Greg Laswell Brings Haunted Covers to SLC

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Greg Laswell Brings Haunted Covers to SLC

(Courtesy Greg Laswell and Perpetual Media Relations)

(Courtesy Greg Laswell and Perpetual Media Relations)

(Courtesy Greg Laswell and Perpetual Media Relations)

(Courtesy Greg Laswell and Perpetual Media Relations)

By Kate Button

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Greg Laswell — an indie alternative rock artist from Long Beach, California — is set to release his second album of covers, aptly entitled “Covers II.” The release is set for Sept. 13 and is paired in conjunction with a tour across the United States that has already begun. Laswell, well known for his music that features mystery, honesty and metaphor, decided to revisit the idea of creating this type of album as “Covers I” approached its 10-year anniversary. 

“Since the first covers album, I’ve been in the studio for ten more years, so I’ve just gotten better as far as recording, mixing, engineering and all of that. My other album was five songs — this is eight — but I honestly could have kept going because I was having so much fun with it,” said Laswell, who completely performed, produced and recorded the album, save for the addition of vocals from Molly Jenson on half of the songs. While the album alone stood as a great exploration in covering some of the best alternative and modern rock songs from the past few decades, the addition of Jenson’s vocals on several tracks helps to fully round out the songs, as her voice provides emotional depth and moments of light.

On their collaboration, Laswell said, “I went out of my way to try to approach the songs as if I had written them myself, so I produced them like I would produce something I’d currently written. And then my friend Molly, she was in and out of the studio while I was producing her record, and on a whim, we had her sing on one of the songs, and I loved it so much that I had her sing on half of the songs.” 

In addition to their collaboration, this album also stands out for having “bigger” songs that are more intricately layered with orchestration, strings and different vocals from Laswell and Jenson. Comparing the tracklist of “Covers II” with the original counterparts, Laswell brings a darker, slowed-down, more serious and haunted tone to these songs. “I’m a huge fan of making songs darker and more morose than the original, it’s fun for me! And, it’s kind of how I process things, I think,” Laswell said. “My friends always ask ‘How do you manage to take otherwise upbeat songs and make them so dark?’ But the real answer is, it’s not very hard at all. It’s kind of how I hear things. So, I think the only one that I really struggled with was ‘Love My Way,’ originally written by the Psychedelic Furs. I wanted to make it pretty and not too haunted.”

On his cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” Laswell admitted, “I was actually kind of stuck with his song because I’m such a fan of his, and so I when I went to sing it, I couldn’t make it my own as much as I want to be able to do — I think I’m a little too influenced by him, so in my mind covers shouldn’t be just a carbon copy of the original.

“I set it aside for a while and then I had the idea of [Jenson] singing Peter’s parts, and then me singing Kate Bush’s part, and that allowed the song to completely open up and switched it completely on its head. So, I didn’t have to worry about sounding like him and I could focus on the Kate Bush parts.”

The almost gender-role reversal present in both “Don’t Give Up” and their cover of The Verve’s “Lucky Man” pushes the album to take on social commentary, in addition to the very raw and complex emotions already present in the darker interpretations of these songs. Laswell joked, “I know it’s my EP and I should be singing, but it felt like these songs deserved it more when [Jenson] sang,” and he loved seeing the message of the songs change as they collaborated.

Covers II

(Courtesy Perpetual Media Relations)

After putting so much work into the production and creation of the album, Laswell views the post-production period as similar to a break-up: “I just do my part to finish it, put it out there, but then once it’s released I’m kind of done with it in a weird way. It’s like a break up — I spend these months with it but then once it’s done I’ve lost it and it belongs to everyone else.” As Laswell puts this album into the hands of his audience, his tour will also focus on bringing a new sense of liveliness to his music. This tour marks the first time in about eight years that he’ll be taking a full band on tour, so they’ll “make a little more noise and do all of the larger songs from the record this time around.”

While “Covers II” has yet to be fully released, Laswell is already planning on the possibility of a third album of covers: “I really wanted to do an early Bruce Springsteen, and I didn’t get around to it this time but I think I will next time. Early Tori Amos as well — I’d love to get one of her songs under my belt. There are definitely a few songs that were left on the cutting room floor that I’ll just pick up and do. I don’t want to wait another decade for ‘Covers III,’ so there might just be another one coming up.”

Laswell’s “Covers II” is set to release later this week, and he and his band will be making a stop in Salt Lake City along the way. Laswell will be playing at The State Room on September 19, and tickets can be found here. 

 

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@kateannebutton