Swimm

I spoke with Swimm’s Chris Hess and Adam Winn, the latter of whom slept through much of the interview so this is more just an interview with Chris. We sat down a few hours after the up and coming psychedelic, indie rock band’s set at Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival and talked about their music, LA versus small-town Florida, and Zines featuring Tom Cruise and Gloria Estefan. You can catch them at Austin’s SXSW, and be on the look out for their full length album in the next 6-8 months that they recorded in January.
Maia Jacobson: What’s the story behind the name Swimm, with two M’s?
Chris Hess: We were starting a band, kind of restarting another project together because we were in another band together and it was just the two of us like more of a rock-and-roll, simple, meat and potatoes kinda setup, and we started writing music a little more expensive that had to be played by a full band and we were like alright this feels like a totally different thing so we were trying to think of names and there was like three months of trying to think of names and we always liked Swimm, but it was like there was a band in london who was also like just starting as Swimm, but we went back and forth and eventually were just like F it, we’re just doing it, and we’ll add an ‘M’. And it felt like, from a purely symmetrical aesthetic, it’s kinda nice to have an ‘I’ with two letters on each side, so we get kinda geeky about that stuff as well. And I mean it feels nice to have a name that we really like and actually makes sense for the music because we also kinda want to have music that makes you feel weightless in certain areas of songs, so I think that maybe that’s growing up in Florida and near the ocean, you grow up learning to love that feeling of floating, and so yeah I think it fits.
MJ: Tell me about the decision you guys made to move to LA.
CH: Yeah well, we had always talked about moving to New York because we were always doing tours up the coast to NY, and every time we almost did, it was just too expensive and we’d be sharing a room for so much money, and we’d never get to practice and what not. We just ended up in a tour, and the guys who we were on the tour with, the guys who were playing with us, had a warehouse in downtown LA and a spot had opened up in the warehouse and we were on tour for two months and we ended it near California, and we were like okay let’s just stay. So Adam and I shared a bed for like six months and then another spot opened up and we didn’t have to share a bed anymore, and yeah we’ve been there for like two and a half years.
MJ: Was adjusting to LA hard? The band SWMRS, from Oakland, say it’s a very exclusive scene.
CH: Um I don’t know, I have like a weird sense of LA pride now even in the two years I’ve lived here cause I loved it from the moment we got here. I feel like it gets a really bad rap, and I think I’m just used to being in places that get a bad rap being from Florida obviously. Some people around the country think I’m gonna eat their face when I say I’m from Florida, so I don’t know, but I do really, really, really love LA and I was lucky enough to like move into a warehouse in the eastside and immediately meet really great friends that ushered us in the direction of really, really creative and being immersed in a wonderful music scene that we’ve never had in our home town, which was a sleepy beach town, so it was a culture burst which was so, so nice to have that. I don’t mind if people are like “oh you’re an LA band” because I think of all the great bands who are from LA that I think are amazing and it’s pretty cool that we’re involved in that, but I also like do love it if people are like “oh you’re from florida!” because like that feels nice, but I don’t have a stigma about it.
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MJ: How long have you been making music, you guys have worked together in the past before, but was there a defining moment that you were like, “this is what I want to do” or did you start really young and just grow up with it.
CH: Neither of us started super young and we both grew up surfing and kind of in my late teens, like 16, I started playing guitar and you [Adam] started playing drums around then?
Adam Winn: Yeah, about 19, or 20.
CH: Okay so even later, and I don’t know, it wasn’t like “I’m supposed to be in a band” and I was not a music guy at all and I would not play any songs for anybody for so long. Like sing to the walls of my bedroom and any second I’d hear a door open I’d like turn everything off.

MJ: What did you listen to growing up, do you think any of that music affected what you’re making now?
CH: Um it’s tough to know if Sarah Mclachlan works her way into every song… but I mean my mom and I, she would always have qutie the array of things from like Michael Jackson, to Toni Braxton, to weird spoken-word poetry stuff, and like my dad has really good music taste. So I don’t know, in our little town in florida there wasn’t a ton of good influence so you kinda had to go off of instinct of like “something about this feels wrong” [laughs] and I’m just not gonna dive in. I was lucky enough to have friends, older friends, that I surfed with who invited me over to like jam along and stuff?
MJ: What do you think your music is saying, or what do you want it to say?
CH: I think, especially after moving to LA and it was like culture just slapping you right in the face, I feel like I care way more about what it says as opposed to just a sonic vibe, you know? I feel like it would be nice if people got a little interest to be introspective, and just went “huh? Is anything about like the way we live? Is it really all great? Should we reevaluated it every once in awhile?”
MJ: moving a bit off topic, do you have any current favorite artists, or anyone you’re excited to see here?
CH: [laughs] Um I’m like the, I’m such a huge Kendrick Lamar fan, like we’re pretty much teething at just waiting. I really do want to try to catch a bit of Deertick, and maybe some Dr. Dog because we got to play with them and they’re always just amazing live…and that’s all I really know of today, But really more than anything, I cannot wait to see Kendrick Lamar, that album [To Pimp a Butterfly] was like the coolest thing I think in the last ten years.
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MJ: Current favorite artists that aren’t here?
CH: Well we’re lucky enough to be roommates with a band called Sego, and I hear them all the time, cause they practice all the time, they’re amazing. And like I said, living in LA is so cool to me because there are so many bands that aren’t like huge or anything but I see and am just like “oh my god, that’s insane” and even when we come home to Florida, like FayRoy, and Someday River. These are guys that play with us everytime we come home to Florida, and everytime I see them I’m like freaking out too. So like a lot of our friend’s bands are honestly the ones that get my engine running.
MJ: Favorite song on your ‘Beverly Hells’ EP?
CH: Oh geez! my own favorite song? oh geez….Adam what’s your favorite song on Beverly Hells?
AW: Um probably ‘Shoulda Coulda’
CH: yeah I usually would say one of those two, but lately ‘Beverly Hells’ has been really doin it for me
MJ: I saw you have a Swimm zine, what is it, how long have you been doing it?
CH: Oh yeah, so when we moved to LA, I started making them, there’s three volumes now and I have everything for the fourth one I just haven’t formatted it or anything yet. But basically we started doing shows at the warehouse, it’s called The Cube, and for every show we’d do, like once every four months, we’d always try to make it crazy and weird and redecorate the whole place, like hang mylar strips everywhere so the whole place looks like a reflective space bubble. I kinda wanted something to go along with them, so I started making them to couple with our home shows at our warehouse, so it kinda started from that and I would collaborate with whatever artist I was really into. So I just started collaborating with them so it wasn’t just all my own shit and basically it’s just essays and stuff that I would write for our blog and some little sketches I would do, but they actually have some really amazing visual art by a different painter. That’s been the thing with each one, there’s been a different painter until the last one, it’s going to be more of like a fake fan mail zine, with little sketches of fake people, some of them real like Tom Cruise and Gloria Estefan are people who are like huge Swimm fans in my imagination and I write little synopsis of how they became huge fans.

MJ: Do you have any books, magazines, or any other publications that really inspire some of the writing you do?
CH: Yeah, I‘m like a huge Tom Robbins fan and I eat up anything he does. My mom is like an amazing writer and she’s just now releasing her second book, and it’s going to be called’The Butterfly Book’ and it’s going to be her writing letters to an imaginary life partner-to-be and then through like manifesting that and finding him, now he’s my stepdad and they’re amazing, I love them. So really I get it from all angles.
MJ: Here’s a couple quick little fun-fact type questions: what’s something nobody knows about you?
CH: Haha uh we’re moving quick…
MJ: let me rephrase, how about something your fans don’t know about you?
CH: I looooooove Ace ventura.
MJ: Really?
CH: Like I could pretty much base anything I ever needed to do, or think, or act around the character of Ace Ventura and I would be very okay with it. And I feel like I’d be pretty successful.
MJ: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
CH: Probably writing a novel. Probably drinking a lot more.
MJ: What would the title be?
CH: Memoirs of a lilith fairy.
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Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival 2016

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Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016 – Day 3 @ Okeechobee, FL

I had the opportunity to attend the first year of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida. Before I jump into the music, let me just mention that I drove about 50 miles down a single lane road into the center of Florida and when I arrived at the venue, it was like a magical world in the middle of the woods. There was a lot of thought that went into planning for this, so much attention to detail, down to the last twinkling light strung through the trees and hand painted designs on nearly every paintable surface. The whole thing was a beautifully put on production and very smoothly run. Here I am going to recap a bit from all three days, and look out for full reviews of the best shows! Check out my full photo album from Okeechobee here!

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Sometimes the mellower, experimental music isn’t such a great genre to see live, but I’ve been listening to Youth Lagoon for a while now especially when I’m drawing, or painting, or just anything creative; it really sparks my imagination. The crowd erupted into cheers as “Cannons” began, and in a few of the instrumental sections of songs, front man Trevor Powers made his way around the stage thrashing about in a tantrum-like fit. He kept up humorous banter between tracks with mentions of his mother’s homemade cookies versus Oreos, and the difference playing Florida, when they were just in Russia three days prior. The only thing that disappointed me was a group of overly exuberant girls right behind me talking through the whole set; if you’re gonna stand in the crowd, be there for the music instead of talking over it, and being disrespectful of other’s experience. He finished the set with “Dropla” and a mic drop during the little tantrum dance around the stage at the end. Trevor started making music as Youth Lagoon in 2011, released three albums, and as of this past February, announced the end of Youth Lagoon; I sure hope it’s not the last of Trevor’s music.

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Now for the band I was most excited to see, Mumford & Sons. I should preface this by noting that they were only letting a certain number of photographers in the pit for their set, so I camped out in a front row spot for five and a half hours; this meant so much. The came out onstage to a crowd of thousands and calmly began “Snake Eyes” under the ghostly blue lights. I have never experienced so many people all singing along to the same song. They followed with “I Will Wait” which had everybody dancing and bouncing in the limited space each person had in such a crammed audience. Before starting “Awake My Soul,” Marcus said “we’re gonna sing one together right? Its fucking easy,” and instructed the crowd on the chorus. He mentioned how weird it was to be playing a festival in March, and addressed the whole Trump deal; “Also what the fuck are you thinking with Donald Trump!?” He also called Trump a name that should not be repeated, and dedicated “The Cave” to him. Marcus played drums on “Lover of the Light” and “Dustbowl Dance” the latter of which ended their set . . . But wait there’s more!

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They came out for encore with famed guitarist Tom Morello, The Avett Brothers, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band and covered “House of The Rising Sun” “You Really Got Me.” Winston Marshall took the Marcus’s mic to do “You Shook Me All Night Long” prefacing it with “tonight I’m gonna be the Bee Gees doing AC/DC!” And boy did he deliver! After that cover, Winston spoke with Marcus and came back to the mic with “well, I’ve just been fired from Mumford & Sons [. . .]” and continued with a funny little thank you speech. Their guests left the stage, save for Tom Morello, and they thanked everyone again, and thanked the creators of the festival for providing such a “collaborative atmosphere” before they signed off and closed Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival with an expressive rendition of “The Wolf.”

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016 – Day 1 @ Okeechobee, FL

I had the opportunity to attend the first year of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida. Before I jump into the music, let me just mention that I drove about 50 miles down a single lane road into the center of Florida and when I arrived at the venue, it was like a magical world in the middle of the woods. There was a lot of thought that went into planning for this, so much attention to detail, down to the last twinkling light strung through the trees and hand painted designs on nearly every paintable surface. The whole thing was a beautifully put on production and very smoothly run. Here I am going to recap a bit from all three days, and look out for full reviews of the best shows! Check out my full photo album from Okeechobee here!

I arrived sometime around 1:30 pm and unfortunately missed the first half of Roadkill Ghost Choir, an indie rock band with a dark, southern air about their music. As I was strolling up to the stage, I immediately asked myself, “is that Kurt Vile?!” The lead singer and guitarist, Andrew Shepard, has that iconic long hair that made me do a double take. There was a lot of energy onstage, but in a very chill way. In parts of songs where Shepard wasn’t playing guitar, he sang with his hands in the same way one would be considered a hand-talker. Their last track, “No Enemy,” started off sounding more pop-rock than some of the other songs they did, but ended with a lot of screaming in the last chorus that gave the song some edge.  Overall, it was a great start to the festival, and I spotted Shepard in the crowd for Marian Hills set later that day and talked a bit about his set; he is a very appreciative and humble guy.
I was excited for Marian Hill’s set; my favorite radio station back in MN has been playing the hell out of their single “One Time.” Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd are the masterminds behind the sultry electronic sounds. They had a friend their playing sax and bass with them, and came onstage one by one and jumped right into “One Time.” A few songs in and their crowd just kept multiplying, probably due to the trance-inducing mix of the heavy bass and delicate vocals. After their seventh song, Sam says to the crowd, “now we know you guys like the sax, so let’s have a little instrumental dance break,” followed by even more cheering and dancing. The closed their set with a new song, “Bought It,” Sam asked the crowd to break it down with her during the bridge, and everyone was jumping in unison without question.
X Ambassadors were nothing short of what I expected. What I really appreciate about Sam Harris (lead vocals) is that he plays a lot of different instruments. When I saw them last summer in Minneapolis I was a bit off put that he was only singing, but a few songs in and he picked up a guitar and looped it, then picked up the sax and looped that too, then went on singing and jumping around the stage. The whole band is brimming with energy when they perform, though Harris takes first place for his dancing around the stage. They came out hot with an old track “Love Songs Drug Songs,” and followed that with “Hang On” which was a huge hit with the audience. “Unsteady” had every single person in the crowd singing along, although they seemed to be doing that with most every other song.
Friday night I went and checked out a band, new to me, by the name of Hundred Waters, and let me say I think I fell in love. First of all, Nicole Miglis’ vocals are the epitome of ethereal, and they started off strong with a track called “Murmurs” that made me want to dance while I was in the photo pit. Their first three songs I was in the pit for and I would catch myself not taking photos, completely entranced by their music and visual art installation on the screen behind them. They remind me a bit of Poliça and FKA Twiggs with the combination of the calming, electronic sounds and Miglis’ long, drawn out crooning, not to mention the killer bass. Five songs in, and they dropped a faster, more dance-able beat with “Xtalk,” and I’ve never seen a more reactive crowd. Nearly the exact second the beat dropped, there was so much dancing, light-up rave hoopers showed up out of nowhere, and it felt like an outer space dream.
(Editor’s note: this was originally written for Indie Daydreamer)

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016 – Day 2 @ Okeechobee, FL

I had the opportunity to attend the first year of the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida. Before I jump into the music, let me just mention that I drove about 50 miles down a single lane road into the centre of Florida and when I arrived at the venue, it was like a magical world in the middle of the woods. There was a lot of thought that went into planning for this, so much attention to detail, down to the last twinkling light strung through the trees and hand painted designs on nearly every paintable surface. The whole thing was a beautifully put on production and very smoothly run. Here I am going to recap a bit from all three days, and look out for full reviews of the best shows!

Saturday started with Swimm’s set at 12:30 am, which Chris Hess, lead vocals and guitar, joked about by saying, “it’s also 9:30 in the morning right now, so I’m grateful for all this!” referencing the crowd. Chris started the show with a quiet little number he wrote about south FL, “Darkness of Love.” They have a very psychedelic indie-rock presence on stage, everlastingly cool. “Belly” seemed to be a crowd favorite as well as the song that drew in the most passersby.  Probably my favorite parts of their set is when they jumped into a short cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Adam Winn, drums, played harmonica in “Suddenly.” Chris’s mother was in the crowd and he dedicated a song to her, and after a joking reference to mushrooms and acid combinations, said “I’m just kidding! Police, don’t take me to jail, I just want to be here with my mom!” You can read my interview with them here.

After Swimm, I ran over to another stage to catch Givers. I hadn’t listened to them in the years since “Up Up Up” came out. The five piece was here from Lafayette, Louisiana, and proud of it. They began their set with “Saw You First” and had everyone smiling from the beginning. The audience seemed to be a group of dedicated fans, singing along to most every song. There wasn’t much banter with the crowd between songs, but during them Taylor Guarisco, guitar and vocals, and Tif Lamson, percussion and vocals, asked for a lot of crowd participation: clapping, swaying, fill-in-the-lyrics, and dancing.  They had a very festival look, with the eclectic outfits and plants draped over their instruments; they fit in well and helped in making a positive, creative atmosphere.
The highlight of Saturday night was hands down the once-in-a-lifetime PowWOW! The masterminds behind the Bonnaroo Super Jam, created this to set this brand new festival up for success. Those who were announced before hand to take part in this was John Oates, who was receiving cries of “John, you make my dreams come true!” before the PowWOW started, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, one of my favorite bands ever, and Miguel. The three covered an array of songs, from Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “Let’s Grove,” to Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” to a heartfelt cover of “Rebel Rebel” lead by Win who said some heartfelt words after about the dearly departed David Bowie. Towards the end of their two hour set, surprise guests started showing up on stage for a song here and there, namely Skrillex, Mac Miller, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Zigaboo Modeliste, Kamasi Washington, and Mumford & Sons, the latter of who I freaked out because I was front row and wasn’t expecting to see them until the next day, let alone that close.

SWMRS at O’Malley’s. Margate, FL 25/02/16

have always had a definite list of top three concerts I’ve ever been to that consists in, from first to last, in The Wombats at Varsity Theater, Hippo Campus at UW River Falls and Matt & Kim at Rock the Garden 2014. My list rarely ever changes, but after the SWMRS show in Margate, FL last week, some adjustments may need to be made. 
 
I’ve been thinking about this really hard the last few days and I think SWMRS have beat out Hippo Campus for the number two spot when it comes to stage performance and experience, and the bumped Matt & Kim from the third place spot regarding music.
Cannelle [editor of Indie Daydreamer] suggested I check out the show a few weeks back, so I looked into them and didn’t give them much thought until a few days before the show when I started listening to their debut album on repeat in preparation. These distinctly Oakland, California boys have made it a clear fact that they are not from LA and think Miley [Cyrus] is a punk rock queen. Their sound is very surf-punk, though they call it ‘Hawaiiange,’ condensed for Hawaiian grunge.
When I showed up to the venue, a friend in tow, we were less than excited by a strip mall sports bar about 7 miles from the Everglades. We waited a bit for doors to open, and “the guy with the list” wasn’t there yet so I waited, and shortly after a large black van come ripping through the parking lot. The door opened before the van stopped and Steve, the list guy, jumps out and runs at me with a hug, apologizing for being late.
Once inside, it was a matter of waiting through two short sets for local bands. The place was your typical sports bar, fried food and the regulars at the pool tables. One thing that I always forget is that you can smoke indoors in FL, whereas in MN you haven’t been able to for years. Now I’m young, still a teenager, but the crowd made me feel so old. There was a good amount of punky teenagers, with band shirts, flannels, skinny jeans, side cuts, cigarettes tucked behind ears à la Mac DeMarco, and tons of Vans, like so many.

Mikey Carnevale, lead singer and guitar, Adam Lomnitzer, drums, of The frights
The Frights
The Frights opened for SWMRS, and oh my gravity was that a match made in heaven! It’s a rare occasion when an opener so seamlessly flows with the headliner. They had a similar sound, but different enough that they were distinct of each other. There was obvious chemistry between the two bands being that Cole Becker (lead vocals and guitar of SWMRS) was in the audience watching most of The Frights’ set. Seb Mueller (Bass and vocals for SWMRS) was spotted in the crowd as well, enjoying a powerful cover of Weezer’s “Undone” with Cole.
As for SWMRS’ set, Cole told the audience, “Yeah so if you’re here to see us, you should probably stand up, you’re gonna want to stand,” before they started the first song, “Harry Dean,” and he screamed into the mic. They have so much energy on stage, jumping on and off amps and into the crowd. Cole is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, with the whole hair in face, sweater and flannel deal he has going on. Nearly everyone gathered around the stage were singing along to “Miley” and when they played “D’Have a Car?” Cole instructed, “Ya’ll got to jump!” and they did. The finished the set with a sweaty “Drive North” in which the lyrics were cleverly changed to Florida cities, screaming “I hate Miami!” after some between-song banter regarding the crowds communal dislike of Miami.
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Cole Becker of SWMRS
The atmosphere was so fun and full of youthful energy, something Cole says really inspires him.”I’m really inspired by my peers, and passionate kids, like tonight’s show was so great for me!” We talked about Minneapolis (where I’m from) and Familia Skate Shop that Joey’s (Drums) uncle owns. Even the little bit I was able to speak with him after the show, it’s easy to tell he’s very socially aware, like I’d put him up there as the male version of Tavi Gevinson when it comes to current social issues.
You can catch them still on the tail end of their US tour, and they’ll be in the UK later this spring. All in all, I was very impressed with both The Frights and SWMRS; I haven’t listened to anything but them since, and I’d hands down go see them again!
(Editor’s note: originally written for Indie Daydreamer).