by Christine Leonard
VANCOUVER – Heavy metal-throwback and pride of Austin, TX, retro-rockers The Sword have been striking heroic poses and feeling the wind in their hair since first mounting the stage in 2003. Blasting off doomy Black Sabbath anthems with a Southern blues bent, the four-piece has racked up an impressive eight LPs over the past decade and a half. The Sword’s latest project, Used Future (2018 Razor & Tie Records), found lead singer/guitarist John “J.D.” Cronise, guitarist Kyle Shutt, bassist Bryan Richie and drummer Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III working with producer Tucker Martine (who has produced albums for the likes of My Morning Jacket and The Decemberists) to forge what is perhaps their most personal album to date.
“We went into the studio kind of loose, without having everything fully composed, and did a lot of writing and working things out there on the spot,” Cronise explains. ““Tucker is a very talented, experienced guy and we had a really good time working with him. He brought a lot to the table.” According to Cronise, the title of The Sword’s latest album, Used Future, is less about predicting what is to come than it is about living in the moment. For better or for worse.
“That title just caught on, but thematically the rest of the record is not really that different from High Country (2015 Razor & Tie). There’s still references to nature and that sort of thing; it’s really just the title-track that’s a departure. The lyrics use the term ‘future’ for referencing the present day, because for a lot of us our current time is seen as rather futuristic from the time we grew up in. The days of The Sword writing science fiction inspired epics are in the past, our songs are just rock-and-roll songs. They’re inspired by things that happen to us and that happen in the world.”
Summing up modern existence as the equivalent of being wedged somewhere between a rock and a hard place, The Sword knows that it takes more than chainmail and comet-tails to put a positive spin on real dark matter.
“While it’s never really an intention to make a lot of social commentary or anything like that, it can’t help but come creeping through a little bit.”
“It’s pretty dystopian at this point,” Cronise continues, speaking of his general outlook on things. “And, it went from being optimistic to being dystopian pretty quickly, too. That’s the remarkable thing. A couple of years ago it seemed like everything was slowly getting better, and moving in a positive direction, and now we find ourselves in this insane world that seems to make no sense on a daily basis. So, yeah — we’ll see what happens. Good luck to everybody!”
Rolling the dice, but not necessarily looking to cash-in on Used Future, Cronise and company have no regrets when it comes to being one step ahead of the competition. The competition, of course, being their future selves.
“We feel like the genre we started in has become very well-populated, whereas when we started there weren’t that many bands doing that. My natural inclination is that any time anything I’m into gets too popular it’s time to move on to the next thing and find something else to do. That’s why we’re constantly changing our sound. That’s me, I can’t keep doing the same thing over again. To some people’s disappointment. Yes, there are those fans who miss the old days, where it was just balls-to-the-wall volume and intensity all the time. But I have to say to them, ‘There’s this thing called time and it moves on. And you gotta learn to move with it, my friend.’ Let’s see you keep it up at age 40!”
The Sword performs June 13 at Venue Nightclub (Vancouver)