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Zwaanendael: Harnessing Hard Times.

July 16, 2013

ZwaanendaelSmall03Text by Brian Wilensky. Images by Michael Bucher.

FDR Skatepark, underneath the overpass of I-95 in South Philly, isn’t just the stomping ground for a slew of punks and skateboarders. It’s the incubator of a scene, built on a cornerstone of do-it-yourself ethics. It’s one that fostered the rootsy punk band, Zwaanendael.

Zwaanendael, which means “Swan Valley” in Dutch, is inspired by the home state of the band’s intrepid front man Josh Marcinizyn. The Dutch established the colony of Zwaanendael in what is now the present day city of Lewes.

Marcinizyn played guitar in South Philly’s hardcore thrashers The Trowels, who disbanded  during the summer of 2011. Drummer Adam Moffitt also played in The Trowels. Zwaanendael started to take flight when the pair started jamming on some songs Marcinizyn wrote that wouldn’t fit in as Trowels tunes.

“I got tired of the mindset of making music and not really doing anything with it,” Marcinizyn says. “It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying playing with those guys. I just needed to do something new.”

Following that summer, Zwaanendael recorded their first album and paid for its pressing to white vinyl out of pocket. Soon after finishing the record, Marcinizyn booked a one way ticket to Europe in an effort to get away from some of the anxieties he felt about living in the city.

However, he harnessed the hard times, turning them into song.

Blood on the Stairs” is about a time Marcinizyn returned to his home on Sigel Street and found the block closed off by police because there had been a shooting.

“Some guy literally spurted blood all over our stairs,” Marcinizyn says.

After a few months abroad, he returned to the U.S., moving to Austin to live with former Trowels guitarist Anthony Sardella.

“We got jobs making skate ramps all over the country,” Marcinizyn says. “Over a couple months, we built a park in San Francisco, a ramp for the U.S. Open of Surfing/Coastal Carnage Festival in Huntington Beach, California and Orion Fest in Atlantic City.”

Marcinizyn, who is a carpenter by trade, credits his passion for building skate ramps for getting him into the business. He helped create some of the concrete ramps at FDR Skatepark and assisted in writing, interviewing and taking photos for the book, FDR Skatepark: A Visual History (Schiffer), which chronicles the park’s collaborative, DIY construction and history.

“I’ve been skating FDR since 2000,” he says. “Building ramps there is mostly about picking up where those before us built stuff and giving a part back to the scene.”

Zwaanendael’s first record ties into this passion, paying homage to the extreme sport. The hard-hitting, largely instrumental call to arms, “149,” is a reference to the size of the skateboard trucks Marcinizyn and his friends use. The transient “Under a Bridge” is all about hanging at FDR with his friends. In the song, a catchy harmonica melody gives an air of returning home after a long trip, which is something Marcinizyn is quite familiar with.

Mixing for the new Zwaanendael record is in the works now. The band is expecting to release it this summer. Aaron Hindorff has been filling in on bass (Sardella played bass on the first Zwaanendael record).

The record is still rooted in punk but it leans a bit towards Americana and sounds even a little bit surf-heavy at times.

“This record’s cool because it’s different from the first,” says Moffitt. “There was some dark stuff on the first record but this one shows some growth. Maybe ‘growth’ isn’t even the right word. But on this one, it’s like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s more about finding your way.”

Zwaanendael songs come from many different places. Whether they’re written from good times, bad or from other countries abroad, Marcinizyn’s experiences are there in the tracks.

“You don’t let it get you down,” he says. “You keep going through with it. It’s there to write with.”

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