By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Proclaimed to be “built for the era of social distancing” since they formed shortly before COVID-19 forced quarantine restrictions, Texas-based gothic rock group Sword Collector recently unleashed their self-titled debut EP via Hybrid Records.
The EP explores themes of reclaiming strength after surviving abuse, overcoming intergenerational trauma and seeking existential desires.
Mastered by John Allen Stephens of Third Coast Recording Co. (The Suffers, Camera Cult), the writing and recording process was done completely remote, with no more than one person in a room at any given time.
Sword Collector are bassist/vocalist Kyle James McCoy (they/he), guitarist Ryan Johnson (he) and synthesist/drum machine operator Carlos Cooper (he).
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the band about their self-titled EP and more.
Music Bugle – How did you decide the band name?
Kyle James McCoy – I should own up to this one! During junior high and early high school, I’d scavenge for change and skip buying school lunches. Then, I’d take whatever money I collected to either the Corpus Christi Trade Center or Zenith’s Gifts to buy swords. During that time in my life, which was just before I began touring in hardcore bands, I was all about the goth counterculture. It only seemed appropriate to use the name “Sword Collector” to mark a return to the gothic fold.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your self-titled EP?
Ryan Johnson – It was different, for sure. We just send WAV files back and forth to each other in Google Drive and have a group message that’s always poppin’ off. I think that plays a big part in our sound, too, because we all write our parts and share our ideas in the comfort of our own home.
Carlos Cooper – Putting the EP together was probably the most pleasant experience I’ve had making music. No set schedule, no stressful scheduling to have practice. It was just a matter of spontaneous creativity. If I happened to catch a vibe, I could work through it and send it off to Kyle and Ryan, then we’d be on our way to creating something new.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
Kyle James McCoy – That’s a question for the ages! Social media can be a great tool for working class creatives like us to build community. I love that. The core issue I have with social media’s affect on creative culture – namely, the expectation to constantly produce content or risk losing the rat race – is more an issue with the socioeconomic radioactivity of capitalism. “More like crapitalism,” I say far too often to expect any laughs at all.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about gothic rock?
Kyle James McCoy – I really love that gender non-conformity and queerness are ever-present aspects of gothic rock. In the style, the lyrics and the theatrics of it all, I’ve never felt that gothic rock has expected me to tone down any femininity I want to express. As someone finding their queerness in their late twenties, especially after coming out of a pretty masculine hardcore scene, that’s perfect for me.
Music Bugle – How would you describe South Texas to someone who has never been there before?
Ryan Johnson – Hot. Humid. Huge. Horny. Friendly… but don’t forget horny.
Kyle James McCoy – I… I have nothing to add. Ryan has left me completely speechless.
Music Bugle – What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020?
Ryan Johnson – I’ve learned how fragile we really are and how the world can turn upside-down in an instant. It is pretty unsettling.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape?
Ryan Johnson – Home is a safe space for me, as well as basically anywhere I can be isolated and alone, which tends to happen a lot. That’s something I’m working on and will figure out.
Kyle James McCoy – I love escaping to nature. I’m particularly fond of Angelina National Forest for its long, winding trails through the east Texas pines.
Carlos Cooper – To sleep.
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about the band?
Ryan Johnson – Carlos nor I have a sword collection, yet, so we’re basically posers. Kyle on the other hand, probably has a sweet collection hiding somewhere.
Kyle James McCoy – Embarrassingly enough, I only have one actual sword, right now. There’s a dagger or two around the house, though and my partner Monika and I intend to start collecting more medieval weapons.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Ryan Johnson – “Bottoms up and spirits down,” by Lawrence Arms. In the context of the song, it is pretty sad, but I think of it as more of a “Fuck it, let’s do it.” It reminds me to let go and put myself out there.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Ryan Johnson – I feel like my wish is already coming true. People don’t need to solely rely on record labels to get their work to the world. D.I.Y. is alive, well and getting better. We have so much creativity happening right now and I just want things to keep going in that direction. I love that someone can so easily record their own music from home and share it with the world. I just want to see the world keep creating. I want to hear it all.
Kyle James McCoy – I’m also seeing a lot of what I want in the music industry, luckily. I love that people have been focusing on queer, femme and P.O.C. voices in music. I think a lot of that focus has to do with what Ryan mentioned – we’re steadily being empowered to completely subvert the historically cis-heteropatriarchal music industrial complex. If we can keep pushing for equity and solidarity in music, I’ll be more than glad.