Swag's founding sounds like an especially good riddle: What do you get when you cross members of the Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Wilco, and Sixpence None the Richer? The answer — and the band — originally came together back in 1996 as a casual side project of Sixpence keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and Mavericks guitarist Robert Reynolds. Before long, the two young Dr. Frankensteins were joined by fellow power-pop scientists Ken Coomer (Wilco's drummer), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick's bassist), guitarist Doug Powell, and producer Brad Jones. Eventually Swag broke free of its back-burner status and began rampaging through its Nashville hometown.
Or maybe not rampaging, exactly. Due to the members' successful careers elsewhere, Swag gigs have been a rare occurrence. The group's we'll-get-to-it-when-we-get-to-it attitude toward touring is an outgrowth of its members' free-flowing spirit. On the group's debut, Catch-all, the Swag lineup fluctuates constantly, with every player (except Petersson) singing lead on at least one song. The smorgasbord of honeyed voices allows Swag to emulate a range of '60s and '70s idols — stretching from Eric Burdon's garage rock (“Please Don't Tell”) to Paul McCartney's breezy balladry (“Near Perfect Smile”) to the new wave stomp of Elvis Costello (“Eight”).
Despite the copious vocal references to yesteryear's pop masters, though, the Swaggers aren't karaoke hacks. McFadden and company adorn their beast with plenty of customized touches, crafting time-traveling songs that supersede their retro roots. On Catch-all Swag shows it's one supergroup that walks the line between inspired tribute and slavish imitation with casual aplomb.