The Swellers are an American punk rock band from Flint, Michigan. With an increasing list of support slots, gigs and festivals and a melodic pop punk sound, they're slowly but surely gaining popularity. We caught up with vocalist and guitarist, Nick Diener for a chat about what it was like recording with Bill Stevenson, constant touring and what we can expect from The Swellers in the near future...
We hear you're recording the new album right now.How is this going?
We just finished the new record right before we flew over to the UK. Spent almost a month at the Blasting Room and definitely created something awesome. We're proud.
How does it feel to be recording with Bill Stevenson and do you feel you've learnt a lot from him?
Bill pushed us to be the best musicians we could possibly be. He got the best vocal takes out of me that I've ever done, and we made sure to get the best product possible without cheating. There are lots of tricks you can use in the studio to make your record sound big and modern but our record is very real. Bill is also one of our favorite drummers/songwriters so we really valued his input and style.
What can we expect from the new album?
Some really great, timeless songs that we'll enjoy playing for years to come, and lots of touring!
Are there any key themes running through it? What are the kinds of things you usually write about?
Every record changes a bit. We get older and experience more/ new things. This record is a lot more introverted, dealing with things on a more personal level, tells stories a little bit better and is even more optimistic at times. The process of growing up and learning is always a big part in many of our songs, though.
How does the songwriting process work for The Swellers? Does one person write music, and another write lyrics or do you do it together?
Myself and my brother, Jonathan, the drummer both write. I tend to write most of the music and Jonathan helps me out with probably half of the lyrics and a lot of the concepts and other ideas. We're a great team and have been playing together for 14 years, so the chemistry feels pretty good.
How was the reception to Ups and Downsizing?
It was cool releasing it in the states because the reception was really positive and warm. We released it later in the UK and it felt like we put out a new album and got new reviews all over again, so we felt pretty productive. Very happy that people dig the album!
Do you like coming to the UK to play shows and if so how does it differ from shows in the US?
We love it. The fans here are more receptive because they understand we traveled a long way to be here. It's comforting and exciting. Also, the drives are much shorter, so we have more time to relax and don't get too worn out in the van.
What are the best and worst things about touring for you?
The best part is that I get paid for playing my guitar. Not many people get to do that. The worst part is that I have an empty house in Michigan for which I pay rent, and never really get to live there. It's also heartbreaking leaving our girlfriends and families behind for so many days out of the year.
Am I right in thinking that a couple of you are vegan? Do you find it hard to find good food when you're on tour?
In the states it's really easy. In the UK and Europe, it can be pretty difficult. Hasn't really caught on as well here. But I basically survive on veggie curries, veggie burgers, cheeseless pizza and chips. Once in a while we'll run into a vegan restaurant and have a good time. Wagamama's is also pretty solid for vegans.
Do you plan on doing a headlining tour? And if so would that come to the UK?
I hope so, too. No plans right now, but we'd like to. We're gonna try to come to the UK at least twice a year.
What's your hometown like for music? Did you find it easy to get shows there when you first started playing?
When we first started playing in 2002, yes. There was a local venue that was really thriving and awesome, despite the town (Flint, MI) being a ghost town. Amazing music scene. But then the venue closed down due to lots of problems and the music scene is no more. There are talks of the venue re-opening, though, and we're all pretty excited about that and plan to be involved.
You've played with some impressive bands, which tours have been favourites and what makes a good tour?
Good tour consists of good people in the bands, good crew, people being on time, and the music being listenable. We had a lot of fun on tour with Motion City Soundtrack, Paramore, our boys in A Wilhelm Scream and Less Than Jake. The list is endless. We befriend nearly every band we tour with.
Which are your favourite songs to play at shows and why?
I like playing all of them. I just like to play. The songs where the kids sing along the most are the best ones, though. That varies all over the world. We don't have 'hits', but I think we've written a lot of good songs, so it's nice to have a good list from which to choose.
Who are your main musical influences as a band? Do you all have similar tastes?
Our tastes all vary quite a bit but it's safe to say we all got into punk rock and bands like Nirvana around the same time, which made us decide we all wanted to be in bands. Some of my main influences are Weezer, No Use For A Name, The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World.
What can we expect from The Swellers for the rest of 2011?
New record, touring around the world, and bad gas.