Swimming - Interviews - Soundblab

Swimming

by Amy Baker Rating: Release Date:

I caught up with Nottingham band Swimming as they prepared for their recent gig at XOYO in London. We chatted unusual side-projects, bizarre comparisons and what to expect from their new album, Ecstatics International…

Let's start with how you came up with the name Swimming?

John: It all started as a kind of electric music project for Pete, me and another friend of ours. It just so happened that the day that we would choose to work on the project was the day that we would also go swimming in the mornings and that's how we came up with the name.

So who's the best swimmer?

J: Andy!

Pete: He's a water baby!

Andy: He's right - I was born for the water.

Since your first EP and first album you have drawn a lot of comparisons to something ridiculous like 50 other bands and your music has been likened to an array of genres including drone-rock, techno and even hip hop - do you think this reflects each of your personal music tastes?

P: Yeah - maybe the broader terms like that but the actual bands themselves that get brought up we don't really listen to.

J: We've actually got into a lot of music because we have been compared to them. It's how we hear about them, we then check them out and discover that we like them.

P: There are a few more bizarre ones though which are quite amusing like Babylon Zoo…

Would you cite Babylon Zoo as one of your major influences?

J: Not in the slightest but it is quite funny!

John you're a producer, Blake's a designer (Ginger Koko) and Jonathon is an engineer - you seem to have all sides covered. Would you say that you are self-contained band?

P: Yes absolutely. It's necessary. When you are growing up and getting into music and listening to bands and stuff, with the compulsion that you get to make music comes the desire to record it, package it and get it out there.

Do you think that covering all the bases has helped you or been more of a hindrance?

P: I think that it's essential for all bands to learn how to use packages like Photoshop and Final Cut or whatever. You need to use whatever media you can to be a success. It's part of presenting your music.

Pete - you're an award winning beatboxer (The Petebox) - should we expect to hear any of that on the new album?

P: We have used it as one of the instruments on some of our previous stuff and it is something that we would use for live shows.

J: He's pretty good at it. We see it as another instrument that's available to us should it fit with the tone of the song. We had quite a lot of it on the first EP and album.

What's the process you go through when you are recording - is it lyrics first then music?

J: It changes all the time, I've got lots of books with lyrics and drawings in that might be a spark for a song. This is quite embarrassing but I quite often whistle melodies into my phone, pretty tragic, but then some of them might start being demos on the laptop or on the guitar. Normally we're quite developed before we go into the studio and then the whole band get involved.

How would you describe your sound?

P: Banging (laughs). What do you think?

Blake: Hmm… maybe cosmic, electronic pop

A: Poppy, electronic…

J: Psychedelic in places…

Can you describe what people can expect from your shows both musically and visually?

J: I'll let Becky describe that to you as she is the one that does them all…

Becky: We play around quite a lot with old cine footage, we quite like the idea of taking the old and putting it with the new

J: We try and do the same with the music you know. A lot of it is made in the analogue world and we use the best of that side of things and then we use lots of digital manipulation and that kind of thing.

I've heard a lot about your collaboration with Dallas Simpson who uses binaural techniques to record - can you explain this a little more to me?

J: Dallas has microphones in his ears whilst he's recording so that the recording is of what he hears at that time, in that moment. He was doing a project with some kids where he gave them these microphones and told them to go out at break time and hit record. When they came back, he played the recordings back and all these kids are saying "Was it me that kicked that can, did I not pick it up?" They had become a lot more aware of their environment, we listened to it and hearing that back is an experience we'd never had before. It made us think whether or not it could be done with music. That's when the idea came to take the music to a poignant location, to match the message in the song or to enhance something, and to capture it in that way is completely unique. The sound isn't down to any kind of digital trickery - it's just the way that it sounds in that moment.

And where did you actually record?

J: The first time was in a forest where we had speakers hanging from the trees and then we did another in a place called Kilda in Northumberland in an open-top dome whilst it was snowing so it was all coming in. We've just done two more on a beach in Bamburgh. We've got a few more lined up and a documentary has been made which will be available soon.

Did I hear that you are also doing a gig like it as well?

J: Yeah, on December 2 at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. There's going to be a hundred sets of headphones and there'll be projections. We're looking forward to it.

Is your latest album Ecstatics International a dramatic change from your last album or is it more of an organic transition?

J: It's pretty organic. A lot of the ideas for this album came about around the same time that the first album was coming out. It's a pretty logical progression. The people that listened to the first album should feel that this album starts where the last album left off.

As a band, how do you decide when it's time to get in the studio?

P: We do it when we can. Because we do it all ourselves we just have to do it when we have time. John will have a lot of material and it gets to a certain point when it makes sense to spend a week or so in the studio getting it all down.

For people who haven't heard you before why would you tell them to come along?

P: Well I suppose the main selling point is that we've got our new album out so we've got a new set up and a new way of playing the tracks.

Is there any Nottingham bands that you would recommend our readers listen out for?

J: The Moscow Youth Cult and Andy's project - We Show Up on Radar

Your lyrics seem to have quite a lot of sad meanings behind them but your music is quite happy…

J: I think that I am quite optimistic. It's like the songs are almost triggered by an event which is a bit dark but you don't necessarily have to interpret them it that way. We get a lot of good reactions to that part of our music.

Who comes up with the ideas for your videos?

P: We work with a guy called Simon Ellis on a lot of the videos. We work together to all come up with ideas.

J: The video for 'Sun in the Island', with the kid rolling the drum - he's my neighbour who lived over the road. We really wanted it to be about the area that we lived in and the song is about being content with what you've got and what's around even if it's not particularly great. We like the idea of him taking the drum and finding a perfect place where he can just hammer it.

Could the kid actually play the drums?

J: We got him in the studio and gave him some tips - by the end he was pretty good. He got to keep that drum kit. He's a rapper now actually - he came up with some of the lyrics on this album.

What's next for Swimming?

J: We'd like to take the album overseas to Europe and the US - that's the next step.

A: We've got some good ideas for where we're going to go to record the next stuff

B: I've just moved to Barcelona so we might do some of the recording there - or in the desert could be cool.

J: We're thinking of hiring a youth hostel for a week over winter and just using that space to record.

Swimming's album Ecstatics International is available on iTunes now and you can catch them touring throughout November and December.

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