Canadian rappers Swollen Members turn over a new leaf on new album

Courtesy of Swollen Members

Life is a beautiful struggle,” begins the title-track of Swollen Members new album Brand New Day, which the hip-hop trio will be promoting at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday, May, 22. The lyric foreshadows an album embracing triumph over dark times.

Over the past 15 years, the Vancouver-based group has garnered widespread praise in the underground rap scene and experienced some mainstream success, even winning four Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy.

However, it hasn’t all been butterflies and rainbows. In fact, Swollen Members’ rapper Madchild’s “rainbows are black,” or at least they were, as he proclaims in the 2011 track “Night Vision,” which recounts his struggles with addiction, a challenge for his bandmate Prevail (Kiley Hendriks) and producer Rob the Viking (Daniel Dentin) as well.

In addition to Madchild’s drug problems, Swollen Members faced difficulty more recently when he was indefinitely denied entrance to the U.S. in 2010 due to his alleged affiliation with the Hell’s Angels. It was 2013 before he was was granted permission to enter the country again, and the group hit the the ground running, having had time to battle some demons in the meantime. Madchild’s highly publicized drug problems and legal issues plagued their well-being, but never stopped the music.

“We survived the deluge,” rapper Prevail tells BW. “I think the trials and tribulations that we went through would have broken a lot of groups, but for us, it made us stronger. I am thankful to say it’s been a number of years Mad’s been completely, dead-arrow sober now.”

Recently, things have been looking a lot brighter for the group. And all of that is summed up in the new album, Brand New Day, which is set to drop June 17.

“There are some flashes of light on this new album,” Prevail says, “and that’s been a breath of fresh air for us.”

However Prevail assures that their 11th studio production does not stray from their aggressive signature style.

“We’re still a very aggressive rap group, very aggressive lyricists, always with the abstract poetry,” he says. “We have really realized the value of each others’ brotherhood and friendship and creative quality and found that not only is it worth it, but we can make better music than we ever have before.”

Swollen Members have been regulars on the top of the Canadian Billboard charts for album sales since 2002, with 2013’s Beautiful Death Machine reaching number three. Despite those sales numbers, Swollen Members are dedicated to the underground scene.

“Underground to me means real art… true art,” Madchild once said in an interview. “Not being concerned with what’s popular.”

Prevail furthers that notion while acknowledging that anti-mainstream does not mean anti-success.

“Brand New Day really encapsulates the idea that we are confident with the fact that we’ve had an amazing career,” he tells BW. “We’ve got a lot of projection left in us. … When all three of us get in a room it’s pretty hard to stop us.”

In anticipation of the new album’s June 17 release, the Swollen Members’ tour will hit Colorado at the end of May, and the boys couldn’t be more stoked.

“We love Boulder, we love Colorado,” Prevail says. “Boulder is one of the first places that we performed at when we were able to crack the U.S. market as Canadians in underground hip hop.”

The group will be playing at the Fox Theatre on the University Hill, which Prevail says is quite a landmark venue for the group.

“The Fox has always been so kind to us, the fanbase is just absolutely amazing with the young, vibrant energy,” he says. “It keeps it absolutely fresh and revitalized everytime we play. It has great sound, great staff and there’s something living in those walls there that just resonates with us.”

While Prevail isn’t busy making mayhem on stage at The Fox, you might find him hiking up the Flatirons.

“Everytime I’m there, I hike Chautauqua Park,” he says, “I love it.”