I caught up with SWMRS (pronounced Swimmers, fyi.) late in 2014 as they played their last round of shows in Europe booked under their former name, Emily’s Army. The band who were formed by life-long friends Cole Becker, Max Becker and Joey Armstrong when they weren’t even teens, told me they started the band after they “watched School of Rock and were like ‘Shit dude we need to start a band!’” They’ve been making music together ever since and have now added Seb Mueller on bass.
The “hawaiiange” band from California has since released their angsty garage-rock debut album Drive North earlier this year, which is definitely a coming of age album for the band. The boys who formerly made up pop-punk band Emily’s Army changed their name to SWMRS in 2014 around the time I met them. When I asked SWMRS about the name change their drummer, Joey, explained, “When people look up Emily’s Army they see us as little kids playing pop punk. We play a different style now, we’re a new band.” It’s safe to say that with the new album, SWMRS have shed their teenage pop-punk skin and come of age tackling that very issue throughout the album.
After listening to the album you can feel the different influences breathing life into the four indie kids. Whilst the album plays you can hear classic garage bands such as Nirvana coming through, who incidentally are the band Cole (singer/guitarist) told me he’d have loved to see live the most. When I asked the boys about the bands that influence them now, Cole told me his “favourite band are still The Clash but we’ve expanded our music knowledge and now draw from bands like The Beach Boys and the New Yorks Dolls.” You feel that it is this mixture of influences, which makes the bands sound feel so unique and the album as immense as it is.
Harry Dean, a punky three-minute lust for coolness, kicks off the album in fiery fashion.Figuring It Out, which feels like the flagship song from the album, really kicks things into gear. It’s grungey yet refreshingly poppy riffs, thumping drums and coming of age lyrics come together in a four-minutes which really brings the album together. The track also has an awesome video as well, directed by Kreayshawn, which you should totally check out. Other highlights on the album include Uncool and Miley, both songs that featured on the EP that preceded Drive North. Uncool is definitely the best track from the album, it’s a juxtaposition to Harry Dean and focuses on a rejection of the desire to be “cool” which ironically comes out as something pretty damn cool. Miley is a lyrically perfect tribute to – you guessed it – Miley Cyrus and her media scaring agnsty antics. “They’re calling her dumb slut. She keeps burnin’ blunts. Fuck, Miley is a punk rock queen.” Brilliant, right?!
However, as good as the album is, there is some definite gaps in the album with songs like Miss Yer Kiss leaving a lot to be desired and Ruining My Pretending coming across as an indie-electro experiment which is slightly off the mark. The rest of the album however, keeps up this raw and angsty vibe. The album is capped off by title-track Drive North, a song with a hate for LA at it’s forefront but an underlying sense of creating your own identity running through it; as it does throughout the album as a whole. SWMRS debut effort should be considered a triumph these grungey beach boys have certainly made real gains since ditching their pop-punk roots. Definitely a band to watch out for.