Inlander Insights: The Sweeplings

click to enlarge Cami Bradley and Whitney Dean wrestle with grief on The Sweeplings' new album. - GLASS JAR PHOTOGRAPHY

Glass Jar Photography

Cami Bradley and Whitney Dean wrestle with grief on The Sweeplings’ new album.

Loss is never easy.

Loss during a pandemic is even tougher.

Cami Bradley and Whitney Dean — aka the folk duo The Sweeplings — each had to cope with the death of their fathers over the past two years.

Thankfully, they have music to help them get through it.

The Sweeplings’ new album Debris (out April 8) finds the pair sorting through the emotional wreckage of loss the best way they know how — with tender lyrics and beautiful melodies. Debris captures a stripped-back version of the group, it’s way more downbeat than most of their harmony-heavy folk-pop peers (and certainly more than their prior albums and beloved Christmas tunes). The record is not afraid to dwell in that more downtrodden and muted musical space in order to hash through the weight of grief. There’s still musical beauty to be found in that profound sadness.

With Debris arriving today, we caught up with Bradley and Dean to talk about the new album, music as therapy, and their sonic chemistry.

What are your favorite aspects about Debris?

Cami: I think of all of the music we’ve ever made, this is the most personal album. Every song has a really, really deep connection to something in our lives and was created at a time where things were hard. And I don’t know if we’ve ever put so much of ourselves into an album like this one. So just as a whole, this is this album means the most. I think a lot of times when the artist is connected to music like we are to this album, it connects to the audience and the listener that much more, because we believe in it and it’s us fully.

Whitney: I’ll sound like a broken record, but I agree with Cami entirely. We both have lost fathers in the past two years, and a lot of the songs are about the loss of Cami’s dad and the struggle with all that stuff. And then going through the pandemic together, it just became a very real record. There was a lot of intention put into verses just like, “Oh, that’s a cool melody, this is a good lyric, and that’s a fun song.” Everything is a piece of our DNA.

We did everything ourselves. Recording it at my studio in New Market, Ala., engineering it, and writing it (except for one song we co-wrote with John Paul White).

What are the positives and negatives about using music as a tool to cope with your grief?

Cami: I think that it can get messy if you’re doing it so often that the rawness isn’t in the music anymore. But for me, most of what we do is centered around [The Sweeplings], so we kind of save and pour the best of our feelings into our music.

And honestly, it has been the most effective way of breathing, for me personally. To be able to pour it into the music instead of, you know, bottling it up or trying to find other ways to satisfy those parts of me that are hurting. So just so thankful that I have music as an outlet to pour into [after] I went through loss.

Whitney: It’s a great release for those emotions; somewhere we can put them and then look back at it and relive them in a positive way versus just thinking about something and crying. You actually have a song you can go to, and kind of live in those good moments and bad moments, and sort of have a little therapy session for yourself by way of something you’ve written for yourself.

And that’s kind of the focus of what we did with this record — it was a lot for us, versus “What would our fans like?” or “What kind of songs are you into right now that would fit what we’re trying to do?” It was definitely that therapeutic and purposed. That’s a great positive.

The negative is you have a space to put your thoughts and feelings, and then you relive them. [Laughs] It’s a blessing and a curse that you have a thing to reminisce over that’s special, and then also you have that thing to reminisce over that special. So it’s infinitely effective on both sides.

Beyond the lyrics, what was your sonic intent with Debris?

Whitney: The process we really thought about taking with this one — versus other things we might have done — is that we wanted to be as organic, real and true to what we do. Just four core elements: Cami’s voice, my voice, guitar and piano. So we wanted to really try to interplay those elements as best we could first, and then take a deep breath before we did any more production or adding parts or whatever, and say, “What else is truly necessary that makes an impact sonically?” And we just came back to our roots quite a bit and just said that maybe less is more at times. Let’s really let the lyric and melody speak.

Cami: Yeah, I think out of all of the albums that we’ve made that this one had the most intention of simplicity.

As a local, how has Spokane impacted your approach to music, Cami?

Cami: Well, I’ve been in Spokane forever. So I feel like just the support system in general has influenced my confidence in what I do. Spokane as a whole really makes me feel like I can bring anything to them.

And we have a lot of talent here. I think we get looked over a lot of times, but there are some incredible musicians and songwriters and vocalists here in Spokane that I think just get missed. I just I feel like I want to represent who we are in Spokane as musicians well, because I think that we have something special that needs to be heard and seen.

What works about your musical chemistry?

Whitney: Well, it’s easy. Cami sings like an angel, and I just, like, I hear words that she should say when she starts doing things. Cami is a really masterful melody artist. We kind of have a little dialogue about what are you thinking and feeling based on the context, and then we build it from there. When I bring a melody to the table, she’s able to take it to the next level. Or if she brings a lyric, I’ll move that to the next thing. We just complement each other in that format extremely well, and it’s not a chore to write songs.

Vocally, it’s just one of those weird quirks. Really, there’s no magical formula to it. I’m not doing anything to blend in supernaturally with her, it just so happened that God willed it that our voices fit together when we sing stuff.

Article Source: Inlander