David Freel, singer, primary songwriter, co-founder, of Swell passed away April 12, 2022. David was a true original. The songs he developed and the lyrics he wrote are like no one else’s. His unique approach to life informed everything he did and affected everything he touched.
Swell, as it was, will never be again. But the original members are uniting for a tribute to David and the formative years of the band. They will be doing a short European tour in April 2023 playing favorite songs from the first 4 albums.
Swell 2023 is co-founder Sean Kirkpatrick on drums, Monte Vallier on bass, Niko Wenner as lead guitar, and John Dettman-Lytle, original guitarist, stepping in to play acoustic guitar and take on the majority of the singing.
Sean Kirkpatrick, drummer, started the collaboration with David in 1989 that led to the recording of the first album “Swell”. Sean’s unique drumming can be heard on all the albums through the 4th album “Too Many Days Without thinking”. Sean collaborated with David again in 2003 for the 7th album “Whenever You’re ready”.
Sean is currently a celebrated visual artist living in Santa Barbara, California, and released a debut album in January, 2023 with his musical project The World is Haunted. https://seankirkpatrick.com https://theworldishaunted.com
Monte Vallier joined as press and radio publicist for David’s pSycho-sPecific Records release of the first album. When the need arose for the recording project to become a live band, Monte joined as bass player. He played on some tracks for the CD release of the first album “Swell” and continued writing, co- producing, and touring on all the albums until 2000’s Everybody Wants to Know, but left the band before that album was finished.
Monte is a producer and recording/mix engineer with hundreds of album credits currently living in Seattle.
Niko Wenner is the longest surviving guitarist to work with the band. Niko first started touring as the lead player in 1993 and continued through 2004. Niko has been the primary songwriter and guitarist in the band Oxbow for 8 albums including the newest Joe Chiccarelli produced Love’s Holiday to be released in the spring on Ipecac Records. Niko lives with his wife Céline, and two young children in San Francisco.
John Dettman-Lytle learned a lot of guitar technique from David Freel, and the !Swell” strumming style has been ingrained. As loft mates at 41 Turk Street in San Francisco"s tenderloin neighborhood, he was there while Sean and David worked on the songs that would become the first album. David asked John to join as guitarist for the first live shows and the recording of the 2nd album “... Well?”. John, back then, was assistant art director at Thrasher Magazine and became a pioneer web developer in the dot-com era. Currently residing in Las Vegas, he has been remixing famous 60s hits by Herman’s Hermits as Dj Something Good, and is a consultant in the footwear industry.
For more biography information and discography: https://swell41.com/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swell_(band)#Swell_%2F_Be_My_Weapon
For a little more of the early history of Swell, please read on:
Life is weird, and Swell is weird, and now the band find themselves together again, playing their library of music (well, the first four albums anyways) live again, but now without singer and guitarist David Freel. David, who sadly passed away in 2022, may have cringed at this idea of an “in honor of...” European tour 2023.
Rewind a bit. Late 80’s, drummer Sean Kirkpatrick places an ad in Rough Trade records, San Francisco, where David responded. After back & forth attempts at making music together, Sean leaves for Northern Spain to take up residency for a while. David comes for a visit. The Pixies play at a small Basque village, and during the show, David and Sean know, it’s time to really make music. They return to San Francisco’s tenderloin (slightly dangerous, cheap rent, warehouse space, and an area that would “hear” the music at all times of the day & night and care less). It is here, that Swell was born, making the first LP, eponymously titled “Swell,” LP #2; “Well...?” and closing the door on the tenderloin years with album #3; “41” (the street number of our home above it all). These 3 albums were a mix of street noises below that seeped into the mics, and the songs created, in this place Swell called home. We never thought of using the word “Trilogy.”
Lineup additions starting with “Well...?” saw Monte Vallier join on bass, John Dettman-Lytle, guitar, and Niko Wenner, guitar (for live shows and guest recording), now all a part of the Swell sound. With this lineup, Swell would take to the road, mostly in Europe, playing assorted tours, festivals, and even a John
Peel BBC session. A song or two in a movie, and an “acting” debut in “The Dukes of Groove,” Swell’s off-kilter vibe was finding an audience. The signing to Beggars Banquet for Europe, and American Recordings for the U.S., added to getting songs like “Get High,” “At Long Last,” “Down,” Forget about Jesus,” “Song Seven,” “Sunshine Everyday,” and “What I Always Wanted” a little more exposed.
Before finally leaving San Francisco, and with the original lineup still whole (more or less) they started work on album #4; “Too Many Days Without Thinking.” This is where we leave this story, as it’s fitting to close here, just as this album created closure with Swell... the way it was. David and Monte would record two more albums, and then David would continue with a few solo releases. Sean and David reunited in 2003 to record “Whenever You’re Ready.”
Swell has now come together in thoughts of David Freel, and see you live out there, somewhere. April 2023, we played songs from the first four albums to Swell enthusiasts, and to David Freel, in his honor. Now, we play December 2023 San Diego, LA, SF, Portland, Seattle. Sorry David, we are thinking of you.