For Louden Swain, “No Time Like The Present” is more than an album title.

Alongside Michael Borja (bass), Stephen Norton (drums) and Billy Moran (guitar), Rob Benedict has been recording high-energy, upbeat rock for about two decades. With this 7th album (out January 13), the lyrics are more of the moment, and the music is more alive. 

Those unfamiliar with Louden Swain have likely seen Benedict's on-screen work from an extensive resume of film and TV roles. Fan-favorite roles include “Waiting...” and “Felicity,” but his recurring role as Chuck Shurley (a.k.a. God) on “Supernatural” enables Benedict to introduce his band to new audiences at fan conventions throughout the country.

Parodying backstage experiences at those conventions, Benedict and actor/director Richard Speight Jr., created “Kings of Con,” and Louden Swain provides the theme and scoring for the Comic-Con HQ show.

The Swerve spoke with Benedict at the end of 2016 about “No Time Like the Present” and his other endeavors.

The Swerve Magazine: When did you guys start work on the album?

Rob Benedict: We started about a year ago. I had been writing in the fall of last year; then we started recording in December and in January of this year. It was cool because it was different from how we normally do albums. Usually, we go into the studio, and everything is rehearsed all to hell and we're ready to record it, and we know all of the bits.

Some of the songs were like that, but a lot of the songs, we were figuring out while we were recording, and we recorded a lot of the tracks live, with all of us playing at the same time, so I think that lent to more of a loose, live feel than in our previous albums.

SM: What were some of the tracks where you were doing that more live style?

RB: “Taxi Driver” was that way, “Juliet,” “Roll Me Over.” A song like “Present Time” was written, but once we got it into the studio and played it live, it just gave it that much more urgency. All of this is reflective of what's been going on with the band—we've been out touring and playing live a lot more than we ever have. I think that has led us to being more improvisational and having more energy and being even more comfortable with each other, with the music and with musicianship, and I think all of that plays into this album.

SM: It's still unmistakably a Louden Swain sound, but there is a real freshness and a different energy to this whole album.

RB: For sure. Honestly, I'm more excited about this than I've been in a while about an album of ours. Like I said, a lot of times, it's very rehearsed, we go in, and we record them, and they're exactly how I thought they'd be, and by the time we go to play them, they almost feel old. Whereas this, we were discovering in the studio, so when we go to play it, it feels fresh and brand new.

SM: The arrangements seem more complex on some songs, with the changing tempos on tracks like “Leg Up.”

RB: With “Leg Up,” the demo was written pretty straightforward, and when we got in the studio, we broke it down and completely demolished it, and then pieced it back together, and we're really happy with how that one came out.

SM: Leading up to the release of this album, you signed on with Omnivore Recordings and the Alternative Distribution Alliance. How did that come about, and how is that going to benefit you guys?

RB: Omnivore knew about us, and they were aware that we had this unique situation where we've been putting out our own albums since the late 90s, and over the years we've amassed a really loyal fan base—especially in the last five years, it's really gained momentum. The one thing we never had was any kind of distribution deal. In this day and age, you are able to put out your own album, but if you can't get it into the record stores or get it marketed, it's hard to get it going outside of your fan base.

We were happy to join forces with them, and now, for the first time, our albums are available in record stores, which are still around and active and people do like to have physical copies, so that was really cool for us to be able to market it in that way, and be able to tell people in other countries they could go out and pick up copies at their local stores.

SM: Working with Omnivore, are you guys able to maintain the same level of control you've always had?

RB: Yep, that's what's great. We're still our own label, we produce and manufacture everything, but the distribution all goes through them.

It used to be that we'd go down to Amoeba Records, and we'd say, “Will you sell these five CDs on consignment?” and they'd take them and then we'd come back in a month and say, “Hey, did anybody buy any?” and we'd get some money back. It's done a bit more professionally now that professionals are doing it for us.

SM: All of you guys have other obligations outside the band, and you've been together so long. How do you keep the momentum going with a band for so long?

RB: There are a couple things. We know each other really well, we like each other, and we love making music together. We're all growing, changing, getting better at being musicians. When we started in the 90s, I was so insecure about playing my own music; I would apologize between songs. I was in my 20s; I was pretty naive, and I'm an actor, so I never quite embraced it confidently. People would be like, “Hey man, you don't need to apologize for your songs.” (laughs) So I feel we've grown a lot.

Now we really know what we are, we're confident with what we are and we've been working so hard,  it feels like we can be the band that we've always wanted to be. It' s exciting. I think we're more into it than we've ever been because it's “for real” now. It's taken a lot of sweat and tears, but it's finally starting to pay off, and that's such a great feeling. We're just excited to keep it going.

I have to say that a lot of the success in the last five years has been because of “Supernatural.” The fans of that show caught wind that we have a band, and it's been extraordinary how supportive they've been. That's helped a lot. That gives us inspiration.

SM: Speaking on that, when Louden Swain started playing at the Supernatural conventions, what was it like to introduce a whole new audience to your music?

RB: At first, you never quite know because you're playing to a pack of people who may not even know you had a band. At the same time, the nature of fans of that show is so positive. The sort-of moral center of that show is “family,” and the energy at the conventions is very open and accepting.

It certainly was nerve-wracking, but at the same time, you have to just rely on, “This is us. This is our band. We love this band, and we know you will too.” It didn't take long at all to feel completely at home. Like I said, they've really embraced—not just me, but the band—as part of the family.

SM: Since those cons make up a lot of your concert stops, what's it like playing those Saturday Night Specials?

RB: It's unbelievable. We did a couple of them in addition to a couple of our mini-tours, and the local club gigs that we do. Then they had this idea to do them all year long, so we helped them craft what it should be if we were doing every convention. At first, we had concerns because, in terms of street cred, it doesn't sound as good when you say you're playing the Marriott, right? (laughs)

When it comes down to it, the reason you play gigs is to make new fans, to expose new people to your music and hopefully sell some CDs to help propel you to the next level. This is that times 100. At a club gig, you play 50 to 100 people. At these conventions, you play to two thousand people, and many of them had no idea I was even in a band. By the end, you've made all these new fans and exposed people to your music, and then they take the music, and they expose their friends to it, and it's amazing. In this day and age, everything's changed. We're not quite in the world—and certainly, we're old adults now, so we don't have the desire to get in the van with a few demos and tour the country, sleeping in the car. This is a new model, and I think it's been great for us.

They've set us up now with the quality sound system that we bring to every show; we have a dedicated sound guy, so it doesn't sound like a band at a convention, it really does feel more like a rock concert.

SM: You returned last year to “Supernatural,” and performed “Fare Thee Well” in your first episode. Did you know when you performed that song, it would become a standard part of your show?

RB: As soon as I did it, I knew I had to play it in my show. I knew it would be a thing. It was great that I got to play music on the show, it was great to sort of marry those two worlds. When then told me, even before I got the script, “How do you feel about singing on the show?,” I was like, “Yeah, that's a home run. I'd love to.”

I'm happy to do it, for me it's like a no-brainer. Sometimes, laying out the show, and one of the guys would say, “Do we cut 'Fare Thee Well' for this set?” I'm like, “No! No, we can't cut it. (laughs) We gotta play it. It's my song.”

SM: In addition to the new Louden Swain album, your other band just released its debut album. How did The Station Breaks come about?

RB: The Station Breaks came about because Jason Manns, who's another singer/songwriter, is sort of in the “Supernatural” world. He's best friends with Jensen Ackles, who's lead on the show. He'd appear at the same conventions, and we became good pals. We started playing, like solo gigs together. We'd do little mini-European tours, we'd go to Germany and Rome—and we still do—and we'd play separate sets, I'd play some Louden Swain songs, and he'd play his own songs, and then at the end maybe we'd play some songs together. And the songs we'd play together just sounded so nice. Our voices are very different, but they sound good together. I'm a little more raspy and rocky, and he's got a very smooth, amazing trained voice. Together they really make sense; it really works together, so we started writing music together.

We pulled in Billy Moran, who's the guitar player in Louden Swain, and we started writing together, and we hooked up with a rhythm section that Jason knows, Cooper Appelt on bass and Rob Humphreys on drums. We formed The Station Breaks, and we just put this record out and we're super proud of it. It's a departure from our individual projects, a little more Americana than Louden Swain. It's another great outlet.

SM: Was it intentional that you released both of these albums around the same time?

RB No, if anything it was bad timing because you don't want to put products out at the same time. It just happened that way. About three years ago, I had a stroke. It was very unexpected, very odd. It was the kind of thing you never think would happen to you, and very random. Long story short, I've 100% recovered now after losing my voice and my ability to speak for a little bit. My artery healed, and I'm back to normal.

Ever since that time, I've been very re-energized in all parts of my life, so I've just been excited about creating new stuff. I think that's led to both of these albums coming out, and the show “Kings of Con” that I wrote with Richard Speight. All of these things, for me personally, have been kind of a direct result of that, and not taking any days for granted.

When I'm involved in creating something, I get excited. I want it to come out; I don't want to hang onto it. Even the Louden Swain album was done in September, but for various reasons Omnivore wanted to wait until January to release it. I was very anxious; I wanted it to go out right away.

SM: You mentioned “Kings of Con,” and that's airing now, and you've been hosting the weekly after-show. How did you guys develop that show and get hooked up with Comic-Con HQ?

RB: Rich and I had this idea to make this show about three years ago—right before that event happened to me, actually. I was down for a bit, and then when I came back, we started up again and decided to make a pilot presentation. We did a crowd-funding campaign, and the result of the campaign was overwhelming. Once again, the Supernatural fans are so supportive and generous, and they helped us raise $300,000.

That kind of caught the eye of Comic-Con HQ as they were putting together this new network. Comic-Con and Lionsgate joined forces to create this new digital network. We showed them the pilot presentation, and they loved it. They've been great. They've been so incredibly supportive, letting us do our thing. Now, we're about midway through the roll-out of the first season, and every Tuesday we do this live after-show.

SM: That show really feels like a mash-up of all of your endeavors put together.

RB: Yeah, the band plays the after-show, and it's a little bit of hosting, a little bit of acting and a little bit of singing. I didn't plan it that way, but it's really a dream come true. Right now we're at the end of a very long, very busy year for me, but it's been one of the most creative and rewarding years I've ever had. I'm exhausted, but I'm very proud of these things having come together.