How is everything?
I’m standing in a field in Jackson right now.
In a field?
Yeah. (begins to laugh deviously) So, I will be your first interview in a field.
Are you on the road?
No. Just visiting a friend.
How’s the weather?
It’s beautiful here. It’s like clear and fifty degrees.
You’re lucky. The weather in New York is terrible. It’s really cold for April.
It’s cold and miserable. (laughs)
So, what was the deal with your record getting delayed?
I bought the rights for the name Swimmer in the fifty states, but a band had a local law thing where they released a record and sold ninety-four records, which I could sell ninety-four to my family, and which put a hold on our record. So, it went from March 23rd to April 27th instead.
Was it because they had the name before you bought the rights and all of that copyright nonsense?
The whole thing was a joke. It was because it was released as a record. If it went to court they’d lose, but we can’t afford to go to court because they’d stop our record from being printed. It’s the music business, I guess. It’s a joke, but it’s all going ahead now.
What made you decide to come to New York City in the first place?
I came to get signed by Maverick Records even though they were in LA. I didn’t like LA, so I went to New York to put together a band. Mainly because New York is a great city, even though I’m standing in a field in Wyoming, maybe I don’t want to leave. Why am I in New York City? (laughs) Anyhow, I came to put together a band and my number one record company choice was Maverick Records. So I came and did it in a nine-month period.
You were in London before that. Did you talk to Maverick then or did you just come here with that mission?
I came with a mission. It was funny. We had nine companies trying to sign the band, but none of them were Maverick Records. And I was like, ‘Aw, shit!’ So the whole plan was to be with that company. I know you’ll probably ask me, ‘Why Maverick Records?’
Actually, I was going to ask that.
Basically, they are a small but powerful label and you would get special treatment. They are more intimate. I came with a vision of what I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to sit down at the table with every single person at the record company and talk about it.
Anything to do with Madonna?
I admire Madonna for what she is and what she has done. The record company seems to me to be the same thing.
She has put together a pretty good roster of artists.
When did you know you wanted to be a singer?
I never really refer to myself as a singer. When people talk to me, they say I sound like I’m talking about a fifth instrument rather than my voice. It just happened. Somebody said, ‘Do you want to sing?’ and I couldn’t play an instrument so I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’ My mother was a singer, though. She made records way back in Scotland and Glasgow, years ago.
When did it happen that you were asked to be a singer?
Quite a while ago. I was probably like fifteen, but I didn’t stay in bands. I was kind of screwing around in the living room and our families were telling us to shut up. It took a while and then I was all of the sudden a singer, just like now I’m all of the sudden a guitar player. I’ve only been playing for two-and-a-half years. That is kind of weird as well.
Who were your influences growing up? I read that a lot of them were non-musical.
Yeah. Have you read that publicity thing?
The bio? Yeah. That is why I ask some questions, because they aren’t always what they are cracked up to be.
I’ve, and people think this is weird, but, never bought a record. I hear all of this music everywhere that I go, and lately as far as influences go, two years ago somebody played me a Smashing Pumpkins record. I asked, ‘Who’s this?’ and they said, ‘The Smashing Pumpkins.’ It was like a time period when music wasn’t always dramatic and that told me it was okay to be dramatic. Like the bands in my publicity thing, like Jane’s Addiction and Radiohead, have had much later influences, but I swear I’ve never bought a record in my life. I don’t sit down to listen to music ever; it’s not my thing. I know all the comedians out there and all of the t.v. evangelists. (laughs)
Who is your favorite comedian?
Steven Wright, in America.
You like his laid back, apathetic monologue?
Yeah. I love how he makes people sing. I think in that publicity thing that we did ages ago I didn’t want people to have the wrong impression, from maybe them thinking that it is a comedy album. Because it is very the opposite, it is very deep.
I actually had the album before I had any other information, so I knew what it sounded like.
That is good. It is good in the bio that I was able to say that comedians are manic- depressives and they think a lot. I like people who think a lot. Comedians can say whatever they want because it is humor. So that is a great thing. It is very powerful.
They can write off anything they say as being comedy.
Exactly. And the evangelist thing is how they are the greatest pop stars around. They are the real pop stars. They have five thousand people in an arena in their hand. There is not one person looking the other way or talking. I’m not religious, but I’m well amused by them.
I love watching on Comedy Central when they have those bits about the crazy evangelists on there.
Yeah. It is incredible. Like the ones who are banned and then come back after child molesting, fraud, extortion, and whatever.
And people still give them money.
Yeah. (laughs) They are all back. And I’ll be like, ‘Isn’t this the guy who was just put in jail for three years?’ There is this little guy with blond hair, I can’t remember his name, he’s younger with blond hair and they always have a clip of him shouting at the camera. He’s crazy.
On the Daily Show?
Yeah. They show a clip of him, he’s not big because no one likes him, he comes on and says, ‘I know why everyone hates me.’ That is the one who was arrested for child molesting.
I listened to the album quite a bit and noticed that you do use ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ quite a bit in your lyrics.
For instance, there is a song called “Playing Jesus”. That is about taking ecstasy and finding it with something else. There are no religious parts at all. I never took anything, and then somebody gave me something and I was the one playing Jesus, saying ‘You shouldn’t take that,’ the hypocrite, and then all of the sudden I found it was something that completely freaked me out. (laughs)
I was brought up a young catholic boy. I was an alter boy and I have seen priests smash kids across the face and just horrible things that had nothing to do with what apparently religion is about.
There seems to be a lot more of that going on than there should be.
Yeah. The album is in effect what has happened throughout my life. It does deal with religion, but it is not me preaching. The song “Dumb”, a lot of people think I am singing “God, it’s so dumb,” but I’m really singing “God is so dumb.” Nothing against people who are religious; it is just what happened to me.
I was checking out your site on Maverick [click here] and was going through the lyrics so that I could get a better feel of what you might be saying. But then sometimes it’s like you don’t really want to know what songs are about, it’s better to just have your own interpretation. Especially with “Surreal”.
That is the thing about the songs. If I’m asked, I will tell people. If they want it to be their own interpretation, then fine. Either way, it doesn’t bother me. I’ll give you an example for the song that we just talked about. Well, maybe you don’t want an example. (laughs)
You can tell me. If I don’t ask then all of the readers will be angry because I didn’t ask because of my own selfish reasons.
With “Surreal”, a lot of people have their own interpretations of that song. It is about my friend who hung himself and the words are about what I thought he was thinking as he walked up to the rope. It’s a pretty heavy song.
Wow. That does change my perspective. The vocals are really emotional, too. Do you feel that when you are recording that?
Yeah. When we are playing live, I lose it, and when we recorded it, I was losing it.
How did you even realize that you wanted to write songs since you didn’t listen to music?
I just wanted to say something. The best way to express it for me was through music. And I picked up the guitar because I felt that writing with someone else was incredibly difficult because they were still part of what was going on. There are three songs on the album that are co-written, they are sort of co-written, let’s put it that way. I just felt that it would make it real personal when it would be just me sitting with my guitar. The way the songs are written is that I play the guitar and hum a melody and then I sing some words. I never sit down and say, ‘Oh, that’s a good subject. I’ll write about that.’ So, what I do is sing and then I’ll listen back to what I’ve been singing and it is totally subconscious, the song is, because it is obviously my therapy because I listen back and go, ‘Wow, that is what I’m thinking about?’ So I then realize what I’m singing about and I finish the lyrics from there. It’s basically me wanting to say what I’ve been wanting to say without sitting down and saying, ‘That’s a good subject.’ I think when people do that, you notice that they sat down and did that.
Like they had an agenda or something?
Yeah. That goes on a lot today. It does. Even when you watch a band and they pronounce the title of the song, you don’t even have to hear them singing it, you go, ‘Okay, this is totally pretentious.’
There are two songs that stuck out to me. “Dirty Word” is one of them.
That is the most basic song, as far the meaning is pretty much what you hear. If somebody says to me, ‘Tell it like it is,’ and there is this girl who was talking about something and she was so pissed off that she was frustrated by censorship and all this carry on and no one was saying anything. That is the nearest to the words and the lyrics as the not so metaphoric. It is kind of like a censorship thing.
What about “It’s So Perfect”?
That song really gets me every time I sing it. It’s a song that is very close to me. I had a friend that I was talking to one day and they told me they were abused as a kid. And it was someone that was very close, so I was completely shocked. Of course I didn’t go, ‘I need to write a song about that.’ But when I realized, when I wrote the words, I was completely thrown back about what was bothering me in the back of my mind. Literally, the words came straight out for that song. And it says ‘Sarah’ (in the lyrics), but that is not any person’s name. Because that is how the song opens, “Sarah said hello today/ Thought she’d come and blow us all away.” That is when it is talking about suicide and all that stuff. When in the part in “It’s So Perfect”, when it just goes down to the guitar, each chorus, it sounds anti-climactical because the first two choruses are just me and the guitar and that is when the abuse is happening, during “And it’s so perfect/well it probably isn’t real.” It’s about this person trying to escape while the abuse is still happening. Then the abuse comes in the middle of the song, when it gets so heavy. But then it goes along with the same chorus, which is the same vibe of “It’s so perfect”, but it’s very dark at that point because I’m almost screaming it out.
I’ve read that you do things so that you don’t become predictable. Is that something you do to keep you excited and not run into monotony?
Well, we did a few tour dates with Fuel and sometimes, being the opening band, we will go out, and it’s not announced, and we’ll go on stage sort of androgynous just because the audience probably won’t like that. And if they say something, then I will usually say something back. (laughs) But as in being unpredictable, I just like to come out and give this sort of image that, when the show opens I like to do the song “It’s So Perfect”. So the first half of that song is really slow and most bands come out like ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and come out with a fast one. Especially with the support bands because they are like, ‘Please like us, please like us.’ So we come out and basically stand them up a lot by standing there with just androgynous clothes and singing this slow song. They are like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ Then we hit in heavy. It’s just like, if I’m told to do one thing, I’ll do the opposite.
Is it because you don’t want to be pushed around by people?
Yeah. It is constantly that. There was one show we were playing with somebody and they caused a bit of trouble at that show. I think they thought they could because, well, if you haven’t seen me, I’m kind of skinny, and it ended up a big fight where I took my guitar and dove off the stage headfirst into the audience. It’s just that I’m not taking any shit from anyone.
Have you found that you’ll run into some guy who owns a place where you are playing and he’ll act like he is the greatest thing that God has given to the earth?
Yeah. That is a lot of people. (laughs)
We run into it every once in a while too, when we are taking pictures or reviewing shows.
I know. I hate all of that crap. I liked this one time when there was this promoter who was asking us the first day that we arrived for the Fuel date and they are asking us questions like, ‘Are you guys any good?’ And I said, ‘No, we are terrible. We are actually really bad.’ I told them that the band relied on my Scottish accent to get by. And then when we played, they were like, ‘Oh, okay.’ It’s like people want to make it harder than it is. And I hate when bands come up with huge egos when you are playing with other bands. And usually that is the worst sounding band. They have no skill in that department so they might as well use it in the ego department.
We do see a lot of egos when we interview. I think you are on to something with that.
I think there is a lot of fear when a band has this huge ego that surrounds them, to try and make up for themselves being oversized and they wonder, ‘How can we do this without it going down on a piece of paper showing that we are really bad?’ Or the fear of any interviews and the word edit (laughs), because we’ve seen a few edits and we are like, ‘Whoa. They managed to make that sound the opposite of what we were saying.’
That is why we do Q & A, so that we do full transcripts and readers don’t have to use their imaginations about what people we interview are trying to say.
Exactly, because sometimes they don’t get a chance to explain what they were meaning. And with egos, we use our egos and arrogance only on stage, because that is when your ego should be performing anyway. We don’t use it anywhere else.
Is there anything you’d say to those who haven’t heard of Swimmer?
Yeah. Come to the show and you’ll get it. When I say you’ll get it, that is two ways to me. You either get it and hate it, and that is fine by me as long as you get it, or what happens is the people who get it the other way usually become very passionate about Swimmer. So, either way. I mean, there are people who just stand there and want to dislike you.
Yeah. Some people just don’t like anything.
Yeah. They don’t like anything. (laughs)
There are those people that you can’t please with anything.
It’s amazing. After we play is when we usually get the comments. It is usually positive and there are usually some weird positive things and you go, ‘Okay, fair enough.’
Anything that someone said to you that was really bizarre?
Once someone said that my voice was between Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach. I thought they were talking about the composer and I went, ‘Wow, that is a really cool description of myself.’ And the band said, ‘They are talking about the guy in the band.’
Yeah. I was like, ‘What? That fucker. Let me go find that guy.’ (laughs)
I don’t know where they got that.
Everybody has to say something, I guess.
Yeah, everyone has an opinion.
Yeah. People will say, ‘You guys are really good. You are just like The Eagles.’ I’ll be like, ‘What?’ I mean, they are passionate about the band, so I’m like, ‘Fair enough.’ (begins laughing almost to tears) Whatever they get out of it, that is fine.
The Eagles? That’s a good one. I would have never guessed in a million years that someone would have compared you guys to The Eagles. That and the Sebastian Bach are a real stretch.
I know. And me, the idiot, thinking they were talking about the composer because of my lack of knowledge about music. When we were choosing a producer, because of my lack of knowledge in music, Freddy Demann, who was the head of Maverick, had me sitting down with a hundred cd’s. Freddy was saying to me, ‘Anday, you’ve got to start listening to music because you’ve got to choose a producer.’ I was like, ‘Alright, alright.’ The bands kept playing and I sat between the speakers and I’d go, ‘No, I don’t like that. No, I don’t like that.’ And the first one that came along that I went, ‘This is great. This band is great. Who is this?’ and they all looked at me and went, ‘Anday, this is the Beatles. This is the White Album.’ I was like, ‘Well, this is pretty good. Is the producer still alive?’ (laughs) I mean, I knew all of those other songs like “Help”, but this stuff was way more experimental and I was like, ‘Wow, this sounds good.’
I don’t think George Martin has done rock ‘n’ roll in a while.
Yeah. I think he just does seminars now.
So, you guys ended up doing the producing yourselves?
What happened is that we had two producers and they were both fired by Maverick. They just, well, it is something that I don’t want to bitch about, but basically they finally handed my album back to me. I was like, ‘Thanks a lot. I didn’t want any producers in the first place.’ (laughs) I had to try and fix it in a very short time. So whatever the results are is whatever I came up with.
Was it fun producing?
No, because it was hard to fix. What basically happened was the vision that they had had come and gone someplace else completely. It was way off the emotion that was meant to be going on. So we re-recorded the whole album in a tiny rehearsal room, the vocals and everything. It was hard going.
Well, good luck. Don’t come back to New York until you call and find that the weather is finally nice.
I know, right. It’s crazy. There is so much space out here that it is unbelievable.
+ charlie craine