5 Questions With: Sweeping Promises
The band stops by to discuss their latest record, the bands they love, and why they don't bring other musicians out on the road with them.
Today we’re talking with Lira Mondal from Sweeping Promises
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It takes a lot of talent to sound like you're barely in control.
On their second LP, Good Living Is Coming For You, Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug do just that. And they do it well. Mondal is animated and dynamic. Schnug is intentional and meticulous. It all makes for a sound once described as a shareholder presentation gone off the rails: enunciated but enormous, brief but brash.
The duo met in 2008 at school, where Mondal was a vocal performance major. While living in Boston, they played in several bands together before forming Sweeping Promises in 2019. Their debut record, Hungry For A Way Out, has a very constrained feel, which makes sense given it was recorded in a basement during the pandemic.
Despite how pop-informed the duo’s songs are, there’s a DIY sensibility that lends to their lived-in charm, like if Brian Wilson worked with the Raincoats. Even after signing to Sub Pop, Mondal and Schnug wanted to maintain their lo-fi style. They told the label upfront that they wanted to have full creative control over their work and simultaneously continue their partnership with Feel It Records, the small label that released Hunger for a Way Out. As a result, Good Living maintains the grungy milieu of Hunger while refining it.1
The title of their latest record, Good Living Is Coming For You, either sounds like the sort of slogan you'd see on Soviet agitprop posters or hear Peggy Olson come up with in a strategy session for Tupperware.
Maybe it's both.
In an earlier review, I described hearing those opposing forces battle it out in real-time. In one corner are the post-punk angular guitar riffs. In the other is a more experimental, free-form sound, and it's all the duo can do to keep them corralled.
Mondal was previously a pastry chef, and it's not a great leap to imagine her adding a beep here or a squonk there the way she might to a recipe. These little touches go a long way toward adding depth to the record's sound.
All of these colliding styles—and there are a ton of them—make for a unique and fantastic sound. One reflecting what Mondal once described as "selective affinities.”2
I keep wanting to describe the record as a bunch of happy accidents being committed to tape, but that would be a disservice. It's far too calculated and deliberate for that.
Regardless, the end product is an album sure to be on many best-of lists come December. It's already locked in a place on mine.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Mondal via email. In our chat, we talk about why they put down roots in an unlikely place, some of the bands they've hosted, and why they don't bring any musicians out on the road with them.
And with that, I'll get out of the way and get right into the interview.
Our chat has been lightly edited for clarity/flow.
KA: Can you fill in a little bit of your backstory? Walk us through what made you get started playing. Are there other bands (or artists) that you are/were involved in before coming together?
LM: We’ve been making music together for nearly 15 years: a chance encounter in college turned into a creative relationship that has defined and enriched our lives in ways we never could have expected. We consider it nothing short of miraculous.
Caufield was a seasoned punk when I met him, having been in scores of bands since he was a kid. Since meeting him, we’ve been involved in 10 projects together (including SP). We’re always plotting and scheming for the next thing we’re gonna do, and I look forward to the next 10 projects (and then the next 10! and then the next 10!) that lay on our horizon.
KA: Lawrence, Kansas is far from Boston and Austin (literally and metaphorically). What made you decide to relocate there? How do you think it informed the sound on Good Living Is Coming For You?
LM: Simply put: we found a house with a studio. Affordable living and proximity to family were the lucky sprinkles on this cake of unexpected, modest, life-altering fortune.
KA: The house has an attached studio. Have you opened it up to other bands as well?
LM: We have! It’s been our distinct pleasure to be able to open up our space and home to bands all over the country. Some folks who’ve recorded in our studio include Soup Activists (St. Louis), Optic Sink (Memphis), Wet Dip (Austin), and Ovef Ow and Clickbait (both Chicago).
The previous homeowners built the studio addition about a decade ago to serve their own multivalent artistic pursuits (ceramics, painting, nude figure drawing). We love the history of our studio and consider ourselves its stewards. Having run the grueling gauntlet of trying to find and afford/maintain practice and recording spaces in big cities, we consider it our duty to share!
KA: Now that you've been in Lawrence for a little while, what’s been the biggest surprise?
LM: We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the high concentration of musicians who live in town and run businesses and are generally helpful and enthusiastic about ensuring Lawrence remains a haven for the younger/incoming generations of creative folks. We love our town!
KA: Hunger for a Way Out feels almost compressed (for lack of a better term), whereas this feels more open and exploratory. Is that an accurate assessment?
LM: Yes, definitely; we recorded those HFAWO songs off the cuff, on our days off when we could steal away from our demanding jobs to sonically scribble down our ideas as quickly as possible. We made HFAWO under the impression that no one would listen to it, so we were able to work fast and loose.
The GLICFY process was no less chaotic or spontaneous, but we did take more time to intentionally craft something that felt like it could exist in the sonic world we established with HFAWO, but also acknowledge the changes that surrounded its creation.
KA: By the time readers see this, you’ll be in the middle of a 3-month tour with both US & European dates. How many other musicians will you be bringing on the road?
LM: We don’t bring anyone on tour with us; we much prefer seeking out bands and musicians local to the cities we’re touring, so that we can actively engage with what’s going on at the ground level in each place, which we consider really special and incredibly rewarding.
Sweeping Promises- Good Living Is Coming For You, 2023
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1. Describe your music style in one sentence.
Voracious, wild-eyed, grabbing-with-both-hands YOLO energy.
2. What music was playing in your house(s) growing up?
Everything. Literally everything: Western classical, Bengali music, alt-rock, pop, country, New Wave, R&B, jazz. Hooks know no bounds!
3. What are you listening to these days?
We’re obsessed with POiSON GiRL FRiEND’s 1992 EP, Melting Moment. The title track is stunningly beautiful, replete with lush strings and clever, hypnotic beats.
We also love the Listening Comprehension (1980-1982) compilation album by the excellent Swedish group Höförståelse. That was a recommendation from our friend Nick Mayor (of Clickbait and also the indispensable Chicago record store Bric-a-Brac), and we’re so glad he introduced us to their music!
4. What are your 5 Desert Island Discs?
Jorge Ben — Força Bruta
Yukihiro Takahashi — What, Me Worry?
Björk — Post
Pylon — Gyrate
Portishead — Dummy
5. If you could collaborate with any artist/band, who would it be?
Hmm…I dunno! We leave this up to the universe.
Thanks to Sweeping Promises for stopping by, and thank you for being here,