On March 23, the Austin-based hard rock band the Sword released its sixth full-length, Used Future. The effort sees the group further augment its signature brand of crushing rock with a heavier synth and electronic presence. Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III, the Sword’s drummer since 2011, slams throughout with Bonham-infused patterns, a few funk surprises, and massive fills that amplify the record’s guitar-driven riffs.
Before hitting veteran alternative producer Tucker Martine’s studio in Portland, Oregon, to record Used Future, the group worked on the songs remotely. “We stash our individual ideas into a collective Dropbox,” Vela explains. “When someone gets inspired, they can record a quick demo and let the others hear it, add to it, or get inspired by it. When we rehearse we already know what we want to jam on. I’d record simple drum breaks and upload them for the guys to get inspired. I call it ‘riff ammo.’ We’d allow the ideas to marinate and let each other add more flavor to them.”
While Vela points out that incorporating synths and electronic tones has been a part of the Sword’s sound since 2010’s Warp Riders, he says that their increased use on Used Future opened doors for the band. “I’m a huge fan of all kinds of electronic music and synth-based arpeggiated patterns,” he explains. “It’s a fun type of music to explore and play. I also love layering textural synth ambience to create a colorful palette. I’m glad that we’re able to explore some of these territories and create what I feel is a sound all our own.”
At the 2:00 mark in “Don’t Get Too Comfortable,” Vela lays down a slick funk pattern in the drum break that leads into the bridge. “That groove is a little nod to Clyde Stubblefield, Zigaboo Modeliste, and all the funky drummers of the world,” he says. “We wrote the majority of ‘Don’t Get Too Comfortable’ in the studio. In the middle of the song, it was thrown out there to have some sort of breakbeat cut into the bridge. I jumped at the opportunity to play a break inspired by Zig.”
Vela also slays a unique 6/4 shuffle reminiscent of Bernard Purdie or John Bonham in “Intermezzo.” “That track started with the 6/4 shuffle,” he explains, “which was then cut to create a loop for a mildly hypnotic feel. Bryan [Richie, bass and synths] came up with the music, which originally sounded more like a synth experiment. But Tucker loved it and asked if we’d be willing to revisit it. All the extra instrumentation the band added turned it into something we feel we’d not yet artistically expressed before, and we felt it had to be on the album. It ended up creating a nice interlude, hence the title.”
Vela plays a mahogany Q Drum Co. kit with a 7×14 aluminum or brass snare, and he uses Vater sticks.
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