06.30.00 - Kalamazoo Gazette - "Unusual history contributes to Sweeder's exotic sound" - by Elizabeth Clark

We´ve all got that ex-boyfriend from five years back who runs away when he sees us, scurrying away from his hacky sack circle without even declaring a sportsmanly "Hack out."

Ok, maybe it´s just me. Yeah, it probably is. But most people can count on a few fingertips the exes they´re happy to bump into on the street.

Listeners can count themselves lucky that indie rockers Chiyoko Yoshida and Jeff Carleton´s ties didn´t die when the former lovers called it quits lovewise nearly a decade ago.

"It´s really unusual. Most people are really shocked by that," Yoshida said by phone from her Chicago Web-design day job. "I guess there are certain relationships, rare ones, that really stick. Six or seven months after we broke up we went from a boy-girl thing to a musical partnership and we´ve been friends forever. He´s like my family. We´re more like siblings."

Yoshida and Carleton, who did vocals and guitar respectively with Squash Blossom, survived not only their own breakup but the disbanding of Blossom.

Still eager to make music together, they formed Sweeder in 1996, creating what Yoshida calls a "musical co-writing partnership."

Forming Sweeder provided each of them a chance to spread their wings a bit. Yoshida longed for her former roommate´s drum kit so went out and bought a drum set of her own and started banging away. Her preoccupation with percussion gave Carleton a new opportunity and challenge - setting down soundscapes without the safety net of his longtime writing partner´s input. The band picked up bassist and violinist Julie Liu (her recording credits include Rex., Tortoise and Mint Andry) two years into the project.

And in a process that Yoshida called "getting back to ground zero," they holed up in rehearsal spaces and nary a fan heard a note of what they were up to.

Finally, in early ´98, Yoshida collaborator and Red Red Meat man Brian Deck recorded the band´s demo in a West Side Chicago storefront where they lived and practiced. The songs were all untitled, as was the demo disc itself, but Sweeder finally existed outside of the storefront.

In May the band released a more polished product, the lush, full-length "swallowed by the sun".

Industro-goth great Chris Connelly (not the dopey MTV guy, mind you, but the former Ministry dread head) waxes poetic about the threesome in a press release: "You´ll be excited, because at last it is new, because you cannot put your finger on it. You cannot fathom the chord changes from melancholy to celebratory. It may bluntly remind you of your own life, of cinematic choking endings that are meant to be relived. It is compassion in the truest sense of the beautiful word."

Man he sure can write. Yoshida agrees, but then again she admits she´s blatantly biased. Connelly is, after all, her boyfriend of two years. But she said he swears he´s not biased in boasting about Sweeder.

"He´s a big Sweeder fan," she said. Yoshida said it´s not unusual for fans of edgier music to enjoy Sweeder´s slow to moderately paced ethereal musings.

"I know plenty of mouth rockers who like us...It´s hard to pinpoint."

Still, she said, audiences should expect a somewhat mellow show, a la the Cocteau Twins, to whom the band is often compared. "It´s not a mobfest....it´s definitely not a punk thing," Yoshida said.

"It definitely doesn´t draw on the hard rockers - the people who like to do stage diving."

Yet, at one opening gig for Veruca Salt at a sold-out 2,000 seat arena, a handful of crowd surfers and stage divers moshed through *Sweeder´s sedate set, Yoshida recalled. "That´s all they were there to do was to jump up and down" no matter what was playing, be it the Throwing Mus-like "Moon" or the lovesick moan "Filters".

Yoshida said the slow process of piecing together the band yielded a second guitar player, Greg Ratajczak, who joined up four months ago after collaborating on "swallowed" in the studio.

The foursome wouldn´t mind picking up a "multi-task" sting player to mimic Liu´s studio work live. As is, Liu sticks to the bass on stage, so the orchestral aspect is dimmed in the live setting.

"It´s a little different, a little sparser than the album," Yoshida said. "When you´re recording, you´re allowed to multi-0track, which can´t do live."

Also tricky in live staging is mic-ing Yoshida. She is after all, perhaps the first front woman in history to front a band from behind a drum kit, and it´s hard to filter the drums out of the vocal mic and steer clear of feedback. Audiences are often shocked to see the petite singer tucked behind a mountain of snares, cymbals and toms, but they warm up to it Yoshida said.

THE LOWDOWN Sweeder performs at Stark Industries tonight with Utah and Monoglot. The show, which starts at 7p.m., is open to all ages and costs $5. Stark Industries recently opened its doors at 2045 Palmer, and the venue maintains a no-alcohol policy. To get there, go east on Palmer off Portage Road (just past Aunt Millie´s). The venue is about two blocks down Palmer.

* Correction to above article, it states that Sweeder opened for Veruca Salt, when in fact it was actually Squash Blossom that did this.

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contact sweeder by mail: Sweeder . 1658 N. Milwaukee Ave . PMB 151 . Chicago . IL . 60647