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A first listen to the fourth album by Northampton’s Bunny’s A Swine

I can’t exactly remember the first time I met Candace Clement of Bunny’s A Swine, but it was either when she was organizing Ladyfest Easthampton in 2010, or through her work with the media reform organization Free Press. Either is an equally inspired way to meet someone – especially someone who plays in a band. As it turns out, the critical worldview and passionate energy that Candace holds in her organizing work translates to the smart and intricate pop songwriting of Bunny’s A Swine, a band she plays guitar and sings in along with guitarist/vocalist Emerson Stevens and drummer Dustin Ashley Cote. The band began playing in 2009, and over five years have written songs reflecting a collective love for urgent storytelling, and sentimental country-inspired influences as much as more dissonant and distorted 90s influences like Pavement and Modest Mouse. Their forthcoming LP Calling Out was recorded, mixed and produced at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA by Justin Pizzoferrato, who has recently recorded artists ranging from Chelsea Light Moving and Body/Head to Speedy Ortiz and Aye Nako. The Media is honored to present you with a first listen of the record, out on June 8 via the band’s own label TinyRadars. While you listen, read along here for the band’s track-by-track explanation of Calling Out.

Side A:

Everyone Buys You a Kitten
"Everybody Buys You a Kitten" wasn't actually slated for the album, but as an extra track (incidentally Kittens is one of our older songs and has been performed and recorded as a few different versions). After producer/engineer/seltzer enthusiast Justin Pizzoferrato heard us cut this track, he insisted it be considered for the album and eventually it ended up as the opening track. Up until this version, the song had old lyrics that were changed in the studio on the fly -- a very rare occurrence for Bunny's A Swine. -- Dustin

Greetings from the Bottom
I guess this is a protest song, or maybe, it's just a string of complaints. The idea that musicians get taken advantage of by the music industry is certainly not new to our generation. However, the industry is forced to reinvent itself every time technology changes and through it all, the real creative forces never seem to gain a foothold. This all makes sense, because great music comes from people who do it because it feels good to do, not because they think it'll make them rich. With all said and done, the pride, satisfaction and joy I get from being a part of this band outweighs any amount of money or fame I could imagine, and I have nothing to complain about. But this world changes fast and it's easy to lose sight of things. Technology makes everything small, it makes things feel disposable, and that's the shame of the industry today. The music we make now is just as important as everything that has come before, but it takes more than a free stream on Bandcamp to make it a part of our collective history. -- Emerson

The name is taken from a street in Northampton where Dustin and I shared an apartment for most of the band's existence. Upstairs was a partially finished attic which became our first practice space. The landlord lived downstairs and was often annoying but remarkably tolerant to the frequent loud practices and parties which began around 1am after shows in town had gotten out. I couldn't even begin to list all the bands who stayed with us over the years; sweat through the night in the attic, littered the lawn with cigarette butts, ate our food and fucked with our cats. Some very dear friends in the band Redwing Blackbird wrote a song called “Walk With Me” which was in part about some time they spent at Lasell and I wrote this song as a response to their loving tribute. -- Emerson

I tried really hard to change this song title to “Barn Barn” but it never stuck. I think because I was worried that calling it “Barnburner” was pretentious. That term is something so staid in music writing. We might as well have called it “Set Closer” or something, but we had already titled a song on our last record “It’s A Good Opener (If You’re Not Afraid)” so I guess that self-referential thing was played out. The ending was essentially a complete studio fabrication that came together while we recorded it. Prior to walking in there we just kept singing “It’s a let down” over and over and over for the last minute of the song. We’re all vocal and harmony nerds so this one was a blast to make.  -- Candace

Ida Lupino
A large part of my songwriting process occurs while watching t.v. Even alone, I get a feeling of embarrassment if my singing is the only voice in the room, and television helps ease this discomfort. As a result, BiAS has a handful of songs that reference movies and the people who make them. This song is probably the most direct of those. Ida was a remarkable woman who was well on her way to being a Hollywood starlet, but kept getting locked out of studio contracts for refusing roles that she felt didn't present women with dignity. This afforded her lots of free time in which she composed music, wrote screenplays, co-founded an independent production company and became the first (if not only) female director of the film-noir genre. While much of her career is quite prestigious, I wrote this song while watching a musical number called “The Gay Desperado,” which is probably better than you'd think... The center point to the song, however, is the story of her birth underneath a table in London while the city was under siege by German Zeppelins during the first world war. That may just be Hollywood mythology, but it's true if I want it to be. -- Emerson

Side B: 

I Wanna Be A Califone
We get a lot of weird comparisons as a band to other bands. Some of them make sense (i.e., Sleater-Kinney because of the two guitars or Pere Ubu because of Emerson’s nonsense screaming) and others we don’t understand (i.e., why does everyone keep talking about The Hold Steady?). Truth is, the three of us like so many bands that we will never sound like: Yo La Tengo, Califone, etc. This song has been around a really long time and while we were working on it Emerson and Candace got really into all the vocal harmonies and while we were never really emulating Califone it just became this joke. I think this song title was up for possible album titles at one point, but maybe only in my head because I like naming things. In reality, Dustin has named everyone of our records. -- Candace

Hot Water
It'd be wise to listen close to this song, because buried within is Bunny's A Swine's recipe for good health and problem solving, and buried even deeper within is some sweet sweet cowbell. -- Dustin

More Than Enough
We built this song around a couple of chords I’d been playing with for a long time and its probably one of our most collaborative songs of all time, which is a bit of a window into what we sound like when we just start from nothing and play together as a group. While so many of our songs are very sharp and jangled (there’s a particular strumming pattern to a BiAS song), this one was like a haze. There’s a laziness to the opening riff and I my brain was all WWMTD (“What Would Mary Timony Do?”). We recorded this one on the iPhone when it happened and then spent the next month trying to learn how to play what we wrote. Dustin’s Phile Spector beat in this track is probably my favorite thing on the whole record. When we were mixing the vocals Justin used some cool pedal that was last used by Kim Gordon which is basically the point at which I died because what else? -- Candace

Radio is a slow burner compared to many of the other tracks on Calling Out. This track really stands out as short and simply written but goes a long way with its lyrical imagery and some complementary viola tracks. "Radio" is as much a love song to creativity, as it is a tribute to what to do when the power goes out (inspired by Snowtober 2011). -- Dustin

South Carolina (for Andy and Donna)
Prior to this record I'd written plenty of love songs. They explored concepts of denial, regret, frustration and loss. It got played out... I think I just did it to seem cool... So as those themes started to appear in the process of writing this album I decided to steer them in a different direction; equally honest and vulnerable, but embracing the more positive aspects of love. I wrote this song the night before the wedding of two very beautiful friends, who married among their families in Vermont, then quickly thereafter set out for South Carolina to start a new life together, just the two of them. It was a decision that baffled me at first but I was quickly turned around by the confidence and devotion behind it. I wanted the recording to have a spontaneous quality as if the song, like their young love, had sprung up out of nowhere but been born with a very direct purpose. -- Emerson

Maybe about a year ago we realized that this record had a really strong theme running through it about communication. The challenges of communicating, the barriers to communication, communication in the sense of one person talking to another, but also in the way of getting what is in your brain to come out. I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking about communication -- quite literally as I work in the world of media, technology and the public policies that govern communications mediums in the US. While there are songs with titles that reference communication in the literal sense (like "TV" and "Radio") there are also lots of things about the communication between people in relationships, the communication of what’s in your head to the world outside, etc. This song’s refrain -- “When the TV’s on will you like me better?” -- is such a cathartic singalong but despite the questioning and doubt it seems to convey, this is really just a sentimental love song. Plus, those horns are pretty sweet. Thanks, Seth. -- Candace

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