Since the early 2000s, London, ON musician Mercedes Lander has been known as the drummer of Canadian female metal band Kittie. In more recent years, she’s also been drumming in psychedelic rock band the Alcohollys, as well as on tour for Jennie Vee. Now, she’s set her focus on The White Swan, which sees Lander stepping out from behind the drum kit and into the front-woman role. Musically, the new band is also a departure from Lander’s previous work, as The White Swan perform a sludgy, synth-rock-tinged style of crushing doom. As well as playing shows consistently, the band are set to release their new three-song EP, titled The White, on June 9 which follows their late-2016 debut, Anubis.
The White carries on where Anubis left off, featuring fuzzy guitars and heavy captivating riffs, along with dreamy synths and Lander’s stunning, soaring vocals. In this recent interview with Svbterranean, Lander took the time to discuss how The White Swan came to be and the writing and recording process for their new EP. She also talks about what it’s like to be stepping out of her comfort zone, offers some insight into her lyrical approach and more.
How did the White Swan come to be? What’s the story behind the band’s inception?
The White Swan basically started in February of 2016. I had a bunch of songs that I had written that I couldn’t use for any project I was in at the time, so I messaged Kira [Longeuay, bass] and asked her if she wanted to start something new. Kira plays bass in The Alcohollys and things were starting to wind down with that project, so she was like, “Hell Yes!” I had known Shane [Jeffers, guitar] through playing drums with Kira’s solo project. He was also interested in playing with us so the three of us went to Kira’s place and started demoing the songs from Anubis and a few other riffs from The White. After we got some songs together with good song structure, we would go to my house and jam them out with me playing drums. Basically the songs just grew from there.
The new EP, The White, comes just seven months after your first EP, Anubis. Is there a specific reason behind the short gap between releases?
We really want to keep the ball rolling. We have enough songs and ideas to put another EP out in another six months if we wanted to. To us, putting out EPs is the most cost effective for us, and provides us the luxury of releasing small bits of music in short periods of time, keeping the Swanies happy.
How are you feeling about how the new EP turned out?
I absolutely am in love with it. We got to do things a little differently and road test these songs, unlike Anubis, where we recorded the songs and hadn’t played a show. It really made me more comfortable with the songs and helped to make the songs on The White as best as possible.
What was the writing and recording process like for this release?
“Lions” was first demoed around the same time as Anubis was being demoed so it’s a song we’ve been living with for quite a bit of time. “North Carolina” is another song we’ve been playing as an Intro since October 2016 so we’ve had plenty of time to tweak the song and its structure. “The White” is the newest song and, we started playing it in December as an instrumental. Recording is always a breeze for us because we record as a trio. I take care of drums, keys, and vocals, and Kira and Shane play bass and guitar. We are always well-rehearsed and in the case of The White, we recorded it in two half days. I was pretty sick during the first recording session and couldn’t do my vocal tracks until the following week. All in all, we do our best to make things as quick and efficient as possible in all aspects of this band.
How do you feel The White compares to the previous EP, Anubis?
The White is definitely a more focused recording. The songs have been road tested and we had a little more time to try new things and get very comfortable with them before going into the studio. I feel like there is more continuity with the songs.
To me, there’s much more to the White Swan’s sound than just calling it doom or sludge. There’s elements of old school metal in there, as well as modern synths. How do you describe the sound?
I agree. I think just to call us one thing is pigeon holing us and a lot of times people feel the need to classify and put music into a box. I honestly just write whatever I want, and if people like it I’m happy. We do have a lot of different elements in our music. The description we’ve been using is “Dirty, Synth, Sludge Rock.” I think that’s pretty accurate.
What are your influences, musical or otherwise?
I honestly listen to a lot of classic rock, and I have a little bit of an obsession with Kenny Loggins. I really just like well-written songs with good hooks. I like good songwriting no matter the genre.
The White Swan is very different musically from Kittie. Did you set out to do something so different or is it just what came naturally?
Not really. I just love writing music. I have so many songs and riffs that I just pull out of the old meat bank and use them. The songs just fit for this project.
With the White Swan, you’re now at the forefront of the band rather than behind the drum kit in Kittie. How has that been for you? What have been the challenges of this transition?
It’s actually really weird to not be playing drums, although there have been White Swan shows where we didn’t have a drummer and I just played. But for the most part I still feel like a drummer playing the part of a guitar player, playing the part of a singer, if that makes sense? It’s very interesting to have so much more freedom to move around and to be able to interact with the crowd in a different way. I like it, but I’m still not used to it.
How does the White Swan compare to Kittie as a creative outlet for you?
It’s basically the same thing, just different music. I am constantly writing music and lyrics and don’t tend to focus on just one project. I write a lot of lyrics and music for Kittie as well so it’s not much different, just different styles.
Lyrically, is there a specific theme behind The White?
There is defiantly a theme to The White. I went through a pretty intense series of life-changing events from December 2016 to the end of February 2017 and a lot of the material is based on those experiences. I felt pretty hopeless and lost a lot in three months. The only thing that really helped me was writing for this EP.
From where do you draw lyrical inspiration?
I can only really write about what I know and I find that my experiences, good or bad really influence my writing. It really helps to find beauty in terrible situations and tragedy.
What’s coming up next for the White Swan and your other endeavours?
We are hoping to get going with another EP in about five or six months and in the mean time just play as many shows as we can. 🙂
Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes! Support live music, Check out our Bandcamp, pre-order The White and come see us live!