Lee Switzer-Woolf indulges in surrealism that induces music. These are not only in the lyrics, but the tones and arrangements he chooses to compose each track with. With well-received tracks that tease the fabric of reality and choose the liminal space of a dream-he is full of surprises. This is his latest album, Annihilation Signals.
The tones you use are a departure from your music prior to this. How did you chance upon this kind of sound?
In general I was looking for a fuller sound for this second album. I wanted to lean into the electronic elements of the first album a little more, and move away from the folky acoustic stuff. It took a while to find a sound I was happy with, and I think that only came about once I had the themes of the album nailed down.
You will get a coveted position in your own dreams when you dive into music like this. The opening single is called The Falling Shrapnel of a Satellite. The acoustic strings with the haunting, echoing elements in the background create a complex, new tapestry. The rhythm and melody itself is simple enough, the percussions and layers are what make it an intriguing dissolve. Yucatán comes next, almost like a guide taking you to another place. The minimal percussion and poetic lyrics drive you through turns overlooking a countryside. Picturesque and filled with conversations, you feel engaged in Lee Switzer-Woolf and his painted world.
Drowning in a dream
Melodies that people can hum seem to be a connecting element in your music. Is that how you compose as well?
No, it’s quite the opposite. I almost always start with the lyrics, and then build from there. It’s nice that you think that because melody is probably the part of song writing I find the hardest.
I start with something that I want to say, and that usually gives me a good sense of the general tone for the track, and then I do my best to build musically around that. There are definitely tracks on this album where I’ve tried to put more focus on melody, and I know that is something I need to keep working on.
The title track is next, accentuating the ebb and flow created by the tempos chosen. Lee has a way of choosing groove patterns that excite, almost distract from the vocal and rhythm dimension. It creates a synthetic narrative that is so unique, I can barely think of anyone’s music having this kind of gravity. I Only Talk to God When I Think I Am Dying, chooses a much more sombre tone. The enveloping, echoing surrounding makes it seem like a vessel instead of a room, the resounding tones carrying the emotion. Undertone and the melody considered, this song is one of my favourite on the album.
What is a tone or style you think defines your current album? Something that you couldn’t have completed the album without?
It’s certainly not a cheerful album, but I like to think that it’s an album of big ideas. My previous release Scientific Automatic Palmistry was a very introspective, small, personal collection of songs, whereas this one is more about looking outward. It’s about catastrophizing on a grand scale. About constantly watching the skies and waiting for a comet to fall. There is a lot of existential crisis in this record, dealing with death, God, climate change, etc.
As for something I couldn’t have completed the album without I would have to say my Gretsch G2655 Streamliner guitar. I got it at the start of the pandemic when it was obvious we were heading for lockdowns, and I absolutely love it. It is far from the best or most expensive guitar on the market, but there’s just something about it that I feel has changed my playing style and pulled me towards a more electric sound.
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Lee Switzer-Woolf continues to dissect fantasies with Whistling Like The Bomb. It comfortably breathes the melody, like an interesting preface that might allude to even the climax. Lee’s ability to write lyrics, like he mentions-catastrophising, brings a lot of thoughts to the fore. What is forged in the end is the amalgam with the melody, inciting a plethora of emotional channels. I Think I Might Be Whatever This Isn’t deals with discussions with the diaspora again. Kimberley Switzer-Woolf adds the necessary flourish in the song, as well.
With percussion in Sugar-Stained Blood sounding almost like a New Wave style, how did you approach sounds you haven’t touched before? Compositionally?
Yeah – that’s exactly what I was going for with that track. As soon as I started experimenting with programming beats on the first album there was this natural hint of 80’s influence, and again that was something I wanted to expand in places this time out, without going down the full nostalgia route. For me it was about what does full band sound like, when you’re a one man band making music in your bedroom. I love that new wave sound, the simple repetitive beats and big thick synths, and Sugar-Stained Blood being one of the more uptempo songs on the album, it just felt like the natural progression for it.
I wasn’t so bold to begin with though, and I should also give a lot of the credit for the sound of the album to Aden Pearce who mixed and mastered it. I have a bad habit of burying my ideas in a song, but Aden gives you nowhere to hide. He’ll find these moments or elements that I’ve put in almost as filler and push them to the front of the mix, in a way that really brings a song to life. Sugar-Stained Blood is probably the best example of this on the album, where I sent him a track that was quite acoustic guitar lead, with the electronic parts taking a back seat, and he sent me back this big synthy New Wave monster.
Lee Switzer-Woolf and drawing inspiration
Creating percussions and rhythms that interlace with the complexities in the lyrics is his absolute cornerstone in songwriting. He also indulges in what the production incites, as seen in That Bastard Bird. Lee-Switzer-Woolf is the doctrine of a songwriter, approaching lyrics and their brewing experience in many facets. Cigarettes in the Rhododendron prepares you for another dive into the crystal trench. It is exciting to hear and listen to opportunities with this unique perspective, like an artist’s dive into their opus. That is what you might be hearing now, without a doubt.
What are the most exciting songs to perform live? What would you be best opening with?
I haven’t performed these songs live yet! I’ve got some shows coming up in May that I’m really excited for. When I play live I’ve always loved the really quiet moments, the intimate songs that draw the listener in, even though they’re the most nerve wracking to play, and the easiest to mess up, they’re always the most rewarding. In that respect I’m really looking forward to playing ‘I only talk to God when I think I’m dying’, and the title track ‘Annihilation Signals’ too.
The syncopation invites you to Tried and Tested Acts of Separation. Lee’s approach with the guitar I find in methodology similar to what Dave Matthews does. It’s an idiosyncrasy, but belongs in a non-musician listener’s head. As we exile into silence from Sugar-Stained Blood and (Shrapnel), you get to explore the dictionary of this genius more and more.
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By the time you get to Comet Watch, you’ll realise how many light-years you’ve travelled. It is a musician with passion who can convince you to travel with them. Lee-Switzer-Woolf is a time traveler, and this is the soundtrack to the journey you had. Approach with joy and exuberance:
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Self professed metalhead, moderately well read. If the music has soul, it's whole to me. The fact that my bio could have ended on a rhyme and doesn't should tell you a lot about my personality.