Found in the happiest creases of psychedelic pop, garage, freak folk and classic rock, Luke Sweeney swirls quite the mellifluous flavor of sounds. And the San Francisco musician's latest single is a shining example of this taste—a creamy track titled "Mother's Day" that feels like rose water on a friendly day of sunshine. Sweeney proudly dedicates this tune to his wife and mothers everywhere: "a thank you for all you do in raising healthy, conscious, beautiful children in this chaotic world." 25% of proceeds from this limited edition cassette are donated to the nonprofit Every Mother Counts. The poet, composer and guitarist offers this same kindhearted energy to the redwoods and attendees of Fernwood: "we're looking forward to bringing some of that vintage Big Sur spirit along with some new songs from a forthcoming album that we're excited to share." [VS]
Goldmine Sacks - (Impose Magazine)
Luke Sweeney’s single “Mother’s Day” brings out all the big-time power-pop instrumental & arrangement chops to make a sentimental song for the ages. This is one for everyone that misses their mom, or is lucky enough to spend the Hallmark holiday with the most wonderful women in the world who has given them life. The very chord progression make-up conveys the feeling of honest expression with a feeling that brings youthful remembrances forward to the now in a song designed to celebrate those special somebodies that are truly behind the reasons for the weekend holiday season. “Mother’s Day” manifests itself too as being something of the result of every major power-pop movement where Sweeney is able to articulate an infinite lullaby for his daughter that immortalizes his wife & the beauty of a bond that paves the way with guidelines for the generations to follow.
Some people find their favorite band on the radio, online, or at a festival, but classic rock visionary Luke Sweeney found me. My roommate stumbled across his record Adventure: Us in the lost & found of a club where she ran sound during SXSW 2016. She brought home a number of CDs and records whose original owners were unknown, and we listened to each and every one.
Luke Sweeney’s Adventure: Us ended up being, by far, our favorite. Sweeney’s unique take on classic rock shines with sweet sunny psych-pop, while twisted distortion and wry lyrics lurk in its shadows. He strikes a perfect balance between happy-go-lucky ear candy that begs to be listened to over and over again, creating intricate, insightful songs that demand to be mulled over until they’re understood. Sweeney’s catchy melodies and counterintuitive song structures fold together like origami, fitting just the right way to create three-dimensional, tangible, and at times breathtakingly beautiful experiences that transcend listeners to sunnier worlds.
I’ve listened to Adventure: Us so many times that the record is scratched beyond repair. When I learned that Luke Sweeney would be in town for his fall 2016 tour, I was delighted. As weekend one of the Austin City Limits Festival came to a close, Sweeney and his band loaded in at Hotel Vegas in east-central Austin.
Hotel Vegas gleamed with silver streamers and red-blue lights as people milled about within its dark, dive-y interior—a cross between an old Western saloon and a tattoo parlor in an '80s B-horror film. When Luke Sweeney took the stage, the mood shifted. Those dark corners of the bar buzzed deep with bass as silver glimmers reflected kaleidoscopic guitar riffs, red lights intensified the band’s raw rock, and blue lights emanated in waves of cool, California grooves. Sweeney made dry jokes and mysterious, one-liner introductions during the set, hinting at an upcoming album and sharing a few brand-new songs. He primarily played songs from Adventure: Us, saving its single “Miss Me?” for his finale.
With the current band featuring keyboard, bass, and drums while Sweeney fronts with vocals and guitar, the San Francisco-based group typically play shows around California when they aren’t touring the US. They’re SXSW alumni, familiar with Austin’s vibrant music scene and wild festivals, and will return for SXSW 2017. The band has also played Noise Pop and CMJ, among other festivals, further proving they're a can't-miss.
In a culture of retro remakes and throwbacks, Luke Sweeney is classic rock’s piercingly bright diamond in the rough. His refreshing compositions and forward-thinking lyrics don’t rely on old tropes or underestimate today’s listeners; if anything, they encourage listeners to think for themselves, explore and grow, never stop re-imagining the status quo, and above all, get Adventure: Us.
Much like his kindred L.A. spirit Bart Davenport, San Francisco singer/songwriter Luke Sweeney approaches pop with a decidedly askew sense of priorities. He confounds aural expectations and puts the knock on reverence in a manner that summons the peccadilloes of eccentrics like Todd Rundgren and Stephen Malkmus. 2014's riveting Adventure:Us crackles with time-worn allusions to psychedelia, bubblegum, glam, and mellow Seventies balladry. – Greg Beets
LUKE SWEENEY has come a long way from the strict parameters of his old approach to recording. As a member of San Francisco trio Vows, Sweeney incorporated wide-ranging influences into his pop-oriented grab bag of songs. And while his stylistic foundation remains suitably ambiguous, Sweeney's willingness to embrace the recording studio has resulted in Adventure: Us, one of the best albums released last year.
"Six or seven years ago I would only record onto analog tape, and not use anything I couldn't cut in one take, and not do any overdubs, and all that stuff," Sweeney says. "I don't think there's a single song on this album that didn't benefit from some kind of studio touch."
Adventure: Us was released by Aerobic International in October 2014, and was recorded with producer Robin MacMillan at Media Blitz East in Brooklyn over the course of about four years. Sweeney originally visited MacMillan with his band Vows, but subsequently sent demos to MacMillan of some ideas for a solo album. At the time, Sweeney had only a vague idea of what the project might become. In the meantime, following the breakup of Vows, Sweeney released a heralded solo album of older songs called Ether Ore—a sly reference to the spirit parasol of Elliott Smith and a shortcut to explaining the vibe of the album's acoustic-based inspiration.
Under MacMillan's hand, Adventure: Us expanded into far-reaching pop, psychedelic, and classic-rock realms with humor and irreverence—both calling cards of Sweeney's songwriting. "Miss Me?" combines Big Star riffs and squirrely melodies, while "Open Those Savage Eyes" takes on a kind of soul-pop that Sweeney says he couldn't have imagined without the help of MacMillan.
"When we first started recording ["Open Those Savage Eyes"], it was barely two minutes long," says Sweeney. "By the time I left, I thought it might be a throwaway. But Robin called me up months later and was revisiting the tracks to start mixing them. He was like, 'I'm hearing something kinda like Sly and the Family Stone; I'm gonna try this treatment on it.' I said, 'Go for it.' It kind of revitalized the song and pumped it back to life. I might have left it for dead if it'd stayed what it was."
Following performances at Noise Pop, CMJ Music Festival, and several West Coast tours, Sweeney and his band—drummer Brett Eastman, bassist Roberto Pagano, and keyboardist (and Sweeney's wife) Rohini Moradi—are working on another record, which Sweeney reports is to be as wide ranging and curiously fluid as Adventure: Us.
"Each song and each album deserves its own character," he says. "On Adventure: Us, we happened to have the ability to make it sound like a full-on studio production, so that's what we did. It's about giving each song as much of its own kind of character and template that you can, and not worrying about the old punk ethos that we kind of might have suffered from, that's like [adopts British accent], 'Plug it! Track it! Release it!'
"Some of it was hard to shed," Sweeney continues. "It was really me not caring about if anyone thinks it's too fancy or not. I personally feel like doing studio magic is just as authentic."
Monterey County Weekly
A few days before Luke Sweeney flew out to New York to cut his new record, he went into full-blown panic mode.
“As I was going through the songs in my head, I didn’t think there were any quality songs,” Sweeney explains on his way to play a string of shows in Oregon.
He frantically started writing and demoing new songs, hoping he’d stumble onto a good hook of any kind.
Fortunately Sweeney’s Hail Mary and panic were both off base. Once he settled into a Williamsburg, Brooklyn studio, the songs he had originally felt lacked pop appeal started to come to life.
Sweeney recorded Adventure:Us, his first full-length studio album, in 10 days. The 12-track collection is a psych-pop/folk-rock artifact that encompasses the spirit of the perpetually amorphous San Francisco sound. Sweeney’s voice feels reminiscent of fellow SF rocker Christopher Owens, formerly of Girls.
While “Miss Me?” showcases Sweeney’s affinity for vintage AM radio pop, the breezy flowers-in-your-hair folk vibe circling “Doin’ It To You,” gets a lift from playful Caribbean-inspired rhythms.
By the time Sweeney left the studio, any anxiety was replaced by accomplishment.
“I still had ringing in my ears,” he says. “The songs were stuck in my head, and I was enjoying listening to them.”
Now Sweeney’s touring, both solo and with his full band. He plays solo Thursday at Barmel and Friday at The Shadow Box, and will be joined by his full band Saturday at Fernwood. His solo shows are all over the place. He plays tunes that predate Adventure:Us as well as new songs like “Time on Your Own,” which Sweeney describes as “folk-friendly, early Kinks.”
The title of Luke Sweeney's first solo release is a play on Elliott Smith's seminal indie-folk album, "Either/Or." There are plenty of other similarities, too: The Bay Area singer-songwriter, left alone after the other members of his band VOWS relocated to Los Angeles, also recorded his album at home, played nearly every instrument and, taping on reel-to-reel, gave the music a distinctly handcrafted feel. Songs such as "Stuck to the Vine" and "Stone E. A. Way," meanwhile, balance delicate finger picking in odd tunings and the hushed sadness of unrequited love with melodies that feel like opiates for the soul, making this far more than a mere tribute piece.