Rig Rundown: Dance Gavin Dance's Will Swan

The sonic scientist animates his fretboard somersaults with drawers of stomps that contort his Kiesels into everything but traditional-sounding guitars.

Will Swan has celebrated and elevated radical guitar music through the course of nine frenetic, volatile Dance Gavin Dance albums, a pair of releases with his psychedelic post-hardcore side project Sianvar, and the creation of his Blue Swan Records label. The common thread is his hue of beautiful dysfunction and his ethos of pushing the instrument (and its sounds) forward.

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Renaissance musician Will Swan is the founder and co-guitarist in Sianvar, as well as the leader of a second chart-climbing band, Dance Gavin Dance, and operates the Blue Swan record label.
Photo by Michael-Rex Carbonell

A driven, eclectic indie guitar player and his post-hardcore pals shatter expectations and the charts with their debut album Stay Lost. His trusty Shawbucker-rigged Les Paul, a stock Strat, and a secret-weapon Orange Rockerverb 100 come along for the ride.

In the world of post-hardcore music, there are few musicians as busy or as prolific as Will Swan. At any time he can be found recording or touring with one of the many bands he’s founded, or running his label, Blue Swan Records. But right now, while continuing to pursue his highly original guitar style, he’s wrapped up in Stay Lost, the latest release from his post-hardcore supergroup Sianvar.

Spastic yet melodic, and ambient yet aggressive, Swan’s songwriting and guitar approach is an amalgam of his extensive influences. He recalls his first musical loves being “funk and weird shit like my dad listens to, like George Clinton.” That quickly gave way to the radio rock of his formative years, and continued on to the intense-yet-melodic post-hardcore sound that he entrenches himself in today. Swan has been successfully employing those influences since the formation of his band Dance Gavin Dance in 2005. While DGD continues to be Swan’s main focus—the band’s latest album, Mothership, debuted at No. 13 on Billboard’s top albums chart in October—it’s Sianvar’s Stay Lost that’s currently creating waves throughout the scene and landed on six of Billboard’s charts.

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