Though Sway Machinery frontman Jeremiah Lockwood grew up listening to both records of famous Jewish Cantors in his grandparents' Queens apartment (his maternal grandfather, Jacob Konigsberg, was a well-known Cantor himself), as well as the blues (he started playing blues guitar as a teenager, studying and playing in the New York subways with famed Piedmont blues guitarist Carolina Slim), it wasn't until he was an adult that he was able to bring the two together in a coherent amalgamation. In 2006, Lockwood teamed up with Israeli percussionist (and Balkan Beat Box MC) Tomer Tzur, as well as tenor saxophonist Stuart Bogie and trumpeter Jordan McLean of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, and Arcade Fire touring member Colin Stetson. Lockwood based both his lyrics and melodies on Jewish High Holidays prayers and 20th century Cantorial music, while the music pulled from each of the member's personal experiences and styles. Signed to JDub Records, the Sway Machinery's introduction was a multimedia performance on Rosh Hashanah in 2007, called Hidden Melodies Revealed, and held at a famous New York temple. That same year, Tzur moved back to Israel, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase took his place behind the kit. In 2008, the quartet released their debut self-titled EP, followed by the full-length, Hidden Melodies Revealed, in 2009. John Bollinger was eventually brought in as the new drummer in advance of 2011's The House of Friendly Ghosts, Vol.1, a collaboration with Malian vocalist Khaira Arby.
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