Richard Swift was a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (best known as a guitarist) producer, and owner of National Freedom Studio, who was largely considered a musician’s musician as he quietly built up an acclaimed career as a member of The Shins, The Black Keys and The Arcs; Swift also developed a reputation as a go-to collaborator and producer, who worked with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, The Pretenders, Kevin Morby, Sharon Van Etten, Valerie June, Damien Jurado, David Bazan, Foxygen, Jessie Baylin, Lonnie Holley, The Mynabirds, Wake Owl, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, Gardens & Villa, Cayucas, Guster, Lucius and others. He was also a solo artist, who had released seven full-length albums through Secretly Canadian Records during his life — with his posthumously released eighth album The Hex being released earlier this year.
Back in June, Pitchfork reported that Swift had been hospitalized in Tacoma, WA, recovering from a then-undisclosed life threatening condition and that a GoFundMe had been set up to help cover his medical expenses. Sadly, this isn’t surprising as musicians work as independent contractors, who have to pay the bills you need to get by, pay for studio time, and pay for medical expenses and insurance out of pocket. If you’re a struggling working musician, you make the bulk of your living from touring or from being a session musician — and if you’re too sick to tour or get to the studio, it makes things increasingly difficult. A few weeks later, Swift died and about a week after his death, his family released a statement confirming that he had suffered from alcohol addition throughout his life, and that his death was ultimately caused by complications from hepatitis, as well as liver and kidney distress.
Understandably for those within the larger music community, who worked with him, Swift’s death was devastating. As Luicus’ Jess Wolfe recalls in press notes, “We were on tour in Europe when we lost Richard. We didn’t get to say goodbye face to face. We didn’t get to go to the memorial service. I didn’t get a chance to hear his voice. I only talked to him while he slept, hoping somehow, in his dreams, he was hearing us. We sang to him. We sang to him and it was the worst and best gift we’d ever received. Somehow, pouring out something for someone who has done so much for your musical life, is the only way to cope. This loss really messed us up, as I know it did all of us in the musical community, and we felt the need, the urgency, to make sure to do something about that.”
What initially started off as a small way that the members of the acclaimed Los Angeles-based act Lucius could personally and actively bring awareness to the impact of drug and alcohol addiction within the music community has grown into a much larger concept that they’ve dubbed THE FUG YEP SOUNDATION. Derived from a phrase that Swift coined, the idea is a 7″ record series with each release featuring 2 songs by many of Swift’s closest friends and collaborators. All artist proceeds and profits from the 7″ record series will give financial aid to the Swift family, as well as MusiCares, the charitable wing of the Recording Academy, who had Swift with many of his medical bills — and Music Support UK, who do similar work for British musicians.
“Richard would have probably hated this attention,” Wolfe continued. “But we all wanted to do more for him, we all wanted to be a part of a better way, to be helpful. I think we can all agree, the best way we can do this moving forward is awareness. What a gift that we’re able to offer what we love in honor of those we love. What better way to feature his art, and his imprint on all of us, then to share it with you.” Pure Bathing Culture’s Sarah Versprille adds “Each over features Swift’s original artwork. He was a prolific and persistent visual artist. He made work all the time and his studio was just as much a place for creating visual art as it was for making music. Shealynn (Richard’s wife) has helped us curate a collection of his pieces for each cover of this series that provide a window into this side of his genius, humor and creativity.”
The first release of the series is slated for a December 7, 2018 release through Mom + Pop Music and will feature two singles written and recorded by Lucius at Swift’s National Freedom Studios last April — the A-side “Christmas Time Is Here” and the B-side “Keep Me Hanging On.” The A-side single is a atmospheric rendition of “Christmas Time Is Here” that sounds as though it could have been released sometime between 1956 – 1965 as it pairs a lush arrangement of shimmering keys, reverb-heavy guitars and gently padded drumming paired with Wolfe and Laessig’s stunningly gorgeous harmonizing. While being a holiday staple, the Lucius version possess a weary heartache — the sort that comes with the passing of time and the gnawing reminders that loved ones aren’t around to celebrate another holiday, and the passing of another year.