Volume 91, Issue 68

Thursday, January 29, 1998



Ember's swift at making top tunes

©Suzy Malik

By Lisa Weaver
Gazette Staff

"She wore a lime-green faux-fur hipcoat and tight red pants and I saw her walking there, head down against the crowd of noon-time laughter, eyes bright, alert to sounds of footfall, faster around her..."

Although these words sound as though they are pure poetry, Ember Swift swears she could never perform spoken-word in front of an audience. "My knees are shaking just thinking about it!" she exclaims loudly. But there is no doubt Swift loves to perform her music.

Born in Burlington, Ontario, Swift moved to nearby Woodstock for her latter high school years. This is where she got her performing start – although she had been writing songs for years. When she moved to Ottawa for university two years ago, she began performing on the club circuit. Swift then transported her talent to Toronto, where she is currently studying and running her own business, Few'll Ignite Sound.

In terms of performers, at the moment she is her only client, although she does have lots of help and plans to move Few'll Ignite Sound into an office this summer.

Swift is also not alone as she performs on stage. On her last tour, which reached as far as Halifax and visited London's Whippet Lounge in November, she was accompanied by violinist Lyndell Montgomery. This time Swift is playing with a four-piece band, including ex-Makeshifts members and brother-duo Rustle (drums) and Chris Stadey (horns), along with Montgomery. Chris will also provide back-up vocals for the show.

Ember Swift's music is a fierce combination of eloquent, passionate lyrics and numerous musical styles. Swift has classical training as well as interests in jazz, folk and newer genres. "Now I'm really getting into the trip-hop funk side that I've never really explored before," relates Swift. The members of her band are also into mixing genres that have traditionally never been played together, changing times and styles as they please. "We really get obnoxious together," says Swift laughingly of their stage performance.

Swift writes with both eyes open to the world. She calls things as she sees them, exploring the relationships between people with extreme clarity. She writes from a feminist viewpoint in which she deconstructs the power-struggle inherent in certain relationships.

"This over-substanced young man, he is waiting for me to catch his eye, harassing me with his stare and I'm caught in the dusk," she sings in "Stop Fighting You." "Everyday jerks like you deny our freedom, some in worse ways but it's all the same."

Swift's first release was on cassette and her latest, from last year, is a CD entitled Insect Inside. She relates the process by which she determined the name, starting with 10 ideas on a chalkboard and erasing them one by one as they felt wrong to her. "Most of these songs are about trying to figure out what's inside you," she explains. "Sometimes the bees in our bonnet are good for us and sometimes they're parasites," theorizes Swift, giving the shortened version of the explanation.

Swift cites Joni Mitchell as an important inspiration and respects Ani Difranco as an artist. But she is reluctant to say these are her musical role models. "Once you say you listen to a certain band, people will think you sound like them," she says. But Swift certainly has her own unique sound and her own messages, despite any comparisons journalists and fans have made.

Ember Swift invites everyone and their grandmother to join her at Call the Office tonight at 10 p.m. Cover is $3.00. You can also contact Ember Swift by email at ember.swift@utoronto.ca or visit her fan-based web page at http://www.geocities.com/wellesley/5684. Swift's official web page is still under construction – but coming soon!

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998