Moonshine Sway: Hard at Work, Hard at Play

by Tom Durkin

With Moonshine Sway, there are no frills and no cheap gimmicks. This straightforward, hard-playing band draws upon elements of rock’n roll, the blues, and old-time country music in developing their own style — a style that reflects the gritty underbelly of a working-class city like Milwaukee. Moonshine Sway alternately explores the darkness of unmet expectations along with the flicker of hope for those who continue to press forward. Lead singer and guitarist Thomas James Vollman reaches deep inside his soul in lyrics that confront the realization that the life people hope for often exists just outside their grasp. Vollman points out that living in Milwaukee has a direct impact on Moonshine Sway’s music. “There’s a divisive punk undertone to Milwaukee, which…gives the scene a blue collar rock’n roll feel…The city definitely has an influence on our music.” Those familiar with the scene will sense the influence of pioneering acts such as Doug Sahm and Uncle Tupelo. However, Moonshine Sway is not content to simply exist under such a label. “Milwaukee’s (music) scene,” says Vollman, “is steeped in tradition — a tradition of exploration bent on the crossing of genre ‘boundaries.'” Vollman’s voice, which sounds as if it were soaked in whiskey after a long day on the job, is complemented by Chris Dorch’s deft guitar play and backing vocals. Bob Berry’s bass serves as the perfect accompaniment to the guitar work of Dorch and Vollman. In addition, Scot Snarski’s intense and energetic drum play explodes on the stage providing the driving force behind the band. In just seven short months since Moonshine Sway’s inception, this Milwaukee-based band has already managed to develop a loyal following among Chicago’s indie music crowd by playing such venues as Coyle’s Tippling House, the Note, and the Underground Lounge. While Moonshine Sway enjoys the proximity and breadth of the Chicago music scene, they are intent upon proving themselves in Milwaukee as well. The band has already achieved some local radio play with “Chelsea,” the first song off their self-titled EP. While this EP is not available in stores, CDs are readily available at live performances. Moonshine Sway has a particular interest in Riverwest. Their first live performance was in early February at Quarter’s. Since then, Moonshine Sway has performed at Shank Hall and the Globe as well as Riverwest venues such as Linneman’s, Mad Planet, and the Riverwest Commons. When asked what draws Moonshine Sway to Riverwest, Vollman responded, “Riverwest is a great area. It’s a thriving collective of folks who appreciate creativity, and enjoy the process of (artistic) growth…The community atmosphere is solid — there’s a true sense of involvement and belonging, which contributes to a great vibe, particularly in regard to live music.” Moonshine Sway performs at Quarter’s at 10 pm on August 2, at Conway’s at 10 pm on August 22, and at the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Block Party (Downer Ave.) at 12 pm on August 29. For more info about Moonshine Sway, visit Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 8 – August 2003