Biography : Swirlies


photo of SwirliesFormed from the shell of a Go-Go's cover band named Raspberry Bang, SWIRLIES began their life in Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts in the summer of 1990. The original band featured Damon Tutunjian (guitar/vocals), Seana Carmody (guitar/vocals), Andy Bernick (bass), and Ben Drucker (drums). SWIRLIES played live for the very first time on 25 January 1991 at The Alcove in Allston, MA. In these early years, SWIRLIES wandered the Northeastern Megalopolis with other like-minded people, releasing 7" records through the kindness of Slumberland, Pop Narcotic, Cinderblock, and other labels. Billy Ruane was often there. In June 1992, SWIRLIES signed to then-Boston-based Taang! Records. The first two Taang! releases, the ’What to Do About Them’ EP (a collection of previous 7"s and new tracks) and ‘Blondertongue Audiobaton’ LP, were created and recorded by the original members plus other mysterious entities. Our dependence on sacred symbols (embodied by The Ostrich, The Number 11, The One Who Speaks Abstractly On Recordings, and others) began at approximately this time. Sadly, none of these symbols protected us from The Curse.

The first of many roilings of personnel came in early 1993. Morgan Andrews (MADBOX, ROCK/PAPER/SCISSORS) took over bass-related duties and infused them with his own blend of irritating noise. It was this SWIRLIES arrangement that made a video with Linsey Herman (CAKE AND COMMERCE) for the song "Bell", and embarked on the band's first US tour in a stinking minivan filled with fashion magazines. Andy later returned to join Morgan and the band and SWIRLIES explored the sensual realm of bands with two bass players. Forthwith, Morgan became disgusted and disappeared into anarchist puppetry oblivion. Ben Drucker was ousted (some say unwisely) and went on to use his mind more productively. Around the time that ‘Brokedick Car’ EP was released, [redacted] signed on.

After our first small tour of Europe in January 1994, Seana left to form the now defunct SYRUP USA, and guitar/singing duties were taken over by Christina Files. With this group, ‘They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days In The Glittering World Of The Salons’ LP was conceived and recorded over two years at various studios. [Redacted] was ousted in late 1995, and Gavin McCarthy (KARATE) took over the battery. Gavin was with us for 1.95 US tours, and spent the remaining 0.05 of the second tour solo-driving his white Econoline across the country (thankfully with the rest of us in it) and out of our lives forever. The drummerless SWIRLIES played a few liberating analog/digital shows as a trio (Damon-Christina-Andy) before acquiring drummer Adam Pierce (IRIS, DYLAN GROUP, MICE PARADE).

In 1997, Christina left for other pursuits (including VICTORY AT SEA, MARY TIMONY, WAR BUBBLE, and recording/sound excellence). The ‘Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music’ LP (our last for Taang!) was released thereafter. This record featured remixes of 'Salons’ LP material, and new pieces heavily influenced by Scituate, Massachusetts. Free from contractual obligations, SWIRLIES were next joined by guitarist Rob '(The) Doctor Laasoko' Laakso (WICKED FARLEYS, KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS).

In September 2002, SWIRLIES added the incredible Kevin Shea (TALIBAM!, COPTIC LIGHT, SEXY THOUGHTS) to the "Damon-Andy-Rob" arrangement, plus Vanessa Downing (WICKED FARLEYS) and our old collaborator Ron Rege, for a fun but challenging (thanks to KL) two-week tour of England and the Netherlands mostly with THE TELESCOPES, and a show in London where we were THE MICROPHONES' backing band for a song. At least there was Marmite.

For most of the early 2000s, SWIRLIES maintained a roughly "Damon-Andy-Rob-Adam" arrangement, while also taking on Mike Walker (LILYS), Ken Bernard (WICKED FARLEYS, RA RA RIOT), Kara Tutunjian, our old comrade Seana Carmody, Deb Warfield (PURE SUNRAY, GOLD MUSE), Doro Tachler (IGLOO), Avery Matthews, and Junko Hemmi (CANDYCANE). These people and others helped make and/or perform songs that became 'Cats of The Wild, Volume 2', the mini-album, EP, or whatever it was (Bubble Core Records, released 25 March 2003). Subsequently, there was some touring with a "Damon-Rob-Adam-Mike-Doro-and-very-rarely-with-bird-researchin'-Andy" arrangement, but this ended when Damon moved to Parts Midwest (followed by Sweden) to find better living through psycholinguistics.

Since 2009, SWIRLIES have mainly toured in odd-numbered years, including: a smattering of northeastern US shows (mislabeled "reunions") in 2009 and 2011 with a "Damon-Rob-Andy-Adam-Deb-Shep-plus guests" arrangement; a longer July 2013 tour supporting Kurt Vile and the Violators with a "Damon-Rob-Deb-Adam" arrangement, plus new recruit Elliott Malvas (YOU'RE JOVIAN, THE SEEERS) on bass, and appearances by Andy (DC) and Christina (Brooklyn); a 2015 eastern US/Canada tour in honor of our 25th year (the Silver Ostrich Anniversary) with a "Damon-Andy-Adam-Rob/Elliott" arrangement, along with founding member Seana Carmody (REINDEER, NIGHT SPELLS) and former sound engineer Adam Cooke; and a 2017 west coast and desert tour with Cruel Summer (SF) and a "Damon-Deb-Andy-Elliott-Adam-and-Rob-in-Portland-only" arrangement and sound engineer Dan Gonzales. (In 2017, Ron Rege sang SSD's "Glue" with us during our LA show on account of the laptop that contained our CS-80 emulator falling over, thereby rendering it impossible to play any synth songs [courtesy of The Curse].)

The odd-year skein was broken in September/October 2018: a Texas-to-Boston tour in support of NOTHING, with a "Damon-Deb-Elliott-Adam" arrangement, new conscript Wesley Bunch (SUBURBAN LIVING) filling in on bass, and junior year sound engineer Dan Gonzales.

In July 2016, a new track (featuring new Swedish conscripts Viktor Hober and Anna Bergvall) was released by Joyful Noise Recordings as part of a subscription, flexi-only series. Also, Taang! re-released our 'Blondertongue Audiobaton' LP on vinyl (with a special poster designed by Andy) in October 2016, and a green vinyl second edition in August 2018. In September 2018, we released the "Swirlies' Magic Strop: Tonight..."12" EP on red and black vinyl, a collection of Part Time Punks radio sessions and a new song. In 2020, all SWIRLIES releases since 2003, including "Cats of the Wild, Volume 2" and the SWIRLIES' MAGIC STROP series (mostly live recordings) are available via Bandcamp.

photo of the sirlies in 2003Aside from (or overlapping with) these activities, we also have the following endeavors: 1) SNEAKY FLUTE EMPIRE, our label (with headquarters in Malmo, Sweden and Alexandria, Virginia); 2) THE YES GIRLS, a sneakyflute music-playing group featuring Damon and occasionally others; and 3) RICHMOND COUNTY ARCHIVES, a label with some Swirlies-related releases (like 'Nevah Have I Evah: A Sneaky Flute Family Album' and 'Buck Wild!: The Saga of Jack Bucky') and also A B's "South Shore" LP (2020).

Stay vigilant always and prepared anytime, and we shall see you at The Spit on the 4th of July.  

Revised January 7, 2021