GENRE IS DEAD! Interview with SWMRS

GID: Rich Costey produced the record. What was it like to work with him? Did he also torture you like Zac Carper did?

Seb: Yes. He would come out of the studio everyday shirtless all oiled up with a bullwhip. Do another take! And he would whip us.

Max: He was really interesting. Even though he’s older than us and obviously has a much more experienced career, it felt like we were mentally on the same wavelength, which was really cool for us. With Zac, we were trying to figure out what was in his head because he’s such a weird person. With Rich, it was so fluid. The communication was so fluid and it was as if we came from the same planet from 300 million miles away. We just immediately spoke the same language.

SWMRS

Joey: Working with Zac was like walking for the first time. And working with Rich was like doing calisthenics for the first time. Working with Zac, he was really good at helping us figure what we liked and stuff like that. And he kind of opened up doors for us to think for the following years about what we liked. And working with Rich was more of a master class with a true professional. I think all of us just extremely respect Rich and we had respect going in without even knowing him and we came out of it really saying this guy is an absolute genius. 

Cole: And he treated us like professionals. He didn’t treat us like kids or like bros or brothers. We were friends.

Joey: And who doesn’t get enough credit is all of his engineers who worked on the record. There’s this guy Martin Cook who did drum stuff with me, there’s Billy and Derek who did all the guitars and bass and vocals. It was just like being in a spaceship with people who know exactly what they’re doing and how to get the best out of us which was – 

Seb: -How to get us to the moon. How to gets us to Mars. 

GID: Was there ever a moment of doubt during the production that you were going in the wrong direction?

Joey: I think it was the opposite. We would leave the studio every day knowing we were making the best record we’ve ever heard and also one that we’ve never heard before. And the whole goal was to make a record that we couldn’t go out and buy at the record store. And not doing something that was as bland as every other record. So, it was something really cool for us to be in there and work our ass off every day. 

Cole: When we were making the album we were living together. We had fights in the house over who bought too much Almond Milk. But no matter what happened, even if we were fighting that day, we still would come out of the studio like, no matter what, we’re making the greatest music we’ve ever heard and we’re doing the best work that we have done to this point and that felt really good. 

We would leave the studio every day knowing we were making the best record we’ve ever heard.
– Joey Armstrong

GID: What people tend to forget, especially the press, because this is your second record as SWMRS but you’ve been making music for a long, long time. So you are professionals.

Joey: And we’re really big fans of music. Even though a lot of music that we don’t like that was coming out, also this year and the last year, there was great music coming out in the hip hop world and also the singer/songwriter world so it was kind of like seeing the bar being raised from groups like Brockhampton or  when the 1975’s record came out and also Maggie Rogers’ – seeing these musicians and how they treat their craft was something we found really inspirational and all these people are very young and are doing something cool.

Cole: I think oftentimes people our age who are in rock bands tend to set the bar pretty low for themselves, because they just assume rock is not at the front anymore. So what’s happened is everyone’s made this small retro world where everyone is like “Yeah let’s just sound like the Rolling Stones and we did it! We made it to the top!” And even though they’re playing to a thousand people, that’s the top of where their mindset is. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just totally not what we do. 

Seb: Yeah, and when you have as many years and experience as we do and when your options are either to be inspired by that or someone like Maggie Rogers who 100 percent believes she’s doing the best work she will ever do. And we want to feel like that. We don’t want to feel satisfied. We want to always be pushing ourselves. 

 

GID: Would you say that your songs are timeless or do they represent a certain time and zeitgeist?

Cole: I think they’re going to represent the 2020’s. I think our songs, our career, what people will remember our band as is one of the band’s of the 2020s that helped shaped a decade. 

Joey: I went and saw Vampire Weekend about a year ago and when I saw them play I realized I know all the words to every one of these songs. I was thinking back to when those records came out – that was when I was 14 to 18 years old – and that’s such a pivotal part of your life with music. Although there was a lot of music I was listening to that was made way earlier on, like The Kooks, Vampire Weekend and we saw them over the last year, it really hit me that those bands came out and left this mark on my childhood and upbringing and that’s what we want to be for the kids who see us in Cologne between the ages of 13 and 21. 

Max: We want to be the sound of the post-Trump era. 

GID: Let’s hope there is a post-Trump era!

Max: It’s coming! Okay, so London Calling came out in 1979 except it was considered the best album of the 80s by Rolling Stone. That’s kind of – not just with this album, but with future albums as well – we want to be remembered as a band that was there when people were going through the greatest years of their lives. The roaring ’20s are coming! The next roaring ’20s with no depression at the end. And no fascism in Germany!

GID: Every country has things happening right now.

Joey: But they’ve always been there. People need to realize it’s not all of a sudden all these racists and people are popping up. They’re popping up because it’s so accessible to. They’re always on the news, always on social media. You didn’t have Facebook pages 15 years ago for these groups. So it’s like these people have always been there. They’re just getting more attention now but they’re still no one and they’re still sad sacks of shit that are gonna get the shit kicked out of them. 

Cole: It’s been happening forever. I mean in the 1920s Henry Ford was a massive fascist and he was a right-wing extremist and he almost became the president. He almost became the face of the democratic party. It’s always been happening, but the point is we have to sit back and not let it happen. What we can do as a band is inspire people to stand up and be like “Fuck that!”.

Joey: I think one important thing to add to all the political stuff that we talk about, I think for us especially, one thing that we’ve all come to realize is this is also a really important time for us to be listeners. There are a lot of amazing women and people of color who are leading this kind of leftist movement and so for us, it’s to be supporters and listeners and help support their ideas. And I think that’s one thing that we want to make sure: everyone – all kind of white men – can realize there’s a place for you to be a supporter while also being at the forefront and I think that’s one thing that’s really important for us when it comes to politics. 

We want to be the sound of the post-Trump era.
 – Max Becker

GID: Do you think Bernie is the right choice?

Joey: That’s a big argument going on in America right now because of the diverse group that the Democrats are producing and if you think about it all these people are great candidates. All of them come with baggage but all of them are great candidates. And with someone like Bernie – the one thing about him is his experience and how he’s been this constant fighter for people his entire life.

Seb: He’s never fought for anybody but the people. 

Joey: And he’s a man who grew up in Brooklyn with a bunch of Holocaust survivors and that led him to the civil rights movement and he’s had that at the forefront of every speech he’s given. The way he votes since he’s been a politician, so the one thing I say is there are a lot of young politicians that are running now for president who all are saying great things, but they’re also super young. This is the beginning of their careers.

Cole: Some of them have very recently moved to the left from being a bit more private sector – 

Joey: Which is good because you want people to change and there’s room for change.

Cole: We can’t judge people for their past. 

Joey: Right now it’s nice to see someone who’s been doing this for like 60 years. There’s no question he’s in it for the right reasons.

Max: If anything the fact that he’s running brings issues that he represents to the forefront. Whether or not he becomes the candidate, everything he talks about will now be a main issue and that’s important. He almost succeeded in that last time but we pretty much got shat on by the DNC, but we don’t have to talk about that. 

GID: Seb, you mentioned a new project in an interview, the SWMRS fund. Can you tell us more about it and which organization it benefits?

Seb: Yeah, we’re gonna start doing this thing where we’re taking a little bit of money from our tickets, I think it’s a dollar, for each ticket sale and we’re gonna pick a charity or a fund and we’re gonna collect this money. We’re not sure how long we’re gonna collect this money for before we give it to a fund, but we’ve chose some different funds with stuff that has to do with fixing the criminal justice problem and the prison problem. We have things for inner-city schools and environmental stuff.

Max: The idea is it’s like an emergency fund. If something needs some attention we’ll have a fund to push something immediately. 

Joey: I think we’re waiting every couple of months – it’ll be dumped when there’s a substantial amount of money. We just started it and it’s something that still very brand new, but it’s something that’s very important to us.

GID: That actually reminds me a bit of Linkin Park’s organization Music for Relief because they’ve been doing that for a long time, but they’re also having this emergency fund every time something comes up they are getting active. I think that’s a good thing. Is there a way that the fans can contribute other than buying tickets?

Joey: You can go to swmrsfund.com and it has all the specifics or it should soon. The site is still being built, but right now I think there is information on it. It’s something that we are slowly letting all our fans aware of because it is still so fresh. We want to do it the right way.  We want to make sure it’s perfect, so that’s why we haven’t given as much information as people want to know, but if you go to the website it’ll tell you what we have so far and it’s really exciting. 

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Melissa Wilke

Editor-in-chief | After two years in PR, I now work as an Account Manager in an advertising agency in the beautiful city of Duesseldorf. I’ve been blogging for 7 years on several websites and started working as a freelance writer for music magazines in 2013. I believe in the social value of music and its power to change the world for the better. My favourite bands/artists are Green Day, Enter Shikari, Linkin Park, Marmozets, SWMRS, Lana del Rey, Paramore, Foo Fighters, Nirvana and too many more to list them all.

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