did this journey start?

I was in the Math Help Room at Johns Hopkins University trying to get the TA's to finish my Linear Algebra homework, and I remember seeing a young man (Dillon) with a very interesting jazz design laptop skin cover, and a beautiful girl I had never seen before sitting across from me. I opted to compliment Dillon on his laptop cover design, engage in conversation about my interest in jazz, horn sections, and trumpet experience, and get his number. We've been playing (music) with each other and texting each other ever since. I still haven't met the girl, but I keep seeing her around campus. I don't think she knows that I am in a band...

4.     What type of band is it? 

Swami Jane Equation is a ska/rock/funk band. It incorporates a fat horn section consisting of trumpet (me), baritone sax (Dillon), and trombone (Christian). Nate provides dope basslines and Linder offers unparalleled intensity in his beats to lay down the foundation for the rhythm section. Chris's singing style has been compared to OAR and DMB, but I personally haven't really heard anything like it (Chris also plays guitar). We also have featured instruments like keys (Joel), alto sax (Crean), vocals (Cynthia), and lead guitar (Aleksi). The band consists of students from Johns Hopkins University (Homewood and Peabody Conservatory), and many are currently studying Jazz Studies or Classical Studies. Our music has a strong ska influence, but we have different primary genres in various songs; funk (Mystery Woman), latin (Low A), and rock (Black Hole). Chris is an environmental engineer, and a lot of the lyrics are representative of his major.

5.     Which artists inspire the music you play?

  Besides Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Snow, I personally have felt a strong influence from Lee Morgan and Miles Davis, but I listen to a lot of different genres. Reel Big Fish, Sublime, DMB, and Streetlight Manifesto have all inspired the band as a whole.

6.     As a new band, how difficult is it to get the band known?

I imagine it might be harder to gain exposure in Baltimore at a school like Johns Hopkins, but we are starting to gain some momentum. We've had a huge variety of gigs so far, and right now we are trying to book more gigs at colleges around us like Loyola, Towson, Georgetown, and Goucher. Once we release our EP this spring, we will hopefully start to gain a lot more exposure. We have been fortunate enough to be able to record with audio engineering majors at different schools, which has been very convenient. Everyone we work with is around the same age: we are all college kids performing for primarily college kids. Our youtube videos and website have gotten some notice, but we are still looking for a couple big breaks. It is important to take any gig we get at this point because every audience member is important.

7.     Out of all the songs you play, which one is your favorite and why?

My favorite lyrics are in The Bayou, a song about Hurricane Katrina. Black Hole is probably my favorite jam song. I really don't have a single favorite tune, though: I'm starting to realize that I play in one of my favorite bands, which is an awesome feeling. All of the songs seem a lot better when you help create them.

8.     Where have you performed and where will you perform? (include who you will be opening for)

We have played at a variety of gigs on the Homewood Campus at Johns Hopkins, including Derby Days (Sig Chi), Homecoming, Beer Garden, and Hoptoberfest. Last weekend, we played at Joe Squared (rated best pizza in Baltimore), Miss Black America Pageant Baltimore/DC Region, The Ottobar (Battle of the Bands), and we performed at the 8x10 (Battle of the Bands) last Wednesday. We have several gigs coming up in April, including a JHU breakdance competition and Spring Fair Concert, where we will be opening for Foxy Shazam and Steel Train.

At Ottobar for Battle of the Bands

9. What’s the best thing about being in this group?

The chemistry in this group is unparalleled. We are a pretty big band, but everyone gets a long really well and respects each other. We have a lot of fun together, and I think its evident in our music and our peformances. I also really enjoy working with Christian, because of his purple Crocs. Nothing has inspired me more musically in any previous band or group of which I have ever been a part.

10. Any crazy stalker stories yet?

One woman came to one of our shows and then the afterparty at my house a couple blocks off campus. She was very knowledgeable about the music industry and had an awesome taste for music, particulary for Dixieland Jazz, which I find very entertaining. After several drinks and and numerous enlightening conversations, I realized that I could not pursue her, because I used to date her granddaughter, who was in my Structures of Materials class. I did not have the heart to tell her this; I simply said goodnight and asked her kindly to leave my home (it was 5 am...she couldn't get a cab, but I suggested that she walk home because she was loitering outside my house). She has sent each band member home-baked chocolate chip cookies every Saturday since then, which is close to 250 cookies each weekend. Some cookies make us really sleepy when we eat them, and I'm pretty sure I saw her sneak out of my kitchen one morning when I was heading for class a couple weeks ago (although I could have been imagining it- things have been really blurry ever since I started eating those cookies...)

11. What advice would you give kids that are starting to play and want to start a band?

Try to get as much exposure to as many different types of music possible. Don't be close-minded. If someone asked me ten years ago where I thought my trumpet-playing would bring me, I would not have guessed a ska/rock/funk band. However, being part of this group has definitely been the greatest musical experience of my life.

12. Does being part of Swami help you with the women?

It hasn't really brought me much more attention from the fairer gender. I think it's because there aren't any good trumpet-player pick up lines. I've tried "Hey, if you were a mouthpiece, you'd be a 3c, and I'm getting tired of my Bach 7c, so maybe we should get out of here and make some beautiful music for a sad world." It just doesn't seem to be very effective, intriguing, or logical for that matter. If you know any better lines I could use, please let me know.

13. So what’s more your style, rocker chick or pop star?

I've always been a big pop star chick fan, but recently I've begun to appreciate the shredded jeans, tattooed, sloppy make-up rocker chick style. As far as performers look in general, I am definitely more attracted to girls who look comfortable on stage, regardless of their external appearance. The way their attitudes complement their music is most important to me.

14. So you’re from South of Border, it’s always interesting for us Canucks to know what Americans know about our country, name me a couple things that make you think of Canada!

Hockey, Beautiful Women, Jamaican Rap,  Moose Crossing, Jason Bay, The Biega Brothers, Yukon Territory, Curling, Tam, Expos, Ice Hotels, Bears, Beer, Accents, Frozen Rivers, and Nick DeSantis (the famous soccer player/coach)  (N. haha, yeah he knows his Canada quite well...!)

You can check them out on their website:
You can also check out their YouTube Channel:

Note that this was filmed in a bar - so you can't expect perfect quality sound!!

So you like what you hear? Well why not help to get them get a little international visibility? Share the article, send it to your friends! It's important to encourage those who are making a big effort to make it. It's a tough world out there and it's bands like this that show us that a little bit of passion can go a long way. Also, if you have any thoughts on the band, things you like, things you don't, please do share in the comments below. Advice is key!

Thanks Nick for sharing...good luck with the granny... ;)


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