Kansas duo Sweeping Promises: “Luxury spaces have been a trick that’s been played on our generation”

The best DIY punk you'll hear this year that's been made in a bathroom, from a band who have something to say about the lie of gentrification on new album Good Living Is Coming For You

If you’ve not got a 24-hour concierge, rooftop terrace, residents’ only gym and an on-site co-working space in your sparkly new-build flat or renovated warehouse building, are you even a 21st-century hybrid-working yo-pro?

This idea of the ‘luxurification’ of the housing market and the relationship between architecture and capitalism were key themes on the minds of formerly Boston-, now Kansas-based duo Sweeping Promises – made up of Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug – when it came to writing their new album, Good Living Is Coming For You. On the album, Mondal and Schnug unfurl the web of capitalism to show that the bright future it once sold – best viewed through cash-tinted glasses – is essentially a lie. Even the album title itself directly hints at this, reading as more of a threat than a notion of prosperity: good living isn’t coming to you – you’re getting it, whether you like it or not.

“To me, luxury spaces have been a trick that’s been played on our generation,” says Schnug. “In 2015, there was this idea in Boston that all of the luxury condominiums that have plastered over the everyday city… that one day, 20–30 years from now, everyone’s going to live in these luxury spaces because it’s this thing we’re building for everyone. And, in my mind, that’s where the Good Living Is Coming For You thing comes from – it’s like no, they’re not.”

For Mondal and Schnug, this focus on their surroundings seeps into their songwriting process as Sweeping Promises, too. Rather than splashing out on expensive, purpose-built recording studios, they seek out unique, often disused spaces where they can explore different sonic palettes and possibilities for each record. “I’ve always had a strong conviction that the kind of current, digital regimes of recording decontextualise space, and the idea of site-specificity is really lessened in our era of recorded music; it’s really important to us,” says Schnug. “[With Sweeping Promises] the space comes before the songs.”

Their debut album, Hunger For A Way Out, was recorded in a disused laboratory in Boston, which Schnug acquired through a hard-fought, five-year-long campaign. And the path to finding a space to record their latest album was almost as lengthy, taking them across three states and various venues – from a bathroom in Schnug’s parents’ house in Austin to a disused church in Ohio to their new home studio in Kansas.

“Our new space is unwieldy and super reverberant, like our laboratory, and definitely impacts how we write,” says Schnug. And Mondal agrees: “The fact that we’re able to come and go at will and we don’t have to set anything up or tear anything down is huge. I feel like that also facilitates quicker, more intuitive songwriting.”

This idea of playing fast and hard runs right through Good Living Is Coming For You, and the record is oozing with a strong sense of groove. On the album’s central trio of tracks (‘Walk in Place’, ‘You Shatter’ and ‘Petit Four’) Mondal’s vocals are almost galloping over boisterous drum patterns and guitar riffs, channeling the energy of late-’70s punk and ’90s riot grrrl with a modern edge. “In the midst of all the tumult of our personal lives, music was the thing that was keeping the whole thing afloat,” says Mondal. “We were just writing all this music and it felt really automatic and intuitive, so I feel like that comes through.”

There’s an unstoppable nature to the duo’s playing that carries over into their personal lives, where they’re constantly juggling multiple music projects along with their day jobs. Even Sweeping Promises came about during a time when they had three other projects on the go. “We’ll never stop,” laughs Schnug.

“As we grow older, and as our practice grows, we uncover new ways of engaging with one another musically that is pretty thrilling,” says Mondal. “Witnessing some genius tactic that Caufield does – whether it’s a production trick or a new way of writing a guitar part that just sounds breathtaking and beautiful – or figuring out that I can do something I haven’t done before, vocally or otherwise, that’s just exciting for us. We want to keep doing this as much as possible for as long as possible,” says Mondal. Schnug adds with a smile: “It’s a glorious collaboration.”

Photography by Shawn Brackbill