Serve Each Other's Purpose: An Interview with Dana Why and Yawn Mower

by - January 19, 2023

When Biff Swenson and Dana Yurcisin met in high school, they were far from instant friends. Swenson won the girl they were both pining for, and the dislike was palpable. It started to dissipate as they both attended the same college to study film, despite an awkward encounter where Swenson and said girl showed up in Yurcisin’s dorm room.

It took a move to Maine for Yurcisin to finally reach out and ask Swenson to write music with him for a project he would ultimately call Dana Why. The album, The Lyre, began to form in 2016 and went through job loss and a move back to New Jersey before finally getting completed.

“I just had to put music on the back burner for this whole summer of trying to find work and it not happening,” Yurcisin said. “Then I had to move home and I recorded vocals at my parents’ house, but then I’m trying to find a new place to live and make some sort of connection to some sort of community or music scene, so finishing this record was just not at the forefront of my mind. But at the same time I was chipping away at it slowly, bit by bit in the way that we do with a lot of projects.”

Meanwhile, Swenson and fellow New Jersey musician Mike Chick decided that after playing in bands alongside each other for years, they would start the duo Yawn Mower. After several EPs they released their first full-length album, To Each Their Own Coat, in 2022.

The idea of a full-length started during lockdown, where they had an endless amount of time to create whatever they wanted. They also had the luxury of a home studio, which allowed them to hone in on their producing skills.

“We had all these voice memos that started piling up or that we had for years and were kicking around,” Chick said. “We actually had time to work on all this stuff and it was pretty rad to watch all these voice memos take shape into full fledged songs.”

If that wasn’t enough, Swenson and Yurcisin started another project called Grasser, who released their first album in 2021. Swenson plays in another band called Earth Telephone, where Yurcisin plays as a live guitarist. Chick is working on a solo album and also plays in Beach Wolff and BNBC. They produce albums and direct music videos for other artists as well as for their own projects.

The trio have learned throughout the years that one of the most important aspects of finding the right creative partner is the feeling of not wanting to make art with anybody else. A good portion of the creative process involves sitting around, so if being in a room with somebody for that long causes friction, it won’t work.

“Time was a really big part of learning how the person in your band operates under these circumstances,” Chick said.

“Each project has a leader, and we serve each other’s purpose for each project and know what each other’s looking for,” Swenson added. “At this point we’ve not only been doing it long enough but I always pitch that being in a band is a marriage, especially when you’re trying to be as productive as we are.”

Whether the friendship was instantaneous or took a little work, this trio knows how to create art. Not only do they encourage one another, but they are each other’s biggest supporters.

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