Ohio supergroup BLVK SWVN are on a mission to do everything they can to bring the punk attitude to the modern rock and metal scene.
The band is comprised of several bands from across the Columbus scene and started out as a solo project of frontman Matthew Bonder but soon evolved into something much bigger.
They made their mark with debut single Beauty Queen in December, which has us intrigued to hear what else they have coming our way in 2020. It opens up with high-pitched backing vocals then dives into an intense opening section of stabbing guitar chords and Matthew’s shouted vocals.
That drops into an opening verse of interesting vocals (more on that in the interview below) then the vocals intensify into screams that feed into a chorus that begins “I wasn’t built like a beauty queen, Stitch up with plastic and surgeries.”
A second chorus gives way to a wild guitar solo, which suddenly drops into whiny vocals and dives straight into a big final chorus. Give it a listen below:
We had a chat with frontman Matthew Bonder to find out more about this intriguing new band. Read on below…
GR: Who are BLVK SWVN?
MB: “BLVK SWVN is made up of me, guitarist Cory Robbins, bassist Adam Fischer and drummer Walker Atkinson. We are based out of Columbus, Ohio.
“BLVK SWVN is like a little supergroup made up entirely of members in other bands in the Columbus scene, including The Lost Boys Collective, Harbour, Of Two Minds, Mouth Movements, and thebreathingbackwards.
“The band started as my sort of solo project. It was an outlet to write songs that I wanted to write without worrying about any egos or other people or anything at all. After writing the album, I filled out the band with a star lineup that I met in college and it has transformed from a very ‘solo project’ vibe to a very communal and extremely organic ‘band’ environment.”
GR: You just released Beauty Queen. What should people be expecting from the song? What inspired you to write it?
MB: “Beauty Queen is one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. I write for a lot of bands in the local scene and this was one of those awesome songs that I wrote in under two hours. Most songs take days, weeks, even months to finish; but every once in awhile, you kind of stumble on a bit of magic and something really organic happens really quickly.
“Beauty Queen was just that. I was inspired for the instrumental by trying to recreate a very ‘burlesque’ vibe in a very driving nu-metal context. I finished the tune off with some Trent Reznor-inspired production including some industrial electronic drums and some analog synth sounds from a Moog Little Phatty.
“Lyrically, Beauty Queen is extremely personal to me. I wanted to take a vulnerable male perspective on body image and gender norms that I haven’t heard represented very much from the first-person perspective, especially in the genre. The first line of the song is ‘One sock in the crotch of my jeans or they’ll all be laughing at me.’ That is actually something I’ve done, that was something I used to be very self-conscious about when I was younger; and fortunately, something that I’ve grown very secure in as I’ve gotten older.
“So I wanted to put lyrics like that in the world to tell other young men that it’s okay to feel nervous and I’ve been right there with you and come out on the other side extremely happy with myself and my body.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
MB: “We have just released our first single and we are definitely still finding our sound. But what I’m proud about with Beauty Queen is that it doesn’t sound exactly like anything. It borrows from all kinds of sounds, this song (to me) sounds like Marilyn Manson, Cane Hill and Nirvana had a baby and that baby walked right into a strip club.
“We have several more songs recorded and I am very excited to say that no two sound anything alike. I have a background in metal and hard rock, but I’m definitely more interested in exploring the hip hop idiom than anything, and you are going to hear that more and more in the coming releases. But in my shortest words possible, we’re trying to find the 2019 punk sound.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
MB: “As a songwriter, I have to find influence in all kinds of things in my life. Sometimes it’s a specific life event. Sometimes it’s the atmosphere of a moment: a smell, a taste, a color. Sometimes it’s a book I’ve read or a film that I’ve seen.
“This first BLVK SWVN album is loosely conceptual in that all of the songs relate to different aspects of coming of age, a topic that I’ve always found deeply impactful and interesting. Beauty Queen being pretty directly about myself going through puberty and growing into a body that seems different than everyone else’s; and exploring feminine tendencies and mannerisms as a young man.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
MB: “In terms of music, Trent Reznor was the biggest influence. I really wanted to recreate some of that industrial soundscape that he pioneered in the 90s and put that in the background of a more modern rock context.
“In terms of the attitude of the song and band, I can’t help but cite Brooke Candy. She’s such a badass modern punk artist. And finally, I would like to cite Ren Hang as the general stylistic reference for our artwork and the overall visual vibe.”
GR: What have you got coming up as we move into 2020? New music, new gigs, recording etc…?
MB: “We’re always playing around in Columbus, mostly in basements and underground bars for now, refining our set and perfecting our show. We do have new music coming out, several songs recorded and lined up for release after Beauty Queen. No official dates yet, but you won’t be waiting long.
“We’re very excited to share what we’ve been working on with the world. And we’re always recording and writing new material. I love talking to fans and engaging with people who like what we are doing and listening to what is resonating most, so please hit us up and let me know what you do or don’t like. I take our fans’ input very seriously, I want to make music that we like and the fans will enjoy.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
MB: “There are two types of musical artists these days: those who reinforce the zeitgeist of a pre-existing genre or idiom; and those who try to push the borders of those pre-existing genres into something that hasn’t yet been done. And I strongly think that neither of those things is innately better than the other, but BLVK SWVN is coming to push those boundaries. We are on the search for the ‘punk’ attitude of today and representing that in music in the best ways that we can.
“And to anyone that has listened to Beauty Queen and/or read this: thank you so much, that means more than anything in the world to me. I hope to meet you and have a conversation soon.”