Now Hear This: Swamphammer

A bluesy, indie-rock aggregate based around gritty slide riffs.

Swamp Things (left to right)—Cody Antill, Damien Casteneda, Zack Crockett, Steve Lynch, Laura Scott.

Electronic Musician and Keyboardart director Damien Castaneda is apparently one of those creatively restless sorts who needs multiple artistic outlets. He currently plays guitar in the band Parachute on Fire (which just released Stock Car), and is also the lead singer for Swamphammer—a bluesy, indie-rock aggregate based around gritty slide riffs. Guitarists Steve Lynch and Zack Crockett wield Les Pauls and Strats—plugged into an ’81 Marshall JMP 100-watter (Lynch) and a tweed Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue (Crockett)—to deliver the requisite growl and punch, and everything appears to be filtered through a sweat-drenched roadhouse with blood splattered on the dance floor.

“The disparate guitar styles are the band’s greatest strength,” says Castaneda. “Steve is a southern-blues slide player and metal riffer, and Zack is a melodic, folk-based fingerstylist with a wailing vibrato. The song ‘War Path’ features Zack’s soaring, vocal-like leads matched with palm-muted metal riffs. Other songs, such as ‘Constrictor,’ are forged around Steve’s hypnotic slide patterns. Their flexibility often results in lush, beautiful metal, or crushing sludgy blues, depending on your interpretation.”

The band’s influences include a mashup of Pink Floyd, Santana, Rory Gallagher, Porcupine Tree, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Seasick Steve, and Scott H. Biram.

“It’s no surprise that Steve’s tone is heavy and gritty, while Zack’s is warmer and sweeter,” says Castaneda. “Steve’s classic, raw ’70s bite, combined with the midrange clarity of Zack’s fingerstyle adds contrast and dimension to our music. A lot of Steve’s tones are a product of experimentation. He owns a guitar business, Lynch Guitar Repair, and is constantly trying different combinations of the various guitars, pickups, and amps at his disposal.”

Like many retro-influenced rock bands, Swamphammer is more than fine leaving its vintage, heavy-rock approach much the way they found it.

“We’re resisting modernization,” says Castaneda. “You’re not going to see an iPad up on stage with us. We’re playing real music with real instruments for lovers of good old-fashioned heavy music.”