Listen to the first single of the new self titled LP Smile Swamp Princess

You may be asking yourself WHAT in the HECK is SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS?

In short it is a glitter, glam rock, mystical and magical story told through the form of a rock opera. Filled with poetic speech and epic rainbow rock love songs, they tell the tale of the Swamp princess and her quest for love and sense of purpose.

Composers Justin Johnson and Megan Lui met while drinking an IPA at a local watering hole. It was during that first meeting that a crazed wizard with red hair ran by and threw song dust in their faces. They were outraged, and knew not what to do, until Justin’s piano hands started quivering and Megan’s pipes started tremblin’ so they wrote, and SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS was born.

Co-creator Molly Brolin then swooped in to iron out their scattered splattered art brains and shake up the story with a group of visual artists, designers, directors, writers, and filmmakers. 

The Smile Swamp Princess band creates a sound that is raw and beautiful. Megan’s rich voice is the icing on the cake; sweet, soulful and electric. Justin’s piano heavy melodies are the driving force, accompanied by lyrics of junkyards and love sung with a grow and a howl. Ben Larroquette’s baritone guitar grind is low and rumbling, with occasional glitchy offsets that ricochet around while Jorn Bielfeldt creates layers of experimental cosmic rhythms on the drums.

 

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We’ve heard of “POP UP” shops ... New York is used to that. But this may be the first “POP UP” show we’ve ever encountered here at Broadwayworld. On September 4th and 5th a SWAMP PRINCESS and a SPACE COWBOY happily landed on the lower East side on the stage of the WILD PROJECT. The Wild Project is new to us and is a fantastic space and welcome addition to the neighborhood. They are a Production Company and venue for Contemporary Theatre, film and visual art, located at 195 East 3rd Street and worth a visit, if SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS is any indication of the kind of fresh new work they will be presenting.

SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS is the conceptual brainchild of composers Megan Lui and Justin Johnson with producer and artist director Molly Brolin. Fascinating in concept and totally irreverant, magical and enjoyable, it boasts a totally unique and original score by Johnson and Lui. The use of the small stage was ingeniously designed by Sasha Flimlin and Erin Turner and gave the illusion of endless depth. The projections featured throughout were supremely executed by Javier Cruz.

Johnson, Lui and the Company of Marissa Mickelberg, Grace Lowman, Danielle Sullivan and Maia Friedman are totally committed to the strange and wonderful piece and that is where kudos must be given to director Eden Brolin. It’s rare to see such cohesive work on such unique material.

Smile Swamp Princess tells the tale of the Swamp Princess and her Space Cowboy, with their love unfolding through magical rock ballads and up-tempo, colorful love songs. Immediately inspired by Karen O’s Stop the Virgens and heavily influenced by glam rock and the concept of androgyny, Megan and Justin Johnson wanted to create a rock opera all their own that captured their musical influences in their storytelling: “The concept of Justin’s character - a space cowboy - is kind of our homage to David Bowie, who for me is a major influence in the concept of a theatrical rock show.”

With the Swamp Princess and Space Cowboy challenged to remain glamorous and to smile even when all signs point to the relationship running amuck, Smile Swamp Princess ends up presenting a story that glimmers with hope and a soundtrack that shines with wisdom. As Molly, the art director of the production, describes: “Smile Swamp Princess, the characters and the story itself, although silly and colorful and fun at first glance, is really an insight into the post-adolescent struggle into adulthood.” The rock opera album genuinely reflects its creators’ sentiments about growing up and finding yourself in the midst of swampy circumstances.

Director Brolin clearly had her eye on the prize and for such a young director, the details were (happily) noticeable.

Justin Johnson is his own creation and lives his music as SPACE COWBOY, as does Megan Lui as the SWAMP PRINCESS.

This piece has been in development for some time and this was their first presentation (60 minutes). On stage, the band - in addition to Justin Johnson on keyboards are Ben Larroquette on guitar, Jorn Bielfeldt on drums, and Cody Robbins on bass. Their feel and understanding of the music were clear to see in their approach as they played the score together.

Opening Night was SOLD-OUT. And, based on word-of-mouth, the 2nd (and last) show sold out by noon. Keep an eye out for SMILE SWAMP PRINCESS.
— Broadway World, Sept 6 2013
This Space/Swamp family/band have unleashed their private bouts of punishing ceremonial sludge-gaze and total titanic highlights.The Space/Swamp graveyard they unearth their moss metal from must be profoundly fertile ground, because each new song-cycle they lay to tape is somehow even more miraculously brutal and shimmering and visionary than the one before it. This phenom holds true on Smile Swamp Princess’ newest and maybe deepest doom/beauty inquest. Thundering masterpieces of molten slime riff majesty, nightstalker drums, and soaring-into-the-sun male/female vox that crush the earth, bleed, and breathe in humid darkness.

Ranging from the Slowdive-meets-Drury transcendent descent of “Junkyard” through to the quaking basement funeral of “Slug Song”, Smile Swamp sidesteps into natty phased sunshine and moontan abstractions posi preaching good spirits from their ever bubbling and budding spring.”Antag” clears the purging storms of circuitry secession, slow-stiring a lava swamp of volcanic sludge with female vocal mist steaming up from the moon-everglades, becoming the spectral shell of a classic sunrise anthem. “XXXO” casual cruises into high-flying space junkadelica. Vapor trail melodies bop along like the slowest, brokest car along an island dirt road at dusk. Smile Swamp Princess grants you passage into their hidden holy space swamp land.
— Jables Sutton Nassau
The year after Molly Brolin and her fellow Berklee grad Justin Johnson moved to Greenpoint in 2010, Johnson imagined “a dark sorceress cast a spell of calm over all the bodega workers in Manhattan” while he was working in a stockroom in Soho.

That concept evolved into Smile Swamp Princess, a rock opera co-composed by Megan Lui.

Lui, whose dynamic singing voice is a major draw of the show stars as the deeply conflicted princess of a swamp located “just off the intergalactic highway”: “She can make light dance on the water and frogs croak like a symphony orchestra,” says Molly, who’s the art director of SSP. “Her throne is carved out of a living mangrove tree and she probably sleeps in a giant birds nest somewhere offstage. She’s like the center of this world to the other inhabitants of the swamp but on the inside she’s totally emo, all she wants is to be left alone.”

Enter the love interest: Space Cowboy (played by Johnson) drops in on the swamp in his aurora borealis-fueled ship from an Iceland-like planet “full of rainbow geysers and ice caves, and space cows that tend to wander off to other planets.”

To make sure her setting was authentically swampy, Molly and Justin, who is a native Louisianan, took a trip to Atchafalaya Basin, a 150 mile-long wetland on the outskirts of Baton Rouge that Molly describes as “a Cajun backcountry water world.” (It’s 50 miles away from Atchafalaya, which inspired Beasts of the Southern Wild).

“The swamp from Justin’s perspective is a metaphor for his or anyone’s hometown,” says Molly. “It’s filled with creatures who are like your hometown friends that slide through the muck and stink of everyday life. They still live in their parent’s basement, smoke too much weed, get in fights and are best friends.”

Despite the lavish backdrop and elaborate costumes of beads, flowers, flowing fabric, and stalks of grass, the story is meant to hit home. “It’s about growing up and the struggle to find your individuality,” says Molly. “It’s about taking ownership of your role as an adult. They don’t tell you how hard it’s going to be.”
— Bedford and Bowery