By Ariel Fishman
We all embrace childhood nostalgia as exemplified by the number of “Only 90’s Kids Will Remember This” articles. IAN SWEET’s most recent album, Shapeshifter, explores our connection with the past in an attempt to combat present anxiety. Their songs, such as “Slime Time Live” and “#23,” draw inspiration from the better days of Nickelodeon and Michael Jordan’s starring role in 90’s hit Space Jam. They find solace in nostalgia to deal with a chaotic world. IAN SWEET consists of singer-songwriter Jillian Medford, drummer Tim Cheney, and bassist Damien Scalise. The band first started as Medford’s solo project in Boston after studying at the Berklee College of Music. Medford was going on tour and at the last minute needed a drummer, so she serendipitously texted Cheney, and he agreed to join her on tour. After Scalise approached them at a show they asked him to join as the bassist, and the trio IAN SWEET was formed. Rare Candy met up with the band to discuss Osmosis Jones, Prefab Sprout, and being babies of the biggest cities.
Rare Candy: How would you introduce yourself?
Damien: That’s an interesting question…Hi we are IAN SWEET a byproduct of Los Angeles, Boston, and Brooklyn, New York.
Jilian: We are babies of the biggest cities.
Damien: We are big city babies.
Jilian: and we are ready to rock. Big city babies that like rocking.
Damien: Yeah, big city babies at Baby’s All Right
RC: If it was gladiator style “now coming into the ring!” what would you want said about you?
Jilian: I just imagine us all with shields. My dad’s favorite movie actually is Gladiator. You know how many times I've seen the movie Gladiator. Like 40 times. Because every time I come home my dad is for some reason watching that.
RC: So what is your favorite movie? Because your song “#23” is about Michael Jordan and the movie Space Jam.
Jillian: Space Jam is a hot, hot movie.
Damien: Inspiring film. It did inspire us from an early age.
Jillian: My favorite movie is Osmosis Jones.
Damien: Oh really . . .
Jillian: Bill Murray is in it, and it has the pimple scene. It was a big part of my childhood. I think it shaped a lot of how weird I am. How gross I am.
Damien: My favorite movie is probably Stand By Me.
Jillian: Both nostalgic films.
RC: Do you think nostalgia shaped a lot of your album Shapeshifter?
Jillian: Definitely. I am big into things that I have known from my past and latching onto them. I am a 23 year old baby in the way I think and the things I like to do. I still like to play and go outside. And eat candy.
RC: In researching you guys I read again and again that you just called each other up and started a band. How has the dynamic shifted from that first text message?
Jillian: We didn't known each other really at all.
Damien: We went from being three strangers to being basically family.
Jillian: Real fast in a matter of weeks.
Damien: I feel like when you go on tour you pretty quickly become close with the people that you are with.
Jillian: In the beginning of knowing each other we toured about three or four times. By just being in the same car for 12 hour drives you see what people laugh at and how to make people laugh. Things we point out to each other and notice. You easily get to know one another.
Damien: What you listen to in the car etc.
RC: What do you listen to in the car?
Damien: Prefab Sprout.
Jillian: Steely Dan . . .
Damien: We listen to Bjork a lot. We zone out to Bjork.
Jillian: We will start a whole record over again. We did Vespertine twice in one drive. It just ended, and we played it over again. We like albums that we can all sing along to where everyone knows every single word.
Damien: So yes, we have definitely gotten much closer since we began.
RC: And are you releasing any new music soon?
Jillian: We are working on new music. We are in separate places right now because I live here in Brooklyn, and Damien and Tim are in Boston still. We will work on things separately, and when we have practice we will flush things out. I am always writing, Damien is always writing, Tim is always writing, and we send each other stuff. No new album. A new album will definitely come out sooner rather than later, but we just released this album. We are just starting this tour circuit.
RC: So can you explain some of the inspirations for your last album?
Jillian: A lot of personal stuff that we all felt together and separately. Musically, a lot of chaotic feelings. I feel like that is represented in how the songs kind of move and take shape. In the middle section of a song or at the end there is always some sort of chaos going on because it just ensues in our brains. Inspired by friends. A lot of my friends’ bands inspired this record. Listening to a lot of harder music at the time rather than what I was used to, that being a soft, funky, more singer/songwriter vibe. When I moved to Boston I was introduced to the noise scene there and also the heavy rock and experimental scene. When we started getting involved in that scene I was really interested in writing a rock record with rough edges. Not straightforward rock but some chaotic rock.
RC: You all come from different musical backgrounds (e.g. classical, jazz). Do you think that adds a lot to your sound?
Damien: I feel like this is the first time that we all started writing together instead of Jil bringing us the songs and us just learning them. This is the first time that we have all brought something to the table so definitely we were all inspiring each other musically.
Jillian: Yeah, it’s everyone's own little ticks and instrumental little things.
Listen to more Ian Sweet on Bandcamp.