INTERVIEW: Swim Deep | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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On their recently-released new album Mothers, Birmingham natives Swim Deep have embraced everything from Madchester vibes to acid house and even gospel music. It’s a formula that’s  seen them mature since the release of their debut album Where The Heaven Are We and it’s made them a striking, intriguing and engaging band, one not afraid to break genre boundaries and experiment with a wide variety of indie and dance subgenres.

Ahead of their gig on Tyneside on Sunday, we talked to the group about their unconscious change in direction, growing up and strange laws in Japan.

Congratulations on the release of Mothers! It’s been out about a month or so now but were you happy at the positive reception that the album generated?

We’re over the moon about people’s enthusiasm because we know fully well that it’s a bit of a curveball from the first record but luckily it seems like everyone’s got on board with Mothers. We’ve changed a lot as people in the past couple of years so it’s great to know that lots of our old fans have taken on that change with us and have opened their minds to bigger and brighter things, just as we have.

A lot has been made of the fact that the new album is quite a change in direction from your debut; was this change ever a conscious direction or was it more of a natural progression? Was there anything in particular that you think might have prompted the change? Perhaps a difference in what you were listening to at the time of making the record?

There was a desire to expand our horizons for this record but as far as a “change in direction” goes it was completely natural. We spent all our money on a plethora of new musical instruments when we started writing for album two right after Where The Heaven Are We was released in 2013. Vintage synths, drum machines and bass sequencers, for example. And as we were becoming familiar with those we were also listening to all the different kinds of music that those instruments were used on before. From late 80s acid house to synthesized sci-fi soundtracks, with stuff like gospel and funk also in the mix too. So naturally, our influences were massively broadened and that’s probably why things sound a bit different now! But the funny thing is, people are saying that we’ve changed, but as far as we’re concerned we’ve sounded like this for nearly two years now…!

It was quite interesting when To My Brother came out and it had these gospel element to it but also a real acid house vibe, which almost made me think of the Madchester scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Has that been an influence at all on some of your new material?

Names like The Stone Roses had been thrown about before when people wrote about us, and of course some of the elements of that song (particularly the 303 bass synthesizer) were familiar to a lot of those Madchester electronic acts, so it’s a welcome comparison. But there was never any point where we wanted to make a Happy Mondays song or anything like that… To My Brother was conceived in a cottage in West Yorkshire and underwent a number of changes before it came out as what it is now. It’s a real mutant.

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“We’re lovers, not fighters, but we definitely felt like we had a lot to say with this record both musically and lyrically”

You’ve said fairly recently that Mothers is a deeper and more mature record. How do you think you’ve grown as a band since the release of Where The Heaven Are We?

Our sense of musicianship has grown massively from the five of us having spent so much time touring and playing together… You just learn to read each other and it makes jamming and writing so much more fruitful. We’re all pretty fluid as well and there are definitely no rules as to who plays what instrument, regardless of what we might play on stage so that makes for a much more interesting blend when we’re in a room together because everyone has their own style for each weapon. And just a general sense of growing up, moving away from Birmingham, seeing the world and developing different cultural tastes has had an effect on the music as well. Our eyes have been opened – we once said that the first album was about leaving Birmingham, but the second record was about leaving the country to see the world and (metaphorically) the entire planet as well…

I’ve read that when you were directing the video for To My Brother that you told the director you were “ready to shave your heads and go to war.” Is that feeling almost of resistance and battle something that you think runs through the record as a whole?

We’re lovers, not fighters, but we definitely felt like we had a lot to say with this record both musically and lyrically. We wanted to take the world head on with as much power and vigour as possible with these new songs and sounds, and we’ve also tackled some issues that we’ve come across through our work in the lyrics. The most obvious one is the Fueiho law, which we found out about when playing in Japan. Essentially, there was a law that said that people in clubs or gigs were not allowed to dance and we thought that was simply bizarre. The police would raid clubs and sometimes even attack people simply for dancing. The law was only repealed this year, after the song was written, so we feel like we’ve won a private battle there. Haha.

Speaking of videos, how did you get Paul Daniels to be in the video for Namaste?

We just thought he’d be perfect for the role so we sent him an email and he was completely up for it. He’s a proper mad hatter, firing off one-liners all day long and generally being the best kind of nuisance possible. It was quite an experience to work with him.

Namaste’s video reminds me a bit of the clip that The Strokes did for Someday, where they played Family Fortunes with Guided By Voices. What was your concept behind the video?

A lot of writers were comparing the song to game show horns from the very first time we played it live and we thought that was a really funny idea so we just went with it… And it turned out great so we’re really happy.

The opening track on the album is One Great Song And I Could Change The World. Do you think that’s true?

Of course. You look at some of the most significant songs in pop culture – things like Heroes by Bowie, Imagine by John Lennon, Smells Like Teen Spirit… they are just emblematic of a time period or culture and have spurred so much influence on the musical and material world.

Swim Deep play at Riverside, Newcastle on Sunday 11th October.

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