Noise rock pioneers Swans reunited in Atlanta with original member Jarboe on Friday for one song, “Blood On Your Hands,” during their set at Terminal West. This performance marked the first time the group had performed with the singer-songwriter since 2012. Jarboe featured heavily on each of Swans first eight albums, and contributed backing vocals to 2012 LP The Seer.
Jarboe has remained incredibly prolific since departing Swans following their initial run from 1982-1997, releasing 10 solo LP’s, eight collaborative LP’s, and an album apiece with Blackmouth and AEAEA. She interviewed with entertainment website Creative Loafing hours prior to Friday’s performance, revealing why exactly she reunited with his former band members.
I was at the 2011 show at Variety Playhouse. That’s the only new Swans show that I’ve personally seen. Michael asked me to sing when they came back in 2012, but I was out on my own tour. So it’s great that I’m here now. He asked me to sing “Blood On Your Hands,” which became a standard in my repertoire. And I just came back from Tasmania, where I was playing the Dark Mo Fo festival where I performed the song in June. It was a great show, I played with Chelsea Wolfe and Jim Thirlwell. So this is a song that I just did an interpretation of, it’s fresh, and it’s something I’ve worked on recently. And it makes a lot of sense to do this one — it’s a song with a lot of mixed meanings. Plus I can do it pretty much a cappella.
When I performed it with Swans I did it while taping down some notes on my keyboard so there was a drone that only I could hear, for the most part, kept me in pitch. I think Christoph [Hahn] is going to create a drone on his pedal steel. I can sing it in multiple octaves and in multiple keys, but it’s about hearing the drone that he creates for me to sing to. I can sing it in D, I can sing it in C, and I can sing it in different vernaculars. I first recorded the song for Blood, Women, and Roses, the Skin project that Michael and I did, I did a lot of harmonies. There are a lot of non-words. I did all of these multiple harmonies with it. I’ve performed it that way when I’ve had other people on stage with me to do the harmonies. I did it Tasmania with a guitarist playing a drone on an acoustic guitar. At Terminal West, I’ll do it with just a drone on the pedal steel. It’s completely spontaneous. It came up a few hours ago, “Hey. do you want to do this?” It’s not like it was pre-planned.
Jarboe returned to perform with Swans during the current group’s touring swan song. Founder and leader Michael Gira plans to disband his group’s modern lineup following their current tour. He will continue producing music under the Swans’ name while employing rotating lineup. The band released their final LP The Glowing Man earlier this year, their fifth since reuniting in 2010 and 13th overall.