In 1990, as the sun was setting on the Washington, D.C., area hardcore band known as Swiz, the collective members of the group made a pact: The band was not going to get back together in later years. It was a simple wish to honor the start and finish of a three-year project that would grow to become legendary in terms of D.C. hardcore.
Guitarist Jason Farell saw it slightly differently: "Swiz drove itself straight into a brick wall," he says.
The band ended unceremoniously. Their music was compiled by Jade Tree records, released posthumously in 1992 and 1993, and the various members of the band (Shawn Brown, Jason Farrell, Dave Stern, Alex Daniels) went on to pursue other avenues in life. Farrell formed the Dischord Records band Bluetip with Stern, Daniels joined another Dischord band dubbed Severin.
Life continued on outside of Swiz, but the band's influence took hold in new generations of musicians in the hardcore/punk community, including the likes of Ink & Dagger and Unbroken. Swiz's music, a mixture of aggression, honesty, confusion and choruses that towed the line between sing-alongs and finger-pointing, became omnipresent, several years after they had decided that the band was done, never to reform again.
Fortunately, loopholes exist.
"Six years later, we got the itch to perform again," says Farrell. "But we started over with new songs and a new name: Sweetbelly Freakdown." According to Farrell, "Even though these bands share a similar drive and a narrowly focused sound, the time lapses make them wholly different entities. To rehash that original name would be misguided and misleading."
Sweetbelly Freakdown was not Swiz. It was a new project fueled by different challenges in life, different recording techniques and the tightness that comes with band members in other frequently touring bands. The first song on Sweetbelly Freakdown's first and only LP, "Pleas to the Action Figure," released in 1997 on Jade Tree Records, bridged the cathartic gap between the teenage confusion of Swiz and the disparities of mid-20s life as the turn of the century approached. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi," screams Brown as the album opens. "There's nothing left to believe in, except the power of plastic."
It was a renewed cry for help that resonated with those who were influenced by Swiz. But that seemed to be it, the end, for the collective members of Swiz playing music together in one form or another. Farrell's Bluetip project ended, Stern departed the band, Daniels turned to technology writing and Brown became a tattoo artist. The hopelessness communicated on Sweetbelly Freakdown's first and only album gave way to four friends that spread throughout the country and moved on in life as the demands of adulthood took shape.
And then, 16 years later, they did it again. "One day I pulled out my first guitar. It was a 'Why did I start playing this?' kind of thing. When you first start writing songs, the music is dictated by the limitations of the instrument. The new songs that started coming out reminded me of my old songs. So I thought of getting Shawn to sing on them. We sent the songs back and forth over many, many e-mails," says Farrell.
The new project also meant a new name: Red Hare. And this time, drummer Joe Gorelick of Bluetip, Garden Variety and Farrell's latest project, Retisonic, joined Farrell, Brown and Stern. They were no longer teenagers, or musicians in their mid-20s touring the U.S. in dilapidated vans. They were nearing middle age, with families to raise and bills to pay, still possessed by the same desire that powered Swiz.
Last week, the collective members of Swiz released their first album under the name Red Hare. It's not Swiz or Sweetbelly Freakdown; it's a new form of aggression, a new perspective on life, new fuel for the fire, 23 years after that original pact to honor a start and finish was devised.
It's another fortunate loophole in the lineage of Jason Farrell, Shawn Brown, Dave Stern and the bloodline created in Swiz all those years ago.
Red Hare's "Nites of Midnite" is available from Dischord Records.