In parking lot of his Front Street apartment, Dylan Veron used to perch on the hood of his car and listen to KHDX. Now, three years later, KHDX sat down with Veron at Harvest Music Festival 2014 to discuss Swampbird’s success.
Veron and close friend Zac Hale, both Hendrix class of 2012, started playing music together in their Front Street apartments during their second year at Hendrix. This casual collaboration developed into Swampbird, a five-piece folk-rock band now based in Little Rock. Swampbird’s story is a story of the Hendrix Bubble, which as Veron put it, “has both positive and negative components, more positive than negative in my opinion.”
Starting out, Swampird found their first gig on Hendrix campus at one of Conway’s ‘finest’ music venues, Brick House. There, they took the stage with Tyrannosaurus Chicken and May the Peace of the Sea Be With You, two other bands that included Hendrix student musicians. This Hendrix-based community augmented into a music scene in its own right with regular shows at White House. Veron described White House at that time as “a haven,” welcoming student bands and music lovers. At its height, White House hosted its own music festival with a 16 band lineup, including even larger touring groups like The Weeks. “Some of those shows just got so out of control,” Veron explained. “We’ve been really fortunate to play a lot of big rooms now… but nothing will be like those White House shows.”
After forming a fan base amongst Hendrix students, Swampbird ventured out of the Hendrix Bubble to play their first show off campus. On the last day of fall semester their senior year, the band played a “new music test” night at The Rev Room, a well-established Little Rock venue. “I think they paid us like 100 bucks [for playing that show], which was a lot more than I thought we’d make,” Veron laughs.
While the crowd at The Rev Room was filled with Hendrix friends, Swampbird made a crucial new connection that night. The boys met Pete Campos, who eventually became the band’s general manager. For the past few years, Campos has helped Swampbird book shows, communicate with venues, and elevate their status from student musicians to a recognizable Arkansan band. The group has gone on to play the Legends of Arkansas Festival and, for the past two years, River Fest and Harvest Fest. Harvest Fest in particular holds in a special place in Veron’s heart: “I’ve volunteered [at] this festival, I’ve snuck into this festival, and now I get to play this festival.”
The crowd at their Harvest Fest show this year was certainly a testament to the journey they’ve taken to get there. One could easily spot the band members’ fellow Hendrix grads and other close friends, who boisterously yelled out the lyrics to every song. There were a number of current Hendrix students, like ourselves, wanting to put a face and a sound to the name that is so often mentioned in Conway. But the sizeable crowd was truly heterogeneous: from hula hoops and dreadlocks to cowboy boots and trucker hats, all types came to see Swampbird.
“We’ll do these country shows [where] it’s just cowboy hats and starched shirts, and then we’ll play White House with all these crust punk kids. And we come out here [to play Harvest Fest]. I like to think it’s something special we have that we can fit in these different little slots,” Veron comments. “And if I can play a White House show on a Friday night… I can handle anything.”
Swampbird will officially release their new EP “Something to See” January 1st, 2015 on all major media outlets (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc). Check their pages on Facebook and Bandcamp for updates on their subsequent national tour, also in January.