We’re sad to report that indie rock lost one of its most talented, criminally underrated troubadours. Singer-songwriter Richard Swift passed away today after being hospitalized for an undisclosed “life threatening” condition that caused him to be hospitalized last month in Tacoma, Washington. He was 41. While most of the world mourns the death of a man known for his stints as the bassist for The Black Keys and former member of The Shins and The Arcs, OC fans who knew him during his time in our backyard as one of our most industrious and poetic balladeers, a solo artist who gave light to the dark corners of bars like La Cave, Detroit Bar, and college venues like Cal State Fullerton’s TSU Underground, where he performed songs from his early solo material.
As a producer at The Green Room recording studio in Huntington Beach (RIP), his stylized sonic touch helped birth records from local and nationally touring artists, including his own. It was there that he self-produced Walking Without Effort and The Novelist. He signed to Secretly Canadian and re-released the projects as The Richard Swift Collection Vol. 1 in 2005. Swift’s last solo full-length under his own name was 2009’s The Atlantic Ocean. In 2016, he released a collaborative covers album with Damien Jurado. We had the pleasure of reviewing his local shows and releases over the early 2000s, including one of his last EPs, Walt Wolfman, after he’d long skipped town in 2011 to bring his talents to the music world at large.
His particular brand of gut-wrenching poetry and tender pop sensibilities made an impression on Weekly scribe Ned Raggett who reviewed Walt Wolfman. “Swift’s love for the kind of smoky-atmosphered lounge-frug exercises that many remember from his stints at La Cave and elsewhere remains strong, as songs like “MG 333,” his overdubbed and overlapping vocals in good call-and-response mode, not to mention swathes of echo, over a quick-paced hipshaking arrangement, show,” he wrote.
A note posted on Swift’s Facebook page today reads:
And all the angels sing
“Que Sera Sera”
Richard Ochoa Swift
March 16, 1977 – July 3, 2018
Prior to his death, friends set up a GoFundMe page in his name to collect donations that were meant to help with his mounting medical bills. Despite being hospitalized and without insurance, Swifts friends, family and fans sprang into action, donating nearly $89,000 of $200,000 goal. Unfortunately Swift passed far too soon.