The Swellers

author AP date 26/10/10

Late as fuck, I know, but hear me out. When I initially did this interview with The Swellers back in May, my phone broke down and went to repair with the recordings on it, and when it came back, I had all but forgotten about the interview in the midst of frantic final exam preparations. I believe in the trusted proverb better late than never, and since we have decided to step up our game with regards to interviews this and in the coming year, I thought this one would give us the needed kickstart. So without further a-do, ladies and gentlemen, I give you a written account of a chat with The Swellers at the Joiners in Southampton earlier this year:

RF.net: Hi, and thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with introducing yourselves and your roles in the band.
Nick: My name is Nick, and I play guitar in The Swellers.

Jonathan: I'm Jonathan, and I play drums.

Ryan: I'm Ryan, and I play guitar.

Anto: ...and I'm Anto, and I play bass. And I sing sometimes.

RF.net: So what's new with The Swellers at the moment?
Nick: It's our first European tour ever, so that's probably the newest developent. We're just about to wrap it up with a few more shows in the UK. And we're having a blast!

RF.net: Can you give a brief overview of the history of the band; how you guys got started; how the name came up; and what some of the highlights have been up until now?
Nick: It was really, really, really quick. We decided that we wanted to start a band and write our own songs. Jonathan and I are brothers, and we got our bass player buddy and said let's be a band called The Swellers. And they said, is that a band already? Because that sounds really catchy... like I'll remember that name. I said no, there's... we'll be the first band called The Swellers, and they said alright, let's do it! We recorded a demo right away, we played our first show, and over the years we just slowly grew into a full-time touring band, and that's what we're doing today - just on a little bit bigger scale. Some members came, some members went. The line-up that we have today has been around for about a year, and it's been great.

Jonathan: And we signed with Fueled by Ramen Records, so we're officially on a real record label for once, which is nice. The label we were on before was a lot smaller and no one really knew of its existence. So yeah, things are looking up.

RF.net: You guys have a couple of self-released albums that you recorded, as well as the two that came out on smaller labels prior to this new one, "Ups and Downsizing". What are your thoughts on those old recordings compared to the latest one?
Nick: Well, they're not as good. We were younger and stupider and not as good at playing music. It's really fun to listen back and see what we did, but...

Jonathan: We actually listened to them today on the van on our way here

Nick: I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was a great time in my life. But I'm glad about the direction that we've been taking lately, and our records sound a lot better than they used to.

Jonathan: Our EP, "Beginning of the End Again", that's kind of where we feel was the real start of our music. We won't play songs from before that. That was when we were still in school and trying to learn who we were as a band. Once we started touring, we actually had a real record out on Search and Rescue Records, that seven song EP. And then after that "My Everest", the full length, and now we have "Ups and Downsizing". So technically we have two records and an EP, that's what we consider our material right now.

RF.net: So you never play any of those old songs?

Nick: Nothing before 2005.

Jonathan: We did a basement show where we played this one record, "End of Discussion", because it had notoriety in our home town. But that was kind of the end of that, it was a show for the ten people who care. Now we try not to advertise the other ones too much.

RF.net: Like you just mentioned, you signed to Fueled by Ramen to release the newest record. Can you tell me a little about how that came to be and describe the label based on your experiences so far?
Nick: Yeah. We recorded four demos. We pretty much had them already sounding better than our last record and we were freaking out. We recorded with the guy who did that "My Everest" record. It was the first time in our band's existence where we were actually going to shop for record labels. So we sent a really simple e-mail out - like a two-sentence long e-mail with three songs attached to it - to five labels or something like that. Then a few weeks later Fueled by Ramen were the first people to hit us up, and we had no idea that anything would actually come out of it, because it was just someone from the label who was into us and we were like oh, cool, whatever, you know? Things kind of progressed and we would hang out a lot, and then we played this big showcase for a bunch of labels and that was what cemented us signing withFueled by Ramen. And then other labels started talking to us, and the things that the other labels brought to the table were like we're gonna sign a bunch of punk bands, we're gonna do this and that... but it kind of just made it seem like we wouldn't get the attention we wanted and that's what Fueled by Ramen was offering. We were the only band that signed with the label in 2009, and I think we were one of seven releases, so we got absolutely all the attention we wanted, a lot of crazy opportunities that bands on other labels would never have like, you know, a Paramore tour and things like that. So it's been really awesome.

RF.net: How was it touring with Paramore?

Nick: It was really cool.

Anto: It was okay...

RF.net: Any sleazy attempts at Hayley?

Nick: No.

Jonathan: No, she's got a boyfriend. She just kind of hung out like she was one of us. We were more protective of her like she was our little sister, more than a hot babe in a band.

Anto: I did sixty-nine her once in the bathroom though. But it was like a friendship one.

RF.net: You put out "Ups and Downsizing" in the Fall of last year and it was received with considerable critical praise around the world, with at least one magazine calling it "the best Fueled by Ramen release since the seminal records by Jimmy Eat World and The Stereo". How do you feel about that?
Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah, that's about about right...

Nick: It's really awesome. We had no idea how good the reviews were going to be. All the magazines that we grew up reading gave us a tonne of praise, and it's funny because we'd be crossing our fingers, like they're going to give it an OK review just because we're on that label now and all that stuff. But everything is just amazing, especially over here in the UK - like Rock Sound and Kerrang? We never expected that a record that came out technically four or five months ago - or actually more than that, it came out in September - that people would still be refreshingly stoked on it. We thought people would think oh, it already came out, whatever, we'll give it a 7 or something- So it's really cool that we got the great reviews that we did.

RF.net: What have been some of the band's favorite bands throughout your career?
Jonathan: One of them - our big brother, we consider them - is A Wilhelm Scream. That's kind of the band that took us under their wings. We played our first package tour with them, on stage with them and this band Only Crime, and we've done a bunch of tours with them since, you know, we've been friends. Nick filled in on bass on one tour, and guitar on another tour, for them, and Ryan's friend Mike actually plays guitar with them now, and they were in a band called Alley Cart before that, so it's this whole family thing. Then there's a bunch of bands like Living With Lions from Canada - they're great guys, Broadway Calls. There's a lot of great people we end up meeting. One of the coolest things that just happened to Nick and I was we got to meet two of the guys from Millencolin. That's my all-time favorite band. We played with them at Groezrock - they got added like two days before the festival because of the whole volcanic ash thing - and I think that was one of the big stepping stones of our career, and my life in general, meeting my heroes.

RF.net: When you performed at Groezrock, you actually opened the festival, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little about that experience. There were quite a lot of people there from what I remember.

Nick: Right before we were gonna start playing, there was nobody at the stage and we were really worried about it, like oh, we're the first band, this is gonna suck. About a minute after people just started filling in the whole tent, and it ended up being awesome. The whole show for me was kind of a blur. I didn't really take it all in because there was just so many people. It didn't really dawn on me until we watched videos later and saw what the crowd looked like, what we looked like and what we sounded like. It was great. It was one of my favorite shows that we've done.

RF.net: I think the reason for that was that they opened the festival site like 15 minutes before your set. Anyway, from what I understand, you guys make a point out of being a band that tours relentlessly. Doesn't it ever get tiring to be on the road so often?
Nick: Oh yeah. I'm tired now, absolutely worn out. Normally when a band comes to the UK they play like 8, maybe 9 shows, and we're doing 15. I don't know how that happened. But it's been awesome. It's been great, kids keep coming out to the shows, and we got to go up to Scotland and Wales. It's been really awesome. But yeah, Jonathan and I just got a house together and we only lived in it for six days before we had to go to Europe.

Jonathan: And then we're home for two days after this tour, and then we start another 2-week tour of the States with a band called Crime in Stereo. Then we're home for 20 days, and then we go on Warped Tour. So we're always moving. But it does help. It's very beneficial, especially with respect to the global market like the UK and Europe. When we can actually play those on a regular basis after this tour instead of feeling like we're boring the people in the US. You can only tour so many times, you know? So now that we can play the rest of the world, it opens up a lot of opportunities.

RF.net: You're from the same town as Michael Moore: Flint, Michigan. What do you guys think about him?
Nick: I think he has a lot of balls. I think he makes some great films. A lot of people might not agree with his tactics, how he approaches people and gets things done. But he's one of the only people that actually will make a movie in order to try to open people's eyes. There's a lot wrong with our country. So it's good that there's someone to let you know that it's not all happy and awesome; that a lot of stuff sucks. There's only a few people in the world that constantly have their middle finger up at the world. I'm one of those people, so seeing somebody else who's constantly trying to find answers and thinks there's something wrong with everything - who wants things to be better - when I see somebody doing something like that I get really excited - anyone who can get my blood boiling like that, like Michael Moore and even Henry Rollins with his spoken word.

Jonathan: People don't realize it, but there's a big difference between people who complain and people who do things that open up people's eyes and actually change things. People often say that Michael Moore just complains, only whines, but he's literally changing laws. He's affecting that many people just by putting a movie together, and politicians can't even do some of the stuff that he does. Nick and I really look up to him just because he's changed a lot of things and the fact that he's from Flint and has done a lot of Flint is really cool.

Nick: The city is pretty depressed, economically. Not doing too well. It's starting to get better, it's starting to become more of a college town for kids. But yeah, it's just cool to be able to have somebody who's trying to make our town a better place too.

RF.net: Did you get any inspiration from his documentaries or maybe just his ideals for your songs?

Nick: Just a little bit. He doesn't live in Flint right now, but he knows what's going on. There's people losing their jobs and having to move to find work. Families are getting separated, and people even going hungry. That's one of the little sidebars of our album, and part of what our new record's about.

RF.net: So how does the future look for The Swellers? Is there a new album in the works already?
Nick: Yeah. We have a bunch of ideas and we want to record an album sometime in the winter months when it's really cold and everyone just wants to stay inside. That's when I like to record. But no really hard plan for now, just touring, hard touring, and making a sweet record, hopefully something that's pretty intense. I don't know, I just feel like we're all angry about music, even more now than we were a year ago, and we want to change things.

RF.net: How do you mean angry?

Nick: I mean most music sucks today. As far as human beings go, most human beings suck and therefore most music they make sucks. It would be great to make some music that I really enjoy.

RF.net: Well, in that regard, not to offend anyone in particular, but you're playing on Warped Tour and a lot of bands there...

Nick: Yeah, I know...

Ryan: What are you trying to say man!?

Nick: Luckily there's some great bands like Set Your Goals, Every Time I Die, Polar Bear Club, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Bouncing Souls and Alkaline Trio - a lot of bands that we grew up listening to and bands that we're buddies with.

Jonathan: We'll be sticking to that part of Warped Tour, let's put it that way.

Nick: Newer bands like Anarbor are also on the tour. They're awesome and we'll be hanging out with them, they're a bunch of cool dudes. It'll be a good time.

RF.net: I'll let you have the last words, if there's anything you'd like to say to your fans or our readers.
Jonathan: Our record just came out in the UK and I think it's out in Europe too. If it's out, people should go buy it. And hopefully we'll be back soon!

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