Swell Season on Boing Boing Video

Two years ago, Glen Hansard, singer/guitarist for the Irish group The Frames, and Markéta Irglová, a teenaged classical pianist from the Czech Republic, starred in a small independent film about a busker (like Hansard himself) and an immigrant flower seller on the streets of Dublin. Director John Carney made the film, titled Once, for just $160,000. Hansard and Irglová wrote all the songs for the soundtrack. The film became a surprise hit. Hansard and Irglová won a 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song, the hauntingly beautiful "Falling Slowly."

Cut to 2009: Hansard and Irglová, backed by The Frames, are playing sold-out shows under the name The Swell Season at legendary venues like Radio City Music Hall. The group recently released Strict Joy, their first album since the Once soundtrack. More complex and lush than their previous work but just as emotional and brutally honest, Strict Joy is an intimate, orchestral song cycle that brings them even further into the realm of the great singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell.

When Swell Season came to Oakland's Paramount Theater last month, I had the opportunity to interview Irglová and Hansard for Boing Boing Video. I found them both to be refreshingly grounded, humble, and incredibly gracious. They're the kind of people you want to invite home for dinner. I was thrilled that Glen and Mar agreed to perform several songs for our cameras, including an unreleased new song they wrote while on the road. The group performs tonight in Dublin. In January, they play in London, Glasgow, Manchester, and New York City.

Boing Boing has a number of people to thank for the magnificent quality of this video, starting with my dear friends Scott Compton and Bart Nagel. Scott took a break from his Chuck Prophet documentary and myriad other projects at Remedy Editorial to direct the piece. Bart and Chris Valente joined Scott in shooting it. The masterful Phil Perkins recorded the audio. Chris edited at Remedy with assistance from Jeffrey Boyette. Finally, thanks to John Tosch and Carrie Tolles for making it happen.


  1. Fantastic interview. Loved these two from the moment I saw “Once.”
    Beautifully shot and edited. I too want to have them over for dinner.
    I have been thinking about buying this album for weeks.
    This interview has pushed me over the top. Thanks.

  2. I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life when I rented “Once” on a whim…I guess about two years ago now. The movie stuck with me not because of a great plot or character arc but because of the genuine quality of Glen and Marketa’s personalities and, of course, the music. It’s nice to see that they’ve moved forward and have been able to make something out of it. It’s even nicer to see that they seem every bit as sweet and genuine in the interview as their characters did in the film. Now I need to go buy the new record.

    Thanks for this and the video does look great.

  3. I thought the movie was ok but his vocal style really got on my nerves. In one scene he was busking and putting so much into his singing (aka shouting) that I just thought – wow, he wouldn’t last 10 minutes let alone half a day, singing like that on the street,and yes, I know he has busked for real. Everything was so over the top passionate in his delivery it ends up really grating and like swearing, looses its power when used constantly.

    By the end of the movie I had developed an abiding loathing of his music. I can never remember names but when I mention “shouty beardy man” my wife knows exactly who I mean.

  4. I never got around to seeing the movie, but listened to the soundtrack non stop for awhile and now own their first album. It’s some great mellow music.
    Fantastic video. Looked gorgeous and I love hearing from artists on why they make the choices they do. Glad they went with an indie label.

  5. I enjoyed hearing about the band, but I wanted to mention the video production looks and sounds stellar.

  6. @ #3

    i don’t know about not lasting 10 min… i used to busk from time to time on queen street in toronto — a very busy street.

    i tended to ignore my quieter/more complex/subtle material and just go with the big whalloping emotional near-shout songs. when you are playing unamplified in a crazy downtown cityscape, you gotta be heard, and you have to make an immediate impact — because you only have 4 seconds or so to hook someones attention.

    i sure wouldn’t have liked to sit and listen to me on queen street for extended periods of time. it would be over the top and loud, with no respite. for hours on end. ad nauseum.

    but you definitely learn to sing like this for hours on end if needed.

    consider it the musical equivilant of greasepaint. pretty ugly to look at up close, but glimpsed for short periods from a distance, it can make an actor a king, a lover, or a god.

    thankfully, the swell season aren’t busking, and we can enjoy their more subtle side.

  7. Have to agree that that video was a cut above the usual BB video production standards (not that they are awful by any means) and a joy to watch. Thanks

  8. Fair point skeptacally. I’m more used to buskers in the London underground who get help from enclosed, echoey spaces. It’s not just his style that I have a problem with. There’s a song he sings which repeats the phrase “when your mind’s made up” over and over till I could weep its so tedious but I take your point about volume.

    1. Nemofazer, Have you seen them live? At some points, he sings without the mic and fills the hall. I’m sorry you “have a problem” with his music. Fortunately though, there is no shortage of music in the world. So you can listen to what you like and I can continue to enjoy Swell Season. Whew.

  9. i doubt he’s seen them live i never see bands i dislike myself. enjoy what you like ignore what you don’t unless it’s thrust upon you, a la Celine Dion or Susan Boyle why care? (Did shake my head at “Falling Slowly” though- how did a droning, dirgelike song with almost melody win again?)

    1. No. You’re right. I haven’t. And normally I go along with the ignore it if you don’t like it, and I like to think I have very broad tastes (doesn’t everyone, like everyone thinks they’re an above average driver) but he haunts my iTunes for the sake of marital harmony. I mean I expect wifey to occasionally put up with The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir. Now that’s singing!

  10. Very coool. I was just wondering about these two the other day. So glad to see that they have embraced their circumstances (fame, etc…) and made the most of it, and kept control of their destiny.

    The film ‘Once’ was magic – seen it many times now.

    @ Nemo – get it… but don’t agree. You must be talking about the 1st scene in the movie and fortunately the film blossoms from there… it’s subtle artistry on many levels.


  11. One of the best things I’ve seen on BB. Thanks David. I loved the movie and I love their music. The movie really did “resonate” – gave me goosebumps at times. I don’t get that with your Hollywood formula rubbish. And yes…it’s great to see he’s still flogging the shit out of that busted-up guitar.

    I really shake my head at this inane comment – “Sounds like something you would buy at Starbucks.”

  12. Hey Glen, this might be a little awkward but I heard that you and Markéta recently broke up and I, uh, just wanted to know if it was cool, like, if I gave her a call sometime?

  13. Hot damn, this looks perty. You guys are seriously stepping up production and it looks great.

    As for Swell Season, for all those who’ve fallen in love with their voices I highly encourage you seeking out early Frames tunes, if you haven’t already. Good stuff where Hansard really lets his pipes loose.


  14. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live several times, including recently at a tiny venue 92Y tribeca, and they are just so incredibly charming, and great to see in concert.

    I saw them in upstate NY, and they were having really bad equipment problems. Glen did a cover of Astral Weeks that was so intense I thought his old guitar was going to explode. It was one of the best live musical performances I have ever seen.

  15. “Glen did a cover of Astral Weeks”

    fuck that sounds amazing. i’ve been in an intense van morrison phase lately and just saw Once a few months ago.

  16. Having just seen Once two days ago it was wonderful to find this interview on BoingBoing. I was taken by the film and had the movies two main songs in my head the next day. Glad to see the two musician/actors are now on tour as a band!

  17. Hands down, the best thing Boing Boing video has ever done. Also one of the best such interviews I’ve ever seen.

  18. I saw these guys in November at Massey Hall and Glen sang and played his arse off for about 90 minutes, I was so impressed. They are so talented, and even swapped instruments for a couple of songs. Fun times.

  19. Nemofazer. I expect The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir aren’t the only things “wifey” finds herself having to put up with.

    Thanks Boing Boing, the video was a pleasure.

  20. I F-ING LOVE THE SWELL SEASON, nobody knows how to tug on the strings of my heart better. Thank you Glen and Marketa for continuing to make piercing true music in an age of electronics.

  21. Swell season are the best, nemofazer, I can appreciate choral music, being a classically trained singer and pianist, as well as a trained jazz guitarist. But the sheer ammount of vocal technique it takes to sing like Hansard is awe inspiring. If you don’t like it fine, but really? nobody here cares! And how famous have you gotten off of songs you pour your heart and soul into? not very? I think I’ve made my point.

  22. Really enjoyed watching this. I was disappointed while showing my wife, we could not get the Motorola pop-up to go away and it was blocking her face.

Comments are closed.