Transitioning from high school to college can be the make it or break it point for most bands, as well as friends. Mike Pickerl, Kiel Anderson, Jason Vandenboss, and Carlos Trejo met in high school and have been making music together ever since. Swordfish is the name of their current project with Mike on guitar and vocals, Kiel on bass, Jason Vandenboss on guitar and vocals, and Carlos Trejo on drums.
Kiel, Mike, and Carlos hang out even when they are not practicing and playing shows, but they don’t see Jason that often outside of the band. Kiel says, “Jason works at Whole Foods, and I really like the bath salts there … so sometimes I see him there.” Mike says, “It’s hard enough to find three other people you like, let alone three other people who can play instruments.” The guys have been collaborating together for about six years now, so it’s probably safe to say they have found a group of people that work.
Why did they choose the name Swordfish? Kiel says, “Because it doesn’t really matter.” Mike adds that Kiel has a big pillow in the shape of a swordfish that was an inspiration for the name.
Mike describes the sound of Swordfish as, “Indian neo pop…. No.. but really it’s garage pop- rock with more than just guitars.” Sometimes the band uses organs or other unconventional instruments to add a little something extra. “It gets ‘dancey,’” Kiel says about some of their new songs. The songs on Swordfish’s first EP definitely falls into the garage pop-rock category and could easily be compared to well known bands like Weezer and The Strokes.
Aside from the danciness, the band keeps it pretty low-key while they are all busy with school and work. Mike says that all the craziness happened in their previous band, “Swordfish is sort of our rehab band.” The guys are just trying to work around each other’s schedules and spend as much time making music as they can. Every member of the band is currently in college. Mike goes to College of DuPage and is “killing time,” Kiel goes to Loyola, Carlos is studying art at UIC, and Jason is at the University of Aurora studying to be an English teacher.
Mike sees music as his main priority. He and the other band members differ
on their views for future success with Swordfish. Mike has higher hopes in terms of relative success and says he just doesn’t want to get a real job, while Kiel doesn’t have a desire for Swordfish to become successful. While discussing their future as a band Mike asks, “Is this a list of all our hopes and dreams? I’d like a girlfriend. That would be cool. But I wouldn’t let it interfere with my music.” Hear that ladies?
These days the band is taking things as they come and practicing twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, to tighten up their sound. Right now their practice space is in Kiel’s basement and doubles as a room for his cats. Kiel says, “Sometimes the cats come in to use the litter box so when they come down we have to mute our instruments.” Mike adds, “Sometimes we scare the shit out of them…”
To give the cats a little space, Swordfish is currently working on turning Kiel’s bedroom into a practice room. Kiel and Mike both spend a lot of their free time writing new songs for the band. Kiel has a goal of writing one song a week, even if it’s “crappy.” Mike is trying to stop writing fifteen minute songs and scale down to somewhere under the 5 minute mark. Don’t let this scare you away from checking out Swordfish, the 6 songs on their EP, “Pure Pop for ‘No’ People,” are all under 5 minutes.
The future of the band is currently unknown, but the guys plan on making music together for as long as they can. Mike hopes to start playing shows more frequently again, but Kiel prefers to keep it in the practice space and says it’s too much anxiety to set up equipment and play shows. Most of their past shows took place in smaller settings such as coffee houses throughout Chicago and the suburbs.
Mike would like to take things with Swordfish more seriously and says that he does have a tendency to set his hopes too high. In response to that Kiel says, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a hope in my life.”
You can get your hands on Swordfish’s first EP “Pure Pop for ‘No’ People” by contacting the band at: ATTN: Swordfish, 503 S. President St. Wheaton, IL 60187. It includes 6 songs, Life is a Wonderful Thing, 1st Impressions, Felix Hoffman, Pop Song, (You’ve got a) Face for the Radio, and An Arm of the Sea at the Mouth of the River.