Randy Michael (left) and Jonah Swilley (right)
InCrowd is the sensational new Atlanta, Georgia record label invoked from masterminds Randy Michael and Jonah Swilley. Michael and Swilley met in 2014 while playing for Curtis Harding and soon after started the rock ‘ roll group Black Linen. InCrowd was established in June of 2015 and in a short time began to boast an impressive array of artists such as Matteil Brown and Ivory Williams—the latter of who just released her new Don’t Have To Worry single. To Find out more about this new and up and coming record label Michael and Swilley agreed to divulge their diabolical ambitions.
NixBeat: For the soon to be initiated, can you give me some background on Randy Michaels and Jonah Swilley’s musical history?
Swilley: Randy has played guitar and written for loads of acclaimed artists and bands. Jonah has been producing and performing music for the better part of his life. He’s licensed music works for companies and commercials. Jonah plays drums for Curtis Harding, is in the Gartrells, and Black Linen.
Michael: I started playing guitar in April of 1996 after seeing the movie “La Bamba.” From there I learned every bit of 50’s and 60’s music I could get my hands on. When I was 16, I joined Public Enemy for the Revolverlution album, where I played bass and toured with them that summer before returning to high school. Two years later, on the very day that I was kicked out of school I landed the job that changed my life. I got call from a friend who said Butch Walker needed a bass player and from then on I was working, touring musician. I spent 5 years with Butch. While with him, I started The Booze with Brian Roberts and Shane Human. I would work on the road with Butch, come home and make Booze records.
I left Butch in 2009 for London and the band of my dreams Joe Lean and The Jing Jong. Spent a year with them, then back to states to join Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars for the “Billionaire” tour. From there I went on to write songs with Curtis Harding, Tuk Smith of the Biters, who I’d made some records with for his bands Posion Arrows and Heart Attacks. In 2013 I moved to LA to play guitar in The Living Things and Pyyramids. I also played drums in a few David Bowie music videos.
I moved back to Atlanta in 2014 and met Jonah Swilley while we were both doing sxsw with Curtis Harding. I told him about my Black Linen idea and he played me a few songs. We were instant friends, just add water and stir.
NixBeat: How did Michael and Swilley come to work together and what prompted the launching of the InCrowd record label?
Michael: The InCrowd came together whilst we were on tour with Curtis. We were ending the Jack White tour and trying to figure out our next move, when Mattiel emailed me. I knew Mattiel, because she designed The Sharp Dressed Lads EP sleeve. She said something like, “I heard you have a studio, can I come by and sing.” She came over in the middle of the night and sang a Donavan song. I called Jonah up and we wrote “Send it on over” on a Hammond organ in the dark with one red light. That was it, we’ve been working everyday ever since.
NixBeat: What kind of sound are you hoping to get out of InCrowd and why?
Michael: Well, the sound is particularly up to the artist. I have a musical mental notebook of everything from Duke Ellington to the Gin Blossoms. So we can record any artist in that spectrum. We just want to make great records, great players, great lyricist and great songs. No edits, just humans conveying real emotions.
Does InCrowd have any crossover with Michael and Swilley’s group, Black Linen?
Swilley: Black Linen is under InCrowd Songs. Black Linen is like a proof of concept for InCrowd.
NixBeat: How did InCrowd come across Ivory Williams and Mattiel Brown?
Swilley: Mattiel approached Randy in 2014 to record her singing. The second time they connected, Randy called me to sit in on the session and we wrote her first single, “Send It On Over”. We’ve just recently connected with Ivory. We saw her performing locally and inquired about writing some music with her. Our working relationship has been about a month, but we’ve almost finished up recording her project.
Michael: We met Ivory at a day gig. We were going to see our mate and InCrowd guitarist Sean Thompson, and she was on stage playing guitar and singing. We told her what we did and if she’d be interested in writing songs or making a record with us. That was a month ago. Now we see her everyday. She’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever known. She writes these early 60’s Carole King type songs. Blows me away every tune.
NixBeat: The Top of The Pop’s styled music program Now Dig This was revived with Mattiel being featured on the first episode on May 28 2016. How is InCrowd involved with the revival of Now Dig This?
Michael: I created “Now Dig This” while still in London. My visa was going to run out and I would have to return to the states. So my last two weeks there, I was on the phone with Tuk Smith about doing this show. I knew he could get folks organized and excited about it, that way all I had to do was land and get with him and we were solid. We did one episode with some great bands!
We brought it back as an InCrowd video showcase. Mattiel debut it, we’re gonna make one with Ivory in a few weeks and keep them going. It’s now an extension of what we do in the studio. All live, and under 3 hours. We’re gonna start doing proper jazz records as well.
NixBeat: What other artists have you worked with or are looking to get involved with?
Michael: We’ve worked with Julia Kugel of the Coathangers, Gartrells and James The Voice Fly. I really want to make records with Leon Bridges, Lana Del Ray and Bloodshot Bill. Fingers crossed.
Swilley: We’ve worked with The Gartrells, James the Voice Fly, The Dayze, Ruby Woo, Chelsea Shagg, and a few other local artists in Atlanta.
NixBeat: In a previous conversation, Michael’s mentioned that the Swilley and him write and produce out of Michael’s living room? What is that process like and who else is involved?
Michael: The Michael and Swilley recording process: Say we’re producing a song for Ivory Williams. She usually comes in on a Tuesday with the song written. I’ll play piano while she’s singing to get the arrangement. Come Wednesday I call up the InCrowd to see who’s available to come down for the session. Depending on who’s free – then that’s the instrumentation. Jonah and I arrange a lead sheet on the wall, the guys come in fill in the skeleton, we rehearse a few times and roll tape. We usually do 3 takes never more than 4. By the 4th take you’ve lost it. We try to document the process with our InCrowd videos. Everything is done under 3 hours. No fixing, everything’s being mixed while they record. A big commitment.
Swilley: Either Randy or I will come up with a scratch idea that we build off of before running a session. Sometimes it will be a full song that one of us brings into a session, other times it will be a chorus and verse idea that turns into a full record.
NixBeat: InCrowd is planning on releasing a series of singles soon. What’s going on there?
Michael: We’ve been trying to find distribution for ages. It’s very difficult. Folks don’t understand what’s going on here. Most of them think that these are side projects for Jonah and myself. But we’re directing little records for talented artist. By next year we’ll have our own lathe machine, to cut our own records.
Swilley: We have a cut songs with several different artists and entities that all fit with the overall vibe (for lack of a better term) of what InCrowd is to us. With those, we want to have releases that showcase what we can do and what we think is cool.
NixBeat: Do you have a favorite recording that you’ve worked on?
Michael: My favorite recording so far is a song called “My Sweet Companion” because we actually had a string section. I grew up on The Drifters and (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller records, and anything they did with the Drifters had a lush string sound. I’m very proud of that record.
Swilley: Recording the first few Mattiel records we cut we’re fun for me specifically because they were done so raw. We would do 90% of the songs live and then lay select ideas after the fact. Mattiel would sing as Randy and I would play in the same room.
NixBeat: What qualities does InCrowd look for before getting involved with an artist?
Michael: Talent and Passion. Hopefully work ethic also falls under passion.
Swilley: An open mind, not being afraid of making mistakes, and being open to creating something cool.
NixBeat: What’s next for InCrowd?
Michael: What’s next ? We’re going to start doing InCrowd revues. Like the old Motown and Stax revues. The next one is November 11th at Towne Cinema Theatre.
NixBeat: Where would you like to see InCrowd in 10 years?
Michael: In 10 years, we will have pressed and released a massive catalog of music, like Blue Note. And if we can get featured in a few Tarantino films – that’s the icing on the cake. I’m already proud of the catalog thus far, I know I’ll be even more so in 10 years.
For more on InCrowd, check out their Facebook and Website!!