Akron indie-pop group eager to make new name for itself with more mature EP


Submitted photo.

Mark Oprea

Sway, meaning “to dance” or “to rule” is what seems to best define the Akron five-piece formerly known as The Ranks. It’s also something the band’s bass player can be seen doing mid-set, when he’s rarely on two feet.

“I get separation anxiety from the floor, and I need to be near it all times,” Reid Klein said

Donning the new, colorful name of Sway Cherry Sway, the upcoming indie pop group is ready to shed the sophomore sounds of its past moniker, and highlights this in its first EP, “Just Because.” Known throughout Akron’s college-aged music scene, Sway Cherry Sway is at the cusp of a new phase, kickstarted by recent appearances at Akron’s Musica and the Kent Stage. Klein, who’s been with the band since the very beginning, said the band’s first set of recordings will mark an evolution into something more well-developed.

“It’s more of a maturity thing,” he said. “Because when we got together, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We might as well been just banging our instruments on the ground.”

Formed by Klein and guitarist Jeff Stayer in early 2012, The Ranks were a high-school experiment, modeled off of alt-rock spirit and indie guitar buzz, nothing too serious at first. When Meagan Horrigan, singer and ukulelist, came around and caught the attention of the group’s main duo, things really took off. She owes it to a collective interest the group had in grunge music.

“It’s all thanks to Kurt Cobain,” Horrigan said.

Horrigan said although the Nirvana frontman is what instigated the first full-on Ranks jam session, she said the group’s cornucopia of influences and styles are what compose its indie pop sound. Horrigan brought the Ingrid Michaelson uke flair and drummer Dan Gardner pitched in hip-hop. Soon enough, The Ranks found a staccato, violin rhythm with Kent State student Ashley Dixon. A small Ranks EP followed in 2013, along with gigs dotted around the city, including the now-defunct Blueberry House, a staple of DIY house shows.

This year, Horrigan and the rest of the group were ready to grow up. They began to get comfortable with themselves as musicians, ready to scrap the high-school garage-band vibe for something more musically honest. Horrigan and Klein began writing extensively, and after a year of working on songs, they’re ready to record what Klein loves to call a great “transformation.”

And transform, Sway did.

In September, they worked the Ohio’s Got Talent crowd at the Kent Stage, and played Musica alongside Nick Wilkinson and From Borealis, shortly after. Just the notion of selling 90 tickets — not bad for a college band — for a local gig, Klein said, calmed his nerves for what was Sway Cherry Sway’s official introduction to old and new fans alike.

“We were fearing people saying, ‘Sway Cherry Sway is no good, man’. But everyone responded really well,” he said. “That’s when we knew that this is the path we have to take.”

The Ranks, therefore, would be allocated to the past.

As far as the name goes, Klein said that although its origin story isn’t much more than a one-liner, it’s etymological roots take some grounding in the past. As when Klein’s grandmother was in the hospital a year ago, Ranks songs on his acoustic kept her company before she passed away. It was the Ranks tune “Sway” that was the song she parted with.

Still, the twofold meaning of the word, Klein said, isn’t evident in the group’s wavering disposition.

“I guess rhythm and taking over the world is just what we do,” Klein said.

Working 23 hours on each part of every song, with practice sessions before studio time, the indie rock five-piece is readily entertaining hard work. With producer Alex Owens, the bassist for From Borealis, Horrigan said, the band has full creativity to let their new personalities shine, without being told what works, what doesn’t. They’re even planning to shoot a music video for the title track, featuring a cameo appearance by their friend and Internet celeb “Bad Luck Brian,” who happens to be a fan of the group.

After “Just Because” is finished, Horrigan said that she’s eager to continue the upward climb of Sway Cherry Sway, and to write music that extends their unique Akron-centered sound. She said that Tom Simpson, primary booker at the Kent Stage, even approached the group to play the venue in the future. She’s also piqued by the idea of rekindling Kent’s dwindling house show scene.

Two years after the first high-school collaboration, Klein feels placated by the sound of the past. He recalls a recent Musica show, watching a group of sixteen-year-olds wailing on their instruments, prancing around on stage carelessly. He couldn’t help but see himself.

“They’re just trying to find themselves,” he said, “just like we had to.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected]