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Community Investment:

Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine Kickstarter Kickoff Party
Fri., 12/2 • 9 p.m.
The Satellite • 120 Greenfield St.

FUND-RAISING FOLK: Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine, in hopes of recording a debut album, is beginning its Kickstarter campaign on December 2nd. Courtesy photo

Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine has no rivals in this town. Not in the sense that the members are musically competitive with anyone, but in the sense that there’s not another band quite like them locally. Who else has nine members, all contributing their own intricate part to develop such fantastically flamboyant folk? The sound of JLATSM is vibrant and experimental. Traditional folk and soul instruments merge with xylophone, spoons, tin cans, tambourines, buckets, shakers and floor toms, all to fulfill a layered recipe of sonic innovation.

We’ve watched the band grow, its mix of members ever fluctuating but landing at this point in time to Lacy (vocals, guitar), local actress Sophie Amelkin (vocals), David Easton (guitar, lap steel guitar, banjo, mandolin), Jacob Hurley (upright bass), Aaron Lane (trumpet, keys), AJ Reynolds (saxophone), Keith Butler Jr. (drums), Adam Powell (vocals, whistling) and Hank Blanton (mandolin, violin, bass, percussion). Some of the instrumentalists are graduates of UNCW’s music program, like Lacy, while others are just avid musicians. Regardless, the blend is pleasantly harmonious—or dissonant, at the right times—and downright fun.

With a handful of demos and a slew of live shows in tow, Lacy says the band is ready to record its full-length debut album. Unfortunately, high quality CDs cost high dollar—something budding musicians just don’t have. After discovering Kickstarter, a fund-raising site for entrepreneurs and artists, Lacy knew it would be the route to a record. The group will host a kickoff party for their campaign at The Satellite on Friday, December 2nd at 9 p.m.

Along with a performance by JLATSM, guests will hear from acoustic indie pop musician Emperor X from Jacksonville, Florida, as well as screen the group’s Kickstarter video filmed by Adam Gilbert of local photo/film team Blueberry Fusion. Fifty limited-edition screen prints by graphic artist Brian Reed and posters designed by Brittny Roller will be released at the party, such as the flier on our cover featuring a drawing from Kate Winchell. All proceeds from sales will be directly applied to the band’s Kickstarter account, in which they seek to raise $5,000. The majority of the money, Lacy says, will go to mixing, mastering and printing the album.

Prizes will be awarded to those who donate to the musical cause, including signed copies of the album once it’s printed and, possibly, one-on-one music lessons with members of the band. Lacy caught up with encore to spill the details about the campaign.

encore: What’s the importance of recording a quality album rather than sticking to demos?
Justin Lacy: The actual act of creating a cohesive, large-scale work is important to me. I’ve wanted to make a full-length album since I first built up a repertoire of original songs in high school. I don’t intend for this to be a collection of songs I’ve written up to this point of working with this ensemble. My strong suit isn’t writing singles anyway. I intend for this to be a singular work, strung together by a series of related narrative motives.

Then there are the more pragmatic reasons for making this album, like PR. We need recordings that justly represent us and help us grow, which may not happen if we [stick] to the demos we have now.

I [also] feel the need to capture the sound of this specific ensemble, in case it disappears. Each member of this nine-piece group is vital in creating our sound, and I’m afraid that if one person moves away, I’ll never be able to attain this specific sound again. I need to preserve all we’ve accomplished.

e: Will you be pushing any radio stations (the Penguin, for instance) to play your music?
JL: I aim to make an album that is good enough to be played on the radio both because I intend to push it to local radio stations like the Penguin and WHQR, and simply because we need to have a high-quality representation of our sound for the future.

When my other band, Charlie the Horse, tried to get the Penguin to play some of our recordings to help promote the release of our EP, they said they couldn’t do it because the quality was too low for radio. That was a hard hit for us. Our album was recorded at home with no budget in a do-it-yourself manner, but we had good equipment and software. We knew the recordings would be lo-fi, but we had no idea they would be rejected from radio play.

We worked just as hard as any band to make that EP—we fought, we celebrated, we argued, we danced, we studied up, and we slept very little. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

e: Why is the campaign so vital to creating an album?
JL: [It will let] us realize the full potential of this album and this band. The campaign itself is a launch pad to give us momentum. If we succeed, we’ll have the encouragement and the resources to tackle this project, and with any luck, we’ll move forward to bigger things.

e: Why should people support your efforts?
JL: Being relatively active in Wilmington music for a couple of years, I’ve seen the sense of community among musicians rise and fall. If we reach our goal, I’m going to work hard to make sure this album projects its own sense of community. There’s very little I can do on my own; this is going to have to be a collaborative effort by many community artists—musicians, sound engineers, filmmakers, visual artists and writers. If we can get people behind us, supporting us, this will be an album that invests in the community and, hopefully, the community can invest in it.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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