Interview: The Swellers — " We wanted to write songs that were about real people and real experiences and say something…"
Wed, 03 Mar 2010 11:40:38
The Swellers are "punk rock" in the truest sense of the words.
The Michigan quartet churn out catchy, fist pumping rock 'n' roll locked and loaded with smart and sharp lyrical messages. In fact, unlike most modern "purveyors of the genre," The Swellers say something with each and every line and riff. Brothers Nick (Vocals/Guitar) and Jonathan Diener (Drums) work in tandem for the perfect thought-provoking punk assault on their latest album, Ups and Downsizing.
Right now though, Nick is just concentrating on the burrito stand across the street from his Los Angeles hotel. He laughs, "It’s pretty unreal; there's a burrito stands 100 feet from where we're staying. It's 9:30 this morning and I have nothing better to do than go there [Laughs]. Thankfully, it's open 24 hours. You can't beat that!"
You can't beat The Swellers right now either…Nick sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Ups and Downsizing, his favorite flicks and why everyone needs to just chill out and be a kid again once in awhile….before he tackled that burrito…
If Ups and Downsizing were a movie what would it be?
Wow, if this album was going to be a movie it would have to be a mix of a few. One of them is Roger and Me by Michael Moore, which is a movie about Flint, Michigan and the auto industry leaving the town. That's pretty much the reason that a lot of the songs were written our album, and it explains the fate of a whole town. Another movie would be Into the Wild, which is a movie about a kid named Chris McCandless. He's doing "something crazy" by pursuing what he's meant to do no matter what the costs or what the odds are against him. There are a couple songs on the record that have those feelings—like the acoustic song, "Stars." I’d say the rest of the album would probably just be Wayne’s World just because [Laughs].
The album catalogs those feelings about the town's state, but there's a message of individuality and striking out on your own. It’s like what you’re doing with the band, ultimately.
The whole cinematic aspect, like you said, was definitely intentional. We wanted the songs to say something. We wanted to write songs that were about real people and real experiences. It was very much influenced by one big idea so I'm glad you noticed that. That’s pretty cool.
And it’s cool for a punk record to be like that as well because the genre essentially requires its purveyors to "say something."
Definitely! There are a lot of younger bands out there right now that are playing pretty sugary music. They’re doing really well and they're having a blast. I love that kind of stuff—I love pop music—but we've been doing this since 2002. We’ve always had something to say with our lyrics and now we're getting to do it to a broader audience. We figured we'd take advantage of that and tell the story we know best.
What’s the story behind "Watch It Go"?
That song was actually one of the first tracks we had written for the record. It's about when Jonathan (Drums) and I were in elementary school. There's talk about the bus stop and being late to school. There are a bunch of little one-liners that are almost directly related to what happened when we lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan growing up and learning. It's a throwback to when times were easier and a lot better for everybody. We're out on tour having a blast, hanging out with friends and trying to be carefree. Meanwhile, some of our friends are taking a different approach and they're stressing out and not having fun anymore—trying to be grownup I guess. The whole song's like a call for everyone. It basically says, "Chill out and do what you used to do when you were a kid. It’s still okay, have fun." There's a straight-up reference to Nada Surf as well. I bought that Nada Surf's High Low in fourth grade, and I listened to it every single day before I rode my bike to school. They are still my favorite band today.
Playing these songs must bring back some great memories.
We had a really great childhood. We're not going to pretend that we were kids from the street and our parents hate us. It was great. All of our problems were basically little problems. We’re not going to act like we had it harder than anyone else. The actual song and title track, Ups and Downsizing, has to do with my parents moving to North Carolina because they couldn't find work up here and how we were struggling. Terrible stuff was happening and our family was being ripped apart. But now they’ve got their lives down there and Jonathan and I, we're living our lives up here in Michigan. It really was like that light at the end of the tunnel.
It's more fodder for great music…
Yeah, definitely…I'm in a good mood so I've been writing some pretty happy sounding music. I'm stoked to already be working on another record. It's totally in the beginning stages, but it's the only thing we know how to do so I'm always writing.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Anything that's epic and pretty awesome [Laughs]. I'm a huge Star Wars! My favorite movie of all time is A Christmas Story, just because it's another throwback to childhood. I've been watching that movie every single year multiple times from holiday season…also, any of the great comedies that I grew up with—like Wayne's World, Dumb and Dumber. The Early '90s were pretty awesome. …
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…