Known for heavy, deathcore riffs and a love of the leafy green, Signs of the Swarm gets by through combining the world of music and the world of weed, working in both arenas to make ends meet, medicate and focus on the music. We caught up with the group to learn more about its weed savvy band members and their latest musical endeavors.
How did you all get into heavy music and start playing?
David Simonich (Vocals): I was given a Linkin Park record for Christmas, which led to Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. I didn’t fall into playing music until I was about 14, when a childhood friend took me to my first show. To this day, I can remember how bad I wanted what they had: community, culture and a true passion that can help overcome anything. Whenever I stop and think about it, it’s wild that I have that as the centerpiece of my life.
Bobby Crow (Drums): My mom opened my eyes to heavy music in 2004! I grew up on hard rock like ‘90s Metallica and RATM, but I fell into slightly heavier metal like Slipknot and Slayer thanks to Headbanger’s Ball and video games like Guitar Hero. Slipknot in particular really changed my perspective, and Joey Jordison made me want to play drums. That led to my first experience with the instrument, my middle school drumline, which allowed me to meet and mingle with other musicians.
What are you currently working on in terms of new records, touring, etc?
DS: We just released our fourth studio record, Absolvere, a 10-track LP filled with bone-crushing riffs, blast beats and earth-shaking vocals. Somewhat paradoxically, the album we wrote distanced during a pandemic was our first truly collaborative effort. In the past, members would write fully formed songs and present them to the group for subtle adjustments.
This time, we used video calling to write together, with Bobby really taking the reins as the in-band producer. This helped us create a much more cohesive listen, and we can’t imagine writing wholly separately again. Speaking of, in our efforts to always be taking steps forward, we have already started writing our next release.
We are currently on our Absolvere album release tour, swinging through the Midwest to Texas and up the East Coast. We have some awesome opportunities over the next year of touring, including supporting Born of Osiris (October – November 2021) and Fit for an Autopsy (January – February 2022). We are extremely humbled to be a part of these experiences.
How did you all first become cannabis consumers, and how did that intersect with your journey in the metal realm?
DS: In my household, cannabis was a normal thing. Everyone in the family smoked in a similar manner to how a “normal” household would drink. Thanks to that, I was exposed to cannabis at a young age. I didn’t start regularly smoking until I was in my teens, when the cannabis quality drastically changed in my area. When I started, it was always brown flower with seeds and fat stems. Nowadays, you can access medical-grade cannabis in a variety of strains and flavors very easily.
Anyway, at that time, smoking cannabis and listening to music became my sanctuary and therapy. The cannabis helped expand my perspective on music, while healing my soul. With my music taste being on the heavier side, cannabis and deathcore intersected pretty fast. Listening to bands like The Contortionist and Whitechapel, I would immerse myself in my own world. I remember the raw emotion to this day that I felt listening to “Axiom” by the former.
Cannabis is an integral part of my artistic process. It’s not one or the other—high or sober—but a combination that I find works best to produce a nice medley of emotions and vibes. After a (sober) brainstorm session and building a plan-of-action, including a solid conceptual foundation, I take time away from the song to avoid listener fatigue.
I smoke during that time, which allows me to return and revise from a fresh perspective. Sometimes, my high thoughts lead the song in an entirely new direction, and I scrap the original. Of course, there are also the times I write a bunch of stuff high that I look back on when my mind is clear and realize it makes little-to-no sense.
I also find cannabis helps me come up with creative patterns for my vocals, so I’ll smoke and kind of freestyle placements and noises, which I can then pair with words when my mind clears.
All that being said, I use cannabis with lower THC percentages but more CBD when writing. However, in my personal life, be it relaxation or medication, I love higher THC percentages. Maybe I’ll veer to a higher percentage when I make good on my idea to write a song from front-to-back stoned called “Hydro Hysteria.”
BC: Some time in high school, my friends and I started getting together to catch up, smoke and find new albums. As I’ve delved a little deeper into the music industry, I’ve learned that it’s very helpful for me to spark up before we play, as it gets me in the right headspace. My anxiety has only grown over the years, and it helps me clear my mind before a gig.
How are you all involved with the cannabis industry today?
DS: I try to be as involved with the community as possible. Personally, I am a part of some private groups which have started on Facebook, then became real-life communities with events and more. Being a part of these has been invigorating, as it helps push something that has helped me so much through life.
As a band, we support local cannabis businesses we meet touring around the United States. Specifically, we support companies such as Levi Brands, Jive Farms, Rarextracts, Dynamic Harvest and Kovona. Being advocates in the cannabis realm, we try to do our best to contribute in any way we can. Jive Farms is actually the grow operation pictured in the photos in this article. We met them through Greg from Rarextracts, whom we’ve known for years, and for whom Jive provides the cannabis. The cannabis scene and music scene are similarly small, in some ways.
Who are some of your favorite bands today that you’re digging?
DS: I am a HUGE fan of hip-hop lyricist JID. As far as bands, I’ve been jamming a lot of Northlane, Whitechapel, Gojira, Code Orange and The Faceless. However, I definitely am a victim of falling into random playlists to find new music.
BC: I’m really digging Satyr, fallfiftyfeet and Malevolence right now on the metal side. Some of my all-time favorites that some may not expect are Kota the Friend, Chris Botti and, of course, Deftones!
What are some of your favorite strains?
DS: I can go on for a while on this one. Flower-wise, I love White Widow, Purple Durban Poison, GG #4 and Gelato cross strains or Gelonade. When it comes to extracts, I LOVE Moxie, a medical brand available in Pennsylvania. As far as extract strains, I prefer Wedding Cake, Strawberry Cough, White Widow and PDP.
BC: I’m just a flower fan, but my ALL-TIME favorite is easily Sour Diesel.
Why do you feel cannabis and metal go hand in hand?
DS: If anyone’s asking me that question, they clearly haven’t used cannabis and listened to a well-rounded metal album. Feeling the passion that is bled into a record while being elevated by cannabis is a truly immerse experience that I highly recommend to anyone. First-timers should listen to The Contortionist, Gojira, Tesseract, Deftones and/or Loathe.
BC: I listen to metal to relax, and I smoke to relax. It just doesn’t get better than sitting back and diving into your favorite album!
Where would you like to see the band in five to 10 years?
DS: A collective goal of ours is to run the European festival circuit and do a full-on world tour. We’re not there yet, but we have some very promising tours on the horizon, as mentioned above, which should take us a long way to getting there! We have been so lucky to share the stage with many bands over the years. We’ve gone from being fans of bands to peers and even friends. I never thought, growing up listening to Despised Icon, that [vocalist] Alex Erian would be on our album and a friend I chat with regularly. That kind of thing is always humbling, but we are always looking forward to the future.
Where would you like to see cannabis legalization in five to 10 years?
DS: I would love to see it go full [recreational] all around the world. My experiences with cannabis span worldwide from touring in different regions of the globe. It’d be great to be able to easily access it and partake without fear of consequence. It was very difficult to find cannabis in Asia, and the quality wasn’t great when we did. There was also one time in Japan where we got smoked up by fans, but it felt like a movie; we had to go through doors to a random parking lot on a rooftop to partake. It was confusing, but then we looked up the laws for possession in Tokyo and understood the caution.
Europe is less difficult, but perhaps more so than North America. It’s funny that cannabis is still somewhat underground there, whereas CBD can be purchased in vending machines. Obviously North America is a mixed bag, with laws differing by state in the U.S., but all-in-all it’s quite readily accessible.
BC: I am absolutely on the same page as Dave. We’ve been all over the world, and just like music, cannabis is an international language. It similarly brings people together, and it’s really unfortunate that legislation demonizes it and prevents people from experiencing the benefits.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DS: Our new album Absolvere is out now. There are not songs about cannabis on it, though its DNA is embedded in everything we do. If you see us on tour, come smoke with us!