Michael Swank: From Myka Relocate and Into The Realm of Foxera
Michael Swank: From Myka Relocate and Into The Realm of Foxera
Michael Swank is best known for his time spent within the ranks of the much revered metalcore entity Myka Relocate, unleashing their acclaimed albums Lies To Light The Way and The Young Souls via Artery Recordings. Right before the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael would join up with a brand new band named Foxera, meeting in person for an audition and proceeding on with the project mostly via Zoom when nationwide lockdowns were occurring. The band recently issued their single Picture Perfect and at press time presented a brand new track entitled Away From Me featuring the one and only Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens.
In this interview with Highwire Daze, Michael Swank discusses his amazing new band Foxera, working together in the midst of a pandemic, his thoughts about the conclusion of Myka Relocate. and other topics on intrigue. Read on..
How did you wind up joining Foxera and what made you decide to be in another band again?
It’s kind of crazy. I guess over the past three years or so, with Myka coming to a halt and with us not really working so much, it kind of came clear that maybe a comeback for the band wasn’t as realistic as I thought. I had people asking me if I would ever consider being in another project – and nothing really spoke to me or really inspired me to pursue another project. Up until closer to October of 2019 – I was hanging out with my dad, and we were watching my little brother – his name’s Griffin – he makes music too. We were watching him play a show and my dad was talking to me and asking me “When are you going to start singing for a band again?” And I kind of explained to him, “You know, I would have a good time doing that – it’s not something I hadn’t thought about – but nothing had really, again, to spoken to me in that way.” And I said, “If I heard the right band and the right group with the right type of music and it instantly clicked, I would definitely be about that and I would love to explore that option.”
Maybe a couple of days later – on my birthday actually – I sent a tweet out on Twitter saying that I missed singing in a band – and I hadn’t really been active on Twitter for a long time up until that point. But for some reason I tweeted that – and that tweet kind of took off – it got a bunch of retweets, and it got a bunch of likes. Which I was like “Damn, this is kind of cool seeing people care.” And through that actually, the guitarist of Foxera, Julian (Witt), saw that a friend of ours had retweeted that tweet that I sent out and he decided to contact me. And pretty much it was a cold email the same night – he was saying ‘Hey, my name is Julian and I’m in a band called Foxera and we have some music that’s been recorded with Taylor Larson, and we have a song out featuring Tillian. We just haven’t found a singer yet. If you’re interested in talking, we’re kind of a technical melodic type of group – and I’d love to send you some songs if you’d be interested in hearing it.” And I said “Yeah, I would love to hear what that’s about.”
I’m a big fan of more technical types of music. Just the overall vibe and the explanation of the band – he presented it in a way that kind of sold me. When I heard the songs, I was instantly like “Okay, this is something in my opinion that’s really special.” And that was the first time I’d really felt like that since the end of Myka. Within two months after our initial talks – me and Julian talking about Foxera and me potentially coming out to audition – I had written a demo track for the band, and they flew me to Phoenix – where they’re from – to audition for the band where I ultimately got let in. That was in December of 2019 when I joined officially.
Right before the pandemic of course…
Literally right before!
Let’s talk about the song Picture Perfect and the inspiration behind the lyrics.
Picture Perfect – the way that I see it – it tackles the social media world that we kind of live in these days and a lot of the aspects behind that. We’re seeing people’s perfect lives – we’re looking at people’s Instagram feeds and we’re seeing what people are doing and we’re getting the fear of missing out – and we’re seeing the best aspects of everything, and we’re living to compare ourselves to that. I think we have to recognize that social media is such a great thing in the age of the Internet – it really is an amazing thing. It’s made so much possible – even this band! This band came about because of social media essentially. And we have to recognize it as a good thing, but we also have to take everything with a grain of salt.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to certain things or to feel like that maybe sometimes the world is crumbling all around you, because that’s all you’re seeing. I think it’s important to step back, take a deep breath, and live life outside of that bubble. And that’s essentially what it’s about – technology and where we are today. Sometimes we wish we could go back to a simpler time before all this was a thing – but we can’t do that – we have to adapt and move forward and just recognize our place within social media.
What has it been like composing new music in the middle of a pandemic and you guys living in different places?
We did a lot of writing on Zoom – almost all of it to be completely honest. Luckily Picture Perfect came together – we recorded that in February of 2020 – so that was literally right before all the lockdowns started. Covid really took off in March, so we had some time to write everything over Zoom for that one – and then we flew out to work with the guy who produced the vocals for the song – his name is Pete Adams – like right before the pandemic – and had that song done. After that, that wasn’t the case – we literally wrote the other songs we’re sitting on all through Zoom.
It’s interesting – it’s just a different type of energy – because when you’re sitting in the room with somebody and you’re going back and forth, there’s that organic type of vibe within the room. On Zoom, it’s not necessarily like that all the time. There would be days where we’d be sitting on Zoom for hours and just not come up with anything worthwhile. There would be days where we would just be on fire coming up with everything we could – and everything seemed to work. So, I think getting used to not working in person was and is definitely a struggle. But it’s cool that we have the technology to be able to do these types of sessions remotely where I can record all my vocals at my house, and we could be on Zoom and have that instant feedback and just not even have to be in the same place. Zoom has been the best thing for us ever during this.
How close are you guys to actually releasing an EP or maybe even an album?
Right now, we’re in the process of launching the first couple of songs to kind of put the foot in the door and show the world that we’re a band here to stay. So, we launched Picture Perfect – we’re going to be launching some more stuff over the next couple of months. And then after that, it’s really figuring out what we want Foxera to be moving forward. We’re working on new demos and all that. I think personally, in my opinion, the next step is to do like an EP or something like that – and to find a cool producer that we enjoy working with to make the songs come to life. For the time being, the focus is getting these songs out, writing some demos – and then trying to get into the studio to do an EP. It would be amazing to get in and do that at the end of the year, but again, nothing’s set in stone – so we’re just in the process of trying to figure everything out – trying to figure out what Foxera looks like moving forward from here.
When was the last time you’ve seen any of the other Foxera members in person?
It was December, so maybe 8 months ago. It’s been a while.
What happened Myka Relocate and how did it all come to an end?
I would say that the last shows that we played were in 2017. And around that time, in 2017-2018 – we kind of noticed a big spike on Spotify. When we finished The Young Souls Tour – on a monthly basis we had about 18,000 listeners. And then for some reason, all of a sudden, we were checking Spotify and noticing that we were having something like 150,000 people listening per month – like seemingly out of nowhere. We really didn’t know what happened. It was crazy and overwhelming in like the best possible way. It was almost like the band took a whole other life after we weren’t doing a whole lot with it. And at the point, we decided to start working on some new songs. We were independent at the time too and we were inspired – we all wanted to make something work. That was around the time I was posting updates from the studio – we were doing some sessions – we were doing some writing and all that stuff. I was really exciting, and I think the guys were really excited.
But it just got to the point where we had a couple of sessions – and then honestly, life got in the way. We all were in such different places. At this point you look at like John (Ritter), Josh (Peltier), Austin (Doré) – everybody was kind of pursuing their own thing. Austin is still working in music – he’s in another band called LVVRS – it’s kind of more indie rock type stuff. He’s doing that – he’s running a studio – he’s doing writing for people. John is fully in the hair stylist world – which he’s been a part of since I knew him. I met him – man, it’s been a long time – I met him when he was 19 years old, and I was like 17 – so it’s been like 12-plus years. He’s been cutting hair the whole time – that’s a passion of his – and he definitely put that in the backburner to be a part of Myka Relocate and to tour and travel and do that whole thing – because that also was a passion of his. But around that time, we were writing that new stuff, I think we were all just so wrapped up in our own lives and everybody was kind of doing their own thing – the studio sessions didn’t happen so much after a while. The frequency of that kind of stopped happening. So, it was kind of unclear to everybody – really including myself and the fan base. I didn’t even really know what to tell people.
Once I called Austin and said, “Hey, I have an offer to be in a new band. I don’t want this to be the end of anything if we’re going to continue to write. I’m very open to that. But I’m at a point in my life where I have to take this opportunity. And if I want to tour, play shows, record music and do that again – which I really desperately wanted to do, then I needed to take that opportunity.” Then at that point, he told me he was also in the process of joining another band. And we just decided at that point we were just going to be calling it done and calling it what it was – and just ending it on that note. We’re all still the best of friends – like those guys are always going to be my best friends of all time. Never any bad blood or anything – it’s just a part of growing up and a part of life really.
Looking back on the two albums Myka, Relocate you did with Artery Recordings (Lies To Light The Way and The Young Souls), what do you think of them now in retrospect?
Those albums are so close to my heart. They bring a lot of great memories. I’m very proud of those. If I go back and listen to those two today, I’m really still blown away honestly. I love those records and I love those songs from start to finish. It will always be something cool to look back on and be like “Damn! I did that! That’s really, really cool!” And it sent me to some of the coolest points of my life. And it’s opening the door for the next chapter. So yeah, those bodies of work are just so cool to me. I’m thankful that we have a listener base that’s still strong. People are always talking to me about Myka, and it’s something that I appreciate so much. Those memories are always going to be with me, and very near and dear to my heart.
And do you have any messages for Myka fans who are reading about your new band Foxera right now?
I just want to say thanks for being here all these years and coming with me on this new musical journey of mine. It really means a lot that people have supported me from those days on to now and are still around. I didn’t know what to expect when I was announcing a new project that wasn’t Myka. You never know if people are going to jump over and appreciate this project as much as the last. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s just so inspiring. I just want to say thank you for sticking around and there’s a lot of cool stuff coming really soon.
Michael Swank – vocals
Julian Witt – guitar
Erick Cuellar – guitar
Michael Cuellar – drums
(Interview by Ken Morton)
Foxera on Facebook