Astral Swans Is a Canadian Cannabis Hero

"One night early on in quarantine, I ate a large jar of crunchy peanut butter in like 20 minutes. That's 4,700 calories and I wanted more."

BY Alex HudsonPublished Feb 26, 2021

Calgary's Matthew Swann makes slow, sad folk songs with an eerie experimental edge. He records as Astral Swans, continuing where he left off with his previous project, Extra Happy Ghost!!! Having released the single "Bird Songs" last summer, he's now preparing to release the followup to 2018's Strange Prison. "I have an album that's almost finished, and a whole bunch of new songs written throughout COVID as well. Can't wait to share," he tells Exclaim!

When the new album arrives, one thing is for sure: it will be heavily inspired by Swann's favourite plant. We spoke with him about his cannabis consumption — as well as his peanut butter consumption — and he came up with a seriously great elevator pitch for the next Marvel movie.

What do you smoke and how do you consume it?

I like flower, concentrates, edibles, CBD — all of it really. I don't usually buy from the dispensary, but there are some cool new local companies like Poolboy and RGB that are fun 'cause they're local brands with a really good product. My heart lies with indicas, but they trigger obscene munchies for me. One night early on in quarantine, I ate a large jar of crunchy peanut butter in like 20 minutes. That's 4,700 calories and I wanted more. I'm grotesque. If you want to stop the interview now, I understand. 

What do you like to do when you smoke?

Weed is a crazy creativity enhancer. It's insane. Music is definitely one of my favourite parts of smoking. Seriously, like: smoke, go for a walk, look at beautiful shit, wait for melodies to spontaneously download from the ousia, sing them into your iPhone 'cause you're gonna forget, bam. When I got my start with the Liverpool philharmonic in the late 1880s, there certainly weren't iPhones, and weed just wasn't available — fast forward 138 years and it's legal. It still blows my mind.

What do you think about the recent changes in cannabis culture?

I think it's great. I don't think people should be in jail for drugs at all, let alone weed. It's nice to see a decrease in stigma and misinformation. I hope the same happens for psychedelics, especially with regard to medical research. Also, let's treat serious addiction in terms of public health instead of criminality. We don't need people in jails for falling into an addiction cycle while trying to get reprieve from the pains of being a human.

Where in your city is great for cannabis?

I live on a ridge that overlooks upper Chocolate Lake in the Land of Dairy Queen. I like to smoke and just look at the view. You can scoop fresh ice cream right out of the mountain. I really don't miss the city

Are there hidden (or not-so-hidden) cannabis references in your music?

Not hidden: I recorded a duet with Mariel Buckley called "High Hallelujah." I wrote it for legalization day. Mariel and I were quite frequently smoking in back alleys at shows for years, and I'm a super big fan of her songs and singing. It was a really fun recording to make, and all Bandcamp proceeds go to the Portland Hotel Society, a Vancouver non-profit helping marginalized folks in the Downtown Eastside.

Hidden: Every time I sing, "I bow down to you Doerug, keeper of the smoke," I'm singing about weed! It used to be really hard to get weed in Norway when I was a teen and I'd have to buy it from an old mountain ogre named Doerug. He was almost eight feet tall. I'd have to bow down so he trusted me. I didn't speak Ogre and he didn't speak English. Neither of us spoke Norwegian, but that didn't matter because this story isn't true.

Who are your Canadian cannabis heroes?

Definitely Captain Plant. Her wings are giant leaves, so she can fly, and shoot these energy beam things made from photosynthesis. I believe she's part of the Marvel Universe.

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