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29th March 2016

Interview: Swim Deep

Meg Roberts interviews Birmingham five-piece Swim Deep, and explores their radical move from lo-fi dream pop to psychedelic house

As my degree comes to a close, I can’t think of anything better than this. Teenage Meg would have been unashamedly happy to know that some three years later she’d interview the defining band of her sixth form/university transition. This particular interview felt a lot more like a genuine conversation with a humble group of guys which makes you realise, as much as celebrity culture tells you otherwise, they’re just people that happen to make music. Like a lot of other Swim Deep fans who loved the, lets admit it, pop music of WTHAW, at first I didn’t quite understand the radically different and house-fuelled vibe of Mothers, but this interview helped me construct a cohesive picture of the two albums and who they are as artists. A band from Birmingham wanting to do more than write your stereotypical love song, talk about things that matter, make you feel something, redefining and questioning what we think about when we think about popular music.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

M: I feel like when I listen to the two albums I’m almost listening to two completely different bands? Is Mothers more reflective of who you are as artists and the sound you want to achieve?

Austin: Yeah I guess so, at the time, that was the sound we wanted to achieve, its much more of an evolution than a change. Its definitely reflective of who we were then, we try and make albums to reflect us at human beings and the thoughts and emotions that we felt then.

The first album is very surf-y whereas this feels a lot more trippy, psychedelic and otherworldly; it’s almost house at times, what has influenced this new direction?

A: I wouldn’t listen to house music on my own but I listen to electro on my own, more stuff like Kraftwerk, stuff that house music was influenced by.

Cavan: Our manager showed us a lot of music.

A: Yeah he’s mad into acid house,  he was growing up around the time acid house was huge, he definitely showed us a lot of records which had a massive influence on us.

For me, Where the Heaven are we is very romantic as an album, I’m a massive fan of She Changes the weather and I think if I’m going to find a comparison on Mothers it would be ‘Is there anybody out there’, is there a backstory to this song?

A: They’re both love songs quite blatantly and I like the idea that I don’t really write about that kinda stuff that much only because I find it quite self-indulgent and if I was going to have one love song on the record I wanted to make it as blatant as possible. But yeah they’re both about love.

Yeah, I do Creative Writing at university and it’s so difficult not to be influenced by things that have happened and life experiences you have had. But you feel slightly unoriginal talking about that kind of stuff over and over.

A: Yeah exactly, and a lot of songs are just about that and you get a bit bored of it so I guess the reaction is to write something different, a more pressing matter or like something that people can hear about that they don’t already know or something that will influence people to be better. Yeah not just stuff that’s same old.

Its about moving away from the generic.

A: Exactly, yeah

Awesome. So what track was the most fun to produce?

C: Fueiho Boogie, the last one.

Zach: Yeah Fueiho Boogie

Yeah, I’d agree with that!

Z: Forever Spaceman was really fun to mess around with too

A: Yeah we tried to recreate what it would feel like in space, it feels like you’re flying through space

C: Everyone was sat there trying to make as much noise as possible!

Z: That was really fun to make

Cool… this will be actually be my fifth time seeing you guys.

A: Really?! Oh thanks so much!

Z: Nice one man, thank you.

It was my first proper gig, it was at Soup Kitchen. Do you remember that?

C: Yeah I do, it was in February, I don’t know why I remember but it was in February.

I’ve actually always wanted to ask you guys this… I’ve never heard you do ‘Orange County’, is there any reason why you don’t perform this live or am I just super unlucky?

A: Yeah, we’ve never actually played that live.

Oh, never?!

A: Well we wrote it it at time when we were… I don’t know… it’s just one of those songs, we have a few songs that we never play live.

C: They feel almost too sacred to touch or something. We’ve never even played it as a band.

Z: We’ve never tried to

I thought maybe you just didn’t like it anymore, and that’s why you don’t play it.

A: No, not at all, no. But its just I don’t know…

C: People really like that song, it’s really weird.

You should play it!

A: It’s just that… we’ve changed in ways that sometimes it wouldn’t necessarily suit in a half-an-hour set or a 40-minute set, a song that’s so kind of lo-fi and old.

C: Yeah, it’s the old us.

A: Because that was such a short amount of time, the old us, so when people say “how can you change?” it’s strange for us because the short period of time that was like a year when we wrote all of these songs like, that compared to the amount of time which we’ve actually been a band is quite weird.

I guess you were playing them for ages but you weren’t writing that kind of material anymore.

A: Exactly, yeah. Definitely, man.

Obviously the Libs being one, you’ve supported a lot of really high profile artists, is there a particular band you’ve toured with which have influenced you?

A: I feel like all bands you tour with you get influenced by, like even if you don’t like their music or whatever but by the end of the tour, you end up having some sort of bond and you learn something. They taught us how to be on tour and how to look after each other and stuff, they made a real effort talking to us, we were really shy and they made a real effort coming into our dressing room and saying “Hey, feel free to come into our dressing room,” and that taught us to do the same with our support bands.

C: I felt like we learnt so much from them. They’re proper keen musicians, they’re just great to be around and see.

A: Really inspiring musicians

C: I was definitely inspired by them the whole time, I’d say I definitely learnt something from them.

I’ve always wanted to ask this… I know this was ages ago now but I went to the Libertines Hyde park gig in 2014, when you guys were supporting, what happened? Where were you?!

Z: We still played, but it was next door.

C: We played in a tent with like 20 people. It was pointless because no one got told.

A: It was really fun to play though, because there was no one there, it felt really relaxed.

C: Yeah we had such a long queue, I was really excited to play but then everyone was going mad for Wolf Alice.

Z: Shut up, it wasn’t Wolf Alice man! It was Reverend and the Makers!
*Debate continues*

Meg: I remember hearing a rumour that you were climbing up the poles or something? Is that true?

All: Oh yeah!

C: This wasn’t us though! I don’t know why people were saying that, do you remember at The Libertines, they cut the show half way through because loads of kids were messing and on Twitter they were saying it was us. I don’t know what happened but everyone was saying it was us. Apparently Higgy said it was on Twitter or something. People think it was us, that’s so classic!

What plans do you guys have for the future? You’ve been so experimental and taken a lot of creative risks with Mothers, where do you go from here?

A: I feel like now we’ve done the experimental thing and let that out, we’ve had the shoegazey pop album, it was quite a naïve take on pop music. I feel like they are going to both come together with the third album, in a way that both worlds collide. We’ve got all this knowledge from the second album. I just kind of want to write a really good pop album.

Yeah that would be great, I’m a bit of a sucker for an honest pop album.

A: We’ve always wanted to make pop music. Mothers is pop music, just no-one gets it.

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