Those already familiar with Louis Schwadron know that every performance he mounts is a unique, not-to-be-missed occasion. Prized for his versatility by such artists as Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright and film director John Cameron Mitchell, with whom he has collaborated on stage and in the studio, Schwadron is an endlessly imaginative composer-conceptualist and an intriguing shape-shifter. Within the last five years, one could find him, for example, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Normway, playing French Horn with his erstwhile band The Polyphonic Spree and enjoying photo ops with hosts Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise. Or he might be juggling roles as music maestro, director’s right-hand man and extras wrangler on the set of Mitchell’s X-rated love letter to New York City, Shortbus. Make that “sex-tras” wrangler —it was Schwadron who corralled the free-spirited players who populated the Sex Not Bombs room during the more magical than notorious orgy scenes in the critically acclaimed film. Then there is all the sideman work he’s regularly engaged in, working with performers ranging from Elton John to Sufjan Stevens, Ray Charles to The National, just to name a few.
As leader of Sky White Tiger, the format may be simpler, but his ambitions are no less high-flying: “Sky White Tiger is as much an idea, or a collection of ideas, as it is a person or band or set of songs. Really, it’s a constellation of moments, people, energies, coming together at each show. It’s something we conjure together as musicians and audience, bridging that nebulous space between conscious and subconscious. My favorite music is the kind that throws me into a trance and allows the mood to take over. That’s the kind of music I want to make with all of the musicians I play with.”
The sound of Sky White Tiger cannot be encapsulated in a word or two; there’s a Bowie-like breadth to the songs that Schwadron has created in the studio with Brooklyn-based producer Bryce Goggins for the group’s debut EP – it’s dreamily psychedelic at times, ambitiously symphonic at others. A Juilliard graduate and multi-instrumentalist, Schwadron is especially gifted as an arranger, and he’s created work adaptable to ever-changing lineups. As Schwadron explains, “We’re happy to play as a five-piece band or with DJ a full orchestra. As long as I feel like there is a marriage of vocals, melodic textures and rhythmic drive, then I we feel we have the ability to cast a spell over the evening.”
Schwadron is a 21st century dream weaver, acknowledging his forebears while creating something utterly new. There are hints of seventies prog, eighties synth rock and up-to-the-minute Radiohead in his work, though Schwadron would not lay claim to being part of one specific scene or style. Says Schwadron, “I love synths, drums, guitars,” but, given his taste for the surreal, he doesn’t stop there: “I love future sounds, dawn of time sounds. I love nature’s explosions and eruptions. I love the sounds of heavy breathing and media malfunctions. I love the sound a television dumped into a river.”
Though Schwadron loves to discuss his work and is something of a comedian, mingling a little self-deprecating Woody Allen humor off stage to counterbalance his body-talking Prince moves on stage, he doesn’t like to say much during a gig: “I like the music to do the communicating. We connect each song with rehearsed or improvised interludes—linking a number of songs together into more of an orchestral movement or live concept-album feel. This way, no matter what the specific set list brings in terms of varying styles and tempos, the overall feel of being immersed in a kind of oceanic soundscape remains the same.”
Come witness Sky White Tiger. Join the evolution.
– Michael Hill