New York City is a wonderful place to live, but it can be hard to make ends meet if you want to focus on your art. Such was the dilemma that Matt Mason and Nan Turner faced in 2012. As Schwervon!, a guitar/drum duo, the two had recorded a few albums, toured the U.S. a bit and made a few forays into Europe. When they wanted to focus on music full time, they faced a tough choice. Either they could stay in New York City, where they were about to lose their rent-stabilized Lower East Side apartment, or they could pursue the idea Mason proposed: relocate to the Kansas City area, where he grew up. The Midwest won.
"I know it sounds a bit counterintuitive, but moving from New York City to Kansas City provided us with a more affordable place to live and a more central location to start a serious DIY touring regimen," explains Mason. "About four or five years ago, my dad got diagnosed with lung cancer. I flew back to Kansas and hung out with him for a month while he dealt with that. He's better now, but while I was here, an old friend kind of turned me on to some of the cool stuff that had developed around town. We looked at a couple of places in Brooklyn, but most of them were half the size and twice the money. So I went to Nan with the idea of moving to Kansas. Luckily she was up for it."
In the intervening two years, Schwervon! has continued at a fairly relentless pace. This weekend the group returns to St. Louis. On Friday, April 18, Schwervon! is scheduled to play the Heavy Anchor. On Saturday, April 19, the duo will appear at Euclid Records as part of the store's Record Store Day festivities. We took the opportunity to e-mail the group about music, relationships, touring and mid-set performance-art breaks.
RFT Music: How are you liking it in the Midwest? What are some similarities/differences operating as a band in Kansas versus New York? Be honest, do you miss New York?
Nan Turner: I like the space and the big sky and the barbecue in Kansas City! It's sort of the same for us in terms of our strong internal drive to work on our music. It's just that in the Midwest now, we have more time to work on our music and tour, as we are less chained to day jobs. Of course we miss New York, our friends and the crazy creative energy of that city. But it's nice to go back on tour and appreciate it and soak it in, maybe more than when I lived there.
Matt Mason: New York is a great place to be inspired, but it's a tough place to live. There are more opportunities but also more competition. Unless you have a lot of money or are in a unique situation, I think it's a tough place to focus on your craft. Since we've moved to the Midwest, we've been able to slow down a bit and think more about what we really want. It's also kind of fun to have insight on both parts of the country. We've been fortunate enough to be totally embraced by the Kansas City music community. It's great! We've made a lot of new friends. There is a lot of wonderful stuff here and a lot of resources that were actually not so available in a larger city like New York.
To what extent do you feel a kinship with other couple bands? We have several in St. Louis, including Sleepy Kitty and Bruiser Queen.
Turner: We love Sleepy Kitty! We are really inspired by their music and art. We met Evan online before we even moved to Kansas City, and he was so supportive and encouraging to us. It's great to have some pals in the midwest that are on a similar path that we're on, and we can bond over the Road Dawg Life.
Mason: It's fun to see how other people do it. I would say Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo are two of my favorite bands, and they both had couples in them. I rewatched that documentary about Lemmy from Motorhead recently, and he spoke about how difficult it was to maintain relationships as a musician because you spend so much time on the road. He said something like the only way he thought someone could maintain a long-term relationship with a musician would be if they were both musicians. I pretty much agree with him.
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