Today we’d like to introduce you to Dylan Mckenzie & Jonathan Schwarz.
Dylan & Jonathan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We met as music students at CalArts and quickly became friends. We were constantly sharing records and bonding over our mutual love of people like The Band, Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Jon Brion, Beck, and Radiohead. We started playing together and put a deep focus into songwriting, trying to draw from everything we were listening to. It was also a vessel for us to process things happening in our own lives, and sort of exhilarating how quickly we were able to create things together. Gradually the project evolved into a band. We started playing our first gigs at school parties with other CalArts bands like Together Pangea, but our music was definitely more introverted than everything else we were hearing. We decided to embrace the introspective side of our songs, and craft things that sometimes slowly build before boiling. We put a lot of time into our first recordings, and from there on became very active in playing around LA. Over time the live line-up has fluctuated, but it’s always been the two of us at the core.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We’ve been a band for a decade, and when a project has been around that long, you’re bound to encounter some changes and some obstacles along the way. We had to navigate some obstacles over the years, whether it was making things work balancing our jobs and the band, or when our longtime drummer Matthias left to start a family. We’ve always had our friendship and our musical bond to help carry us forward. At times we’ve had to be patient and flexible and sometimes see the opportunity to try things differently when hit with something unexpected. Our new album grew out of this very thing, as Matthias’s departure forced Jon and I to approach our new material as an acoustic duo. It was different than we had been doing things at the time, but this allowed us to make the most intimate record we’ve made to date, and to take the project to a new place sonically. We brought in our friends Tim Carr and Greg Uhlmann of the band Fell Runner to help us produce the album and Andrew Rowan who arranged strings. We embraced a very collaborative spirit. I don’t think we would have made this record this way had we not been willing to lean into some of the curves life has thrown us.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
With our music, we often go to a pretty vulnerable place. Our songs carry an emotional sincerity. Sometimes this can be felt as melancholy, other times something more warm and dreamy. We try to keep ourselves open to these feelings and invite the audience along with us in our performances and recordings. In a live setting, this is extremely cathartic. We don’t try to force things or dress things up differently than they are, and I think this honesty in our music is a strength. We think this feeling and atmosphere came through successfully in our new album ‘Slow Light’ and we’re thrilled about how the songs have come together in our performances. We’re extremely proud of the band we’ve put together to play these songs, which adds a different kind of spontaneity and energy to the new music.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
We are first are foremost extremely lucky to play with such talented and creative musicians who are generous with their musicianship and ideas. The musicians who make up the live band with us are: Andrew Lessman (drums), Evan Montgomery (guitar), and Randy Kirk (keys). Without them, we wouldn’t be able to bring the songs to life. We feel so fortunate to have an amazingly supportive and creatively enriching community both in Los Angeles and beyond. We are constantly exposed to the innovative and exciting music that our friends create, and our music has grown as a result. We played and curated a monthly residency at the Love Song Bar over the past year, which gave us the opportunity to work with many great artists and come together as a community to enjoy creative music. Luck has given us the chance to meet amazing people, and we are happy to have been able to maintain those friendships. At the same time, we have put in enormous time and effort into honing our work and exploring new terrain, and we a proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. That said, we still have a lot more to explore and create!
Our album ‘Slow Light’ comes out next week on October.
Jordan Kirschner, Debi Del Grande, John Nyboer