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The Kids Are Alright: souwa cweam

Charlottesville band “souwa cweam” prepares for their performance at the Jefferson Theater Oct. 27

The community surrounding live music in Charlottesville has enabled “souwa cweam” to truly thrive as a band.
The community surrounding live music in Charlottesville has enabled “souwa cweam” to truly thrive as a band.

A couple of hours before an evening show at The Southern Cafe and Music Hall, Charlottesville-based band souwa cweam sat down with The Cavalier Daily to discuss their style of playing, their experience making original songs and their exciting upcoming gig at the Jefferson Theater. 

Elie Bashkow, lead guitarist, singer and fourth-year College student, described the band’s inception as happening organically — the bandmates already knew each other peripherally well before their first gig.

“Somehow it just kind of came about that we had a show in fall 2021,” Bashkow said. “I had a show booked at Coupes and I called all the best people I knew.”

As they were setting up to play the gig, they realized they did not have a stage name. Luckily, Bashkow had a name ready in his notes app, and thus the impromptu band was christened with the rather odd yet intriguing name “souwa cweam.”

Now an established Charlottesville band, souwa cweam is excited to expand on the improvisational aspect established at their first performance. Aided by the in-depth jazz background of Ellis Nolan, bassist and fourth-year College student, as well as an eagerness to experiment with different styles of performing music, souwa cweam often create gaps in classic party songs — such as Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People — and use them to flaunt their improvisation skills. 

Drummer Zachary Bowen and lead singer and rhythm guitarist Nahlij Corbin, both Charlottesville-based independent musicians, relish this “jam” aspect of their band. Bashkow feels the same, emphasizing the happiness he feels when the band finds its groove during a live performance.

“When it’s going well and things are landing, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Bashkow said. “It’s so fun, and I think people really resonate with that. When someone’s having fun in front of you in that way, you have fun too. It’s a shared experience.”

As a band, souwa cweam finds inspiration in the rock band Phish, who is known for their extended jams and improvisations. In terms of individual inspiration, Corbin reveres Jeff Buckley for his lyricism and his presence on stage. 

“Jeff Buckley is a big influence for me when it comes to songwriting, composing and bringing out emotion sonically,” Corbin said. “He was just a force to be reckoned with. His discography and history really resonated with me.”

Although live performances make up the largest portion of the band’s projects, they have also recently started to make their mark in the world of recorded music. Indeed, the members of souwa cweam recently recorded two of Corbin’s original songs — “Hard To Say,” which will be released Nov. 4, and “I’m Just Trying to Please You,” which will follow close behind. 

Taking an unconventional approach, as usual, the band played both songs live in the studio, rather than recording the instruments individually, a typical practice for most recording sessions. 

The songwriting process, on the other hand, was a much more individual effort — Corbin wrote “Hard to Say” during lockdown in 2020 while in New Hampshire with some friends. Finding inspiration in the isolation and the quiet, the song just “fell out” of him. 

“I was alone on a porch really late at night and I just had the acoustic [guitar] and I just wrote it all down there that night,” Corbin said. “I came up with all the progressions and stuff. It was pretty magical.”

Bashkow and Corbin are the main original songwriters of the band, though Nolan and Bowen aid in fleshing out the songs for live performances. Bowen in particular enjoys rising to the challenge when adding the drum components to the songs.

“It’s really fun,” Bowen said. “It’s like I get a puzzle and there’s 16 out of 50 pieces missing and I get to draw my own shapes to fit the puzzle essentially.”

The community surrounding live music in Charlottesville has enabled souwa cweam to truly thrive as a band. During their performances, they often gain energy from the crowd. When asked for a recounting of their favorite gig, the band members struggled to answer — a testament to their consistent genuine enjoyment of their live shows. 

“Sometimes the things that make the shows super fun are not the things that you would expect,” Bashkow said. “Who knows why that particular one felt so good —  the vibes were just good.”

These days, the members of “souwa cweam” are gearing up for their big show at the Jefferson Theater Thursday. They will be joining “Badfish,” a “Sublime” tribute band and the “Ries Brothers,” a rock and roll duo. More information about this performance, and about the band itself, can be found on their Instagram.

Live performances are a specialty of this talented quartet, and this columnist heartily encourages any nonbelievers to investigate that claim for themselves.


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