Everyone at Whitewater Wednesday (and its spin-off Saltwater Saturday) knows that any band with Rick Sward is guaranteed to be fun … and The Sophisticated Cavemen is no exception.
They prove this by switching from jazz standards like All of Me, to bluegrass like Johnson Grass Farm, to reggae, The Israelites, and finally to Stan Rogers’ Canol Road, a song about a murder at the KK.
Sward and his band — Lara Lewis on piano and Ched “Cheddar” Dunham on bass (absent today is clarinetist Birch Kuch) — are as difficult to keep up with as their set list.
“We are one of the most underpaid bands in Whitehorse,” Sward says with a distinctive maniacal giggle. “If you measure rock per buck, we give so much more on the rock side than we get on the buck side.”
I join them for after-set drinks and try to get them to focus on this interview. “So you’re a caveman?” I ask Lewis, a Yukon Women in Music member and one of the latest additions to the band.
“Yes I am,” she says, laughing. “I like it way better than cave music,” she adds, referring to the band’s alternate name, Sophisticated Cave Music.
“We got the name at a music festival,” Sward explains. “We were living in an RV and all bearded and hairy, when someone said to us, ‘Wow, you guys are like cavemen, only sophisticated’.
“We need a logo now. Maybe a depiction of Gary Busey as Buddy Holly,” he giggles again.
“I joined at an outdoor party,” Lewis says over her pint.
“It was Gruberfest 2007,” Sward clarifies. “It was my friend Catherine’s 30th birthday. Between sets [Catherine] said to me, ‘Go up and play the piano.’ I was shy and had to be coaxed, but I played. Rick was impressed and asked me to join the band. So I did a background check on them and said, OK.”
Sward giggles again and adds, “I have a really good lawyer who falsified my records, so she never found out about me.
“That’s the way the band just happened,” Sward adds between sips on a gin and tonic. “We all just naturally came together in this strange combination: bass, guitar, clarinet, piano and occasionally drums.”
“We have drummer problems,” Dunham adds. “We’re like Spinal Tap, except our drummers don’t die. We get one who knows his stuff and next thing we know he’s selling it to third world countries.” He punctuates this with a smile and a gulp of beer.
Despite the obvious fun they have when performing and giving interviews, they are serious musicians with grand plans: “We’re recording soon and I want to create a high-quality record,” Sward says. “I want to go on tour, take this music around the world. I want to take it to the next level. We’re not like any other band out there, we do roots music in all genres – folk, bluegrass, country, reggae, swing, jazz.”
Dunham laughs, “And if Birch wasn’t late we could do that.”
Sward continues, “The new album will have all original tunes, except for one or two.
Everyone’s writing, too. And there will be an assortment of drummers — Lonnie Powell, Ed White and Marc Paradis — and lots of other Yukon musicians, some of them haven’t confirmed yet.
“We’re taking our time and really thinking about what we’re doing. We’re even going to press a limited run of vinyl so it will be a work of art.”
Five things you should know about The Sophisticated Cavemen:
1. They all really like Gary Busey’s stellar portrayal of Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story.
2. They do not do Eagles covers. Sward: “We are an Eagles-Free-Zone. The UN declared it.”
3. Lara Lewis says that Rick Sward has six toes on his on his left foot. Sward did not know that.
4. They will play anywhere, anytime, preferably where there’s free beer.
5. Sward says, “We believe in stereotypes.”