Question: What do you get when you combine Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, Clem Burke from Blondie, James Stevenson from the Cult and Gene Loves Jezebel, and Gary Twinn from Supernaut?
Answer: You get a supergroup called The International Swingers, which will be making its second appearance at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Aug. 7.
The idea of The International Swingers was pitched to Gary Twinn by Australian promoter Bicci Henderson. While the idea seemed crazy at first, the band has proven to be a fine success, leading to an EP and a recently released album.
During a recent phone interview, frontman Gary Twinn discussed how The International Swingers came to exist.
“Many years ago, I had a career in Australia as sort of a pop star, so every now and again, I would sort of go over there and play some shows. I was asked to come back again, and I really wanted to do something different,” Twinn said. “James, Clem and Glenn were really good friends of mine, and we all happened to be hanging out at the same time. When I was asked to do this Australian tour, I was like, ‘Hey guys, how would you guys like to start a new band and come with me to Australia for a holiday? And that’s what we did.”
Twinn said the group wasn’t intended to exist beyond the Australian tour. “It just happened that we started this band, and we did it for a laugh. … When we were on our way back, and there was a bunch of stuff on YouTube and people inviting us to play here and there, we thought, ‘Let’s just keep doing it.’”
While the members are friends, it’s hard to imagine these four very different personalities working so well together.
“It’s actually been a pleasure,” Twinn said. “We can’t argue about the music, but we might argue about football.”
Last year, The International Swingers played a free show at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. There were some concerns about whether some of the band’s material, such as the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant,” would work there.
“It was great. It’s an awesome place to play because anybody can come; it’s free to get in; and it’s a really eclectic audience. It’s a very historic part of Los Angeles, and it’s been there for 80 years,” Twinn said. “… We were proud to be part of it. … Bob Gruen, the famous rock photographer, came to the show and took a picture of us playing there. So the Farmers Market has a great rock ’n’ roll photo taken by one of the great rock ’n’ roll photographers.”
Twinn conceded there was some hesitation regarding what songs from the members’ various bands would be played.
“James and I sat down, and I wrote down a huge list of songs, and the idea was one of us had to have a connection with each song, no matter how tenuous it was,” he said. “There are actually some of my old songs from my first band I didn’t want to do, but the other three wanted to do. Glen didn’t want to do ‘Pretty Vacant,’ saying it was boring, and we were like, ‘C’mon man, it’s great!’”
The band is now selling its first full-length album. Fans can pledge money through PledgeMusic to receive a copy of Whatever Works Now.
“We just finished it. The EP, we did as something to sell to our fans at shows and were just really demo recordings,” Twinn said. “Over the last year, whenever we’ve had time, we’ve been going into the studio owned by the Foo Fighters, and our friend Tommy’s studio, and we recorded a bunch of songs and just mixed and mastered them. We kind of announced to the fans on Facebook that we were looking to make an album through PledgeMusic, so all the fans that pledged their $10 just received their digital album.”
The members do have a problem coordinating their schedules. In fact, Glen Matlock is not on the current tour.
“It’s a frickin’ nightmare, to be honest. It’s like herding cats together,” Twinn said. “With Clem, Blondie takes permanence, and these days, Blondie is pretty busy. James has another project now called Holy Holy, and they’re doing a whole production around The Man Who Sold the World. Glen has his own band, and Glen actually won’t be doing this tour with us, or doing anything with us, really, because he’s busy with his own project now.”
So what can attendees expect?
“We’ll still be playing our covers, so you can expect to hear some Blondie and Sex Pistols,” Twinn said. “During our recent gigs, we’ve been playing ‘Brand New Cadillac,’ which was a song The Clash covered, and we might throw that in the mix. But we want to try out some of the new songs from the album and see how people like those, because we’re really liking them. We’ve got a friend of ours, Steve Fishman, filling in on the bass, and he’s a great bass player. We’re happy to have him with us.”
The International Swingers will perform with Machin’ at 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 7, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $5. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.