Showcasing some funky new gems from their forthcoming sophomore record Mothers, we couldn’t wait to learn more about the album. Enjoy our exclusive interview with James Balmont below as we discuss channeling a new musical direction, vintage synths, their new romantic image, and Birmingham.
AMBY: Hey James. Welcome to AMBY! On behalf of my site, I want to say a massive thanks for having a chat today. My staff and I are huge fans, so I’m stoked we could make this interview happen today.
Swim Deep: That’s great. I’m a big fan of your blog, as well. You’ve been there for a few years, haven’t you?
AMBY: Yea, I’ve been running this full-time for about a year and a half now. It’s amazing you read the site, that’s fantastic to hear. Cheers!
Swim Deep: It’s nice to speak to you.
AMBY: Same with you. Thanks for your time. So, to kick things off, the band have been away for quite some time. Why did you decide to deliberately step back from the public gaze for the past eight or nine months?
Swim Deep: It was kind of just getting everything in place for the new record. It took a long time because we initially did some sessions after the first album came out. In fact, we came away with a couple ideas from there, but we all decided that it wasn’t quite different enough. Once we got to the point where we thought we were on to something good, we just wrote and wrote and wrote until we had the very best songs on this record. We didn’t want to go in and record the album if we didn’t have at least ten or fifteen different songs. We felt comfortable to keep writing, so that’s what we spent all of that time doing.
AMBY: After being away, you’ve finally returned with this groovy, psychedelic new single called To My Brother. As you mentioned in wanting to take the new material in another direction, it’s something completely different for Swim Deep as you dove into a much more eighties-inspired sound. What inspired the band to take the single in this new direction? Were you listening to any bands from that era?
Swim Deep: Yea. The amount of influences we’ve got as we were doing this album is phenomenal. There are so many different artists! One of the biggest influences at the start was when Austin was listening to the album McCartney II which has the song Temporary Secretary, which is basically a mad, programmed synth line which kind of bounces around everywhere. When we heard that, it kind of got us thinking that we should maybe go from being a more guitar-pop band to trying something really different. We also got our hands on all of these vintage synthesizers from the eighties.
AMBY: That’s so cool. You can definitely hear those on the new stuff.
Swim Deep: We had a go at them and put them into the songs that we had already written. I realized [laughs], I realized that some of the sounds were similar to bands I like. It kind of clicked and made us realize that we don’t need to dream about making music that sounds like that, because we actually can do it now because we’ve got the right equipment. There’s one song where we made the drums like a hip-hop sample all the way through. There’s a lot of gospel vocals which came out. I could talk about this for hours.
AMBY and Swim Deep: [laughs]
Swim Deep: Those are some key ones, I think.
AMBY: It’s such an eclectic mix of influences, I can’t wait to hear the rest of this record. The first time my staff and I heard To My Brother, we couldn’t help but be thrown back to some Madchester vibes.
Swim Deep: Yea. For that one in particular, it was our manager and our producer who were heavily into that genre. They were showing us all of this music, so that was another big influence on a couple of these new songs. When we started listening to that, we were like, “oh shit, no one else is really doing that at the moment.” We wanted to mix things up from the first album and open doors for the kind of music we wanted to make.
AMBY: I also noticed that the music wasn’t the only thing that changed, as your look has developed into a very new romantic era, almost Spandau Ballet-esque style. How important is a “band look” or “image” for a group like Swim Deep?
Swim Deep: For this new record, we wanted to reflect that we’ve changed a bit. We thought it was a good idea. It wasn’t even that conscious; we were all moving on a bit from wearing band t-shirts and stuff. We all started wearing these big, long coats. We then thought, why not just make this our own thing? I remember when we were in the middle of this transition, someone on Twitter had wrote something like “oh, Swim Deep all look like chemistry teachers” or something.
AMBY and Swim Deep: [laughs]
Swim Deep: We were then thinking that we maybe haven’t quite got it… yet. We’ve got lots of friends who work in fashion and stuff like that. Now everyone can see that we’re different from the first record. Hopefully it also reflects that we’re a collective force. We’re like-minded people.
AMBY: This forthcoming album is following your 2013 debut Where the Heaven Are We. Looking back at that record two years later, which songs off that release really stand out to you still?
Swim Deep: There are a couple of those songs that will go well with the new album, one of them is She Changes the Weather. It will work with what the new set will be like since the new set will be very different. There’s that. When we play Red Lips live, we started getting into jamming out loads and doing an extended version with a lot of mad stuff going on at the end. That will also fit in really well. All of the singles from that are going to still be there in our set. I always think the last song on an album kind of points towards what’s going to come next. She Changes the Weather was the last song on that album, so maybe that…
AMBY: It’s kind of a hint?
Swim Deep: It’s a clue for a more forward-thinking style of music [laughs]. The Sea as well, though, has those great drum rhythms and is kind of danceable as well.
AMBY: It’s my favourite – it’s such a fun song. Well, being that this is an interview with Swim Deep, we must mention Birmingham. How does it feel to have been such a quintessential part of that scene?
Swim Deep: I think for the whole Birmingham thing, it’s really good for Swim Deep to have come out of a scene. Even today, there are so many bands coming out of Birmingham. I don’t think they get all lumped together like people following the success of Peace or bands like Swim Deep.
AMBY: You really made some huge waves there and have inspired so many bands.
Swim Deep: It’s good that someone happened a couple of years ago that wasn’t from London. It’s more encouraging for bands around the rest of the country, because for so many people, it’s like you have to come to London to play for people and it seemed like that was the only way you could get anywhere. Birmingham having its own little thing, it was great that it happened and people noticed it. There’s some really interesting music coming from some far-out places, too, at the moment. We were listening to a band from Sweden who play some really worldly stuff. It shouldn’t just have to be the capital cities that are the heart of all interesting music. They’re not. Often, if you’re left to your own devices, I think that people get the most inspiration and the most interesting music if they’re looking for it.
AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about Swim Deep that most of your fans don’t know yet?
Swim Deep: I don’t think anyone could even guess what we’re about to come out with on this album [laughs]. It’s going to be a really big surprise. Even the first single, To My Brother is a bit different, but the stuff on the record is way more mad and unexpected. I hope everyone goes with it! It’s a whole new world that’s about to happen with the band.
Thank you Swim Deep, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout