Hopefully, your Valentine’s Day card game is strong by now (if not, read this) but what are you going to do for a romantic soundtrack? How about something delectably otherworldly to tickle your ears? It doesn’t get much more etherial than our friend, Sky White Tiger! Blurring lines between fantasy and reality, Louis Schwadron took matters into his own paws, birthing psych-pop alter ego Sky White Tiger after a decade of writing, recording and performing with The Polyphonic Spree, Radiohead, David Bowie, Elton John, Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, The National, St. Vincent and Rufus Wainwright. Read about, and listen to, his work and be transported to realms wondrous and psychedelic with cosmic angles and laser beams. And if you happen to be in NYC on Feb 5, go see him live for his EP RELEASE SHOW at BABY’S ALL RIGHT! Because watching Sky White Tiger perform live is truly out of this world. We, for one, knew this was an Artist We Love as soon as Louis conveniently brought us delicious Korean snacks while we got peckish and lazy in someone’s hot tub around 3 AM some April morn (take note – this is how to make friends and influence people!). The talent didn’t hurt either.
When did you first begin playing music?
Music was always around when I was a kid. My grandfather toured as a self-taught jazz clarinet & saxophonist in the marine swing bands during WWII. Therefore, he was really supportive of his grandchildren following suit. He picked the horn for me. He said, “It is as an endangered instrument.” He hoped its rarity would take me to places other kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to go. We’d play pieces he’d arrange for my sister, father and I and every Sunday we would gather together to create something larger than any of us individually. He was the first to pass away a couple years later and a large part of my commitment and re-commitment to music over the years is to carry on his legacy.
How did you come up with the name Sky White Tiger? What does it mean to you?
It just came to me. I had begun buying white gear: basses, keyboards & started to play out in white suits. I wasn’t sure why at that time. The name came and I knew it was right. It lives in the realm of cosmic poetry with an air of untold fantasy with a connectivity underpinning. I feel this fits the sound and the live concert experience I want to create with my music. People say I’m spacey, why not live there?
How would you describe Sky White Tiger’s Sound?
My music is groovy, ethereal, melodic, soulful, cinematic, at times hooky, but always from a longer arc of concept album type performances and albums rather than a hit parade. When people ask me what kind of music I make now – I say “Moody Pretty.” The majority of my favorite music falls into this category, but it speaks more to the feeling rather than to the genre; David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Bill Withers, Gustav Mahler, Led Zepplin, Bob Marley, Jaques Greene, Koreless, James Blake and The Doors, Psychic TV, Lauren Hill, Echo and the Bunnymen are all Moody Pretty in my opinion – and those are all over the topographical map.
I think we’re in an exciting time now where artists can have genre defying tastes inside of one album, one live show, with electronic and acoustic instruments interwoven into a larger tapestry and audiences are willing to be taken for a journey. As long as the shaman has good taste and a clear voice the sky’s the limit.
How would you describe the sound of your new EP, Child of Fire? Any surprises?
This EP introduces a few more R&B, Pop and House music influences, use of samples and drum loops as opposed to the more analogue sounds captured on my first album Electra. However, the lyrical content continues to unfold the same mythology of this untold fantasy. As it reveals itself to me, I invite it into the albums I’m working on at that moment.
What was your experience like performing with The Polyphonic Spree?
That was a real learning curve and an influential one. Perhaps the best education one could ask for when living on the road as a musician. For a few years there, we never came home for more than a day or two. It was crazy all the time, hilarious and surreal. It was my first festival-show for that many people. The biggest square -in-a-circle ever to tour around, but somehow we did it every time. I wondered how Sun Ra or the P-Funk guys did it at that time. It was a lot of work to live inside of a traveling circus like that one, but the older I get the more I respect the Delaughter’s for running that show the way they did. They made something impossible possible and I think they gave me the fire to follow my own path. I wonder what my grandfather would have thought about that band versus his WWII swing operation…Its like The Source Family meets The Gene Krupa Story.
You have had the pleasure of performing with names like David Bowie, Elton John and Radiohead to name a few. Can you name another performer you would love to work with?
I’d love to work with Janet Jackson and Louis CK.
Who was your first music teacher that really inspired you?
My first music teacher that inspired me was a brass ensemble director I had in high school. He’s been a trombone player with the Commodores in the 70s; he was funny AND funky. He made the art of music something that we could be proud about rather than the stereotypical dorky band camp musician you see in the movies (and in your high school). He also gave me some pretty cool advice. They were looking for a few extra boys to sing and dance for the musical theater department for a production of a French Farce or something, and I thought there would be some pretty girls and funny times ahead. I went to him to ask him if I should give up band for this production for a few months, and he stopped and he said – “I can’t tell you why, but I think you don’t want to do that. Its seems like its close to what we’re doing here, but in fact, its a few villages over… in fact hundreds and hundreds of miles away.” He just started laughing and walked away. It was at that moment that I realized how cool he was. I wish I could take a time machine back to his first show with the Commodores.
Have you won any music awards?
Does the Cha Cha trophy in 7th grade Cotillion count?
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?
If I weren’t a musician, I’d be a film director or a chef. They are connected. I think they both are careers where an inner vision and artistry are matched with an instinct to feed the people, to take them places they’ve never been or always been and bacon wrap it in some weird-ass world of flavor unique to one’s own collection of experiences.
Thank you, Sky White Tiger! The future is now and sounding mighty pretty… slap on the headphones, turn up the volume, and jam out to one of 2015 most promising artists! Or better yet come Meowt and Play.
Images courtesy Sky White Tiger. This interview also appeared on vndlmag.com.