- Swim Deep »
"Fuck your romance, I wanna pretend," declares Swim Deep's Austin Williams, "that Jenny Lee Lindberg is my girlfriend." No, it's not an incredulous boast or passing comment at the bar but the nearest flamboyant debut single 'King City' gets to a chorus. Announcing their arrival last year with those four glorious minutes of exquisitely sunny, guitar-orientated pop, the Birmingham quartet have become the next band-most-likely to follow current press darlings Peace out of the country's second largest city and into the mainstream.
Having decided to form a band in 2010 because there was "little else happening at that time", singer Williams and guitarist Tom "Higgy" Higgins spent their formative years playing house parties and such like with several different bands. Eventually recruiting Cavan McCarthy (bass) and Zach Robinson (drums), Swim Deep became a going concern last year, releasing their only two singles to date ('King City' and 'Honey') via Chess Club Records.
It wasn't long before a major label came sniffing and soon after the band signed to RCA, in between a relentless tour schedule that hasn't really slackened since the middle of 2012. Currently in the middle of their first nationwide headline tour. Next month they'll release another single, 'The Sea', which at this moment in time finds itself playlisted by Radio One among the Rihannas and Sandes of this world. Later this evening they'll cause near pandemonium at a sold-out Nottingham Bodega, causing bar fittings and monitors to nervously shake before a raucous stage invasion curtails their set with one song left to play. Before that, DiS sat down with the band post-soundcheck and found them - particularly singer Austin Williams - in a resoundingly buoyant mood.
DiS: How's the tour been so far?
Cavan: It's been chaos!
Austin: Yeah it's been great to be honest. Manchester last night was a little bit quieter. People seemed to be watching us more rather than trying to join us on stage! Possibly judging us even...
DiS: Do you feel that because of the coverage you've received in the media so far and with this still being only your first headline tour, there is a lot of pressure on you to live up to people's expectations?
Austin: I don't know. We aren't doing anything different to when we started really. Just playing the same music, although we're obviously playing it better now because we've been touring almost constantly since the middle of last year. It's nice that people are listening to our music and want to come and see us. The media attention has probably helped but if the music wasn't very good people would stop coming. There might be some people who are at the shows who've come because NME or whoever said we were good but haven't heard us before so I guess there is that point of proving ourselves to those people.
DiS: You've recently toured with Two Door Cinema Club and Spector and played to sell out audiences in large capacity venues every evening. What was it like performing to other bands' hardcore fans? Did that prepare for any possible backlash at all?
Austin: It's actually more fun because you can go out there and be a bit more...confident about our music. We know these people aren't really here to see us so it's literally like having a blank canvas. Whereas people that have paid to come to the shows on this tour are here to see us so we have to really up our game and give them what they want to see.
DiS: Are you surprised at the level of attention you've received after just two singles? Does that also create a certain amount of pressure?
Austin: We're also quite surprised but we do believe in ourselves. We really like the music we make so in a way we're also quietly confident about it. Things do tend to move very quickly once you fall under the radar but I think that happens to a lot of bands nowadays. In terms of pressure, I think it works in a positive way. I think it pushes you to be more pro-active as well. If there's no pressure it's so easy to not give a shit and become complacent. Lazy even. There's no rush but we aren't ones for waiting around either. We're always doing something.
DiS: You signed with a major (RCA) very early on. Have they set any targets in terms of what they expect you to achieve from a commercial aspect?
Austin: Yeah, they want number one albums and sold out arena tours by the end of next year! But no, they've been really supportive of what we're doing.
DiS: What made you sign with them?
Austin: They asked us! They're really nice people and we'd already worked with Will Street from Chess Club Records who also does A&R at RCA. He put out our first single so it's really nice that he believed in us to the point of wanting to sign us for RCA. We had other interest but the team at RCA just seemed like the right people to be around.
DiS: Do you see it as more rewarding signing to a major now rather than an independent?
Austin: It's probably more rewarding for our bank accounts... I don't know, obviously with major labels there are so many more advantages. We wouldn't necessarily say no to an independent label at all but then we weren't approached by many indies either, so... It wasn't really that much of an option but I think if it had been we'd still have signed to a major because they have so much more to offer.
DiS: Your forthcoming single 'The Sea' is quite a departure in terms of sound from both its predecessors, which were quite upbeat and poppy. Are you looking to go in a more introspective and expansive direction soundwise in the future?
Austin: It isn't so much about going in any one direction. It just happens. Each day you write different music and 'The Sea' was the song we wrote that particular day. Actually I finished that in about thirty minutes. It was the quickest song I've ever written. It was inspired by this annoying bird outside I kept hearing, so writing credits to that bird!
DiS: You've also chosen to cover Led Zeppelin's 'Down By The Seaside' on the b-side. Are you a big fan of Robert Plant and co?
Austin: I'm a fan but wasn't really a huge one until Higgy said let's cover this. We wanted to do something brave and push ourselves. It's a really hard song to play. The timing's a lot different to most of our songs. Also, our audience; our fans seem to be quite young, so if some 15-year-old hears our version and it turns them onto Led Zeppelin it can only be a good thing. I think a lot of people know their name but probably not that many from our generation and younger will be that familiar with their music.
DiS: And also the theme running through the single with 'The Sea' and 'Down By The Seaside'...
Austin: That was a bonus I guess!
DiS: Quite a lot has been made recently of the emergence of several Birmingham bands such as yourselves, Peace and Jaws. Do you think it's coincidental that the media are starting to pay attention now? There has been quite a vibrant underground scene there for years with labels like Static Caravan and Bearos and club nights such as Sound Of Confusion for instance.
Austin: I think it's a coincidence in as much as it makes sense they're focusing on these groups of people from Birmingham who are all around the same age and making music. We all share the same feelings about wanting to do something special, really create something interesting.
DiS: Do you think the regional element has been an important factor towards the band's development? For example, so many bands head to London and get lost after the first initial wave of attention.
Austin: Oh, for sure. As soon as that was picked up on things started kicking off and we got a lot of interest and funnily enough, we've hardly been in Birmingham at all! I don't think I've been there once in the last month as we've constantly been on the road. In the days that we used to hang out in Birmingham together before everything took off it felt like there was a real scene. Now I guess we're taking it to other places and it's more like a lifestyle. A way of thinking we want to project in our music.
DiS: What's also quite interesting is that none of the bands sound alike in any way.
Austin: No, we're all doing our own thing. I don't see the point in doing something if everyone else around us is doing the same. It's not like we've chose not to make the same music. We're all into different stuff, and I like to think it's not really that obvious what our influences are. We all like various genres of music and I think that comes through in what we're doing.
DiS: You've just finished recording your album with Charles Hugall (Florence & The Machine, The Maccabees, Ed Sheeran) in Brussels. How did you end up working on the record with him?
Austin: It's always been a dream of mine to make an album with a great producer and when we got signed, we were given that opportunity. I didn't really know that much about Charlie before we started working with him. I was told about a few producers by our manager; I'm quite naive when it comes to that side of things; so we looked into a few of them and Charlie's previous work sounded good so we went and had a chat with him and really got along. I really felt that he got what we're about so we chose him to do our second single, 'Honey', and it sounded fantastic. So we managed to get him to do the album and now it almost feels like he's one of us, one of the band.
DiS: What does he bring to the band's sound?
Austin: A level of creativity more than anything. He knows what we want but then somehow reigns it in so it doesn't end up being a load of self-indulgent nonsense. He kind of speaks the same language as us. He's got great musical tastes as well so it's quite easy to talk to him about the sounds we want to make.
DiS: When is the album likely to be released?
Austin: May. We're gonna release another single just before the album comes out, 'She Changes The Weather'. It's the last track on the album and I think it might surprise a few people as it's very different to anything we've recorded before. It's less of a pop song.
DiS: Your first single 'King City' is a kind of homage to Warpaint's bass player and contains the lyric "I wanna pretend that Jenny Lee Lindberg is my girlfriend." Has she heard the song and if so, have you had any feedback whether she likes it or not?
Cavan: I was told she'd heard it and apparently she liked it. But I don't know whether I just dreamed that!
Austin: She's married now anyway so I don't think it would waiver her in the direction towards me. The whole purpose of that song was just a reference of the feeling towards wanting to have a celebrity girlfriend. A teenage boy wanting to get out of his bedroom and be in a band and have this amazing famous girlfriend. It's a fabricated story in that it isn't so much about her but more about those kind of feelings. It could be anyone but she'd fit in well.
DiS: You've already been confirmed for several festivals this summer including Benicassim, The Great Escape and Bestival. Are there any others you can tell us about at this moment in time?
Austin: We're going to South-By-Southwest in three weeks. Bestival's the one I'm really looking forward to. It's such a great festival. I went there last year.
DiS: Finally, are there any other bands from Birmingham that you'd recommend Drowned In Sound and its readers to check out?
Austin: Have you heard of Superfood? They're putting out some new tracks in the next few weeks. They're worth checking out. Jaws as well who supported us on the first four dates of this tour. They get better and better every time I see them. The scene in Birmingham is quite healthy at the moment. There's lots of young people just forming new bands, which is what we were doing three years ago.
The single 'The Sea' is out on March 11th.
For more information on Swim Deep visit their official website.