Swim Deep is having a small disaster. The Birmingham band arrived in New York a day ago, but Virgin Atlantic is holding their gear hostage somewhere in Newark. The night’s planned performance has been turned into a DJ set, and the band is trying to make the best of the situation.
ATYPICAL SOUNDS sat down in the green room at Baby’s All Right with band members Austin Williams, Zach Robinson, and Cavan McCarthy to try and figure out how to make lemonade from an incompetent-ass airline.
It’s been raining for two days. I think it was waiting for you to come in from England so you’d feel at home.
AW: Everyone said that when we got here. They said, “You’ve brought it with you.” Sorry
You brought your weather and left your gear.
AW: We’ve had such bad luck. But it’ll be fine.
On the bright side, your album was voted one of the top albums of 2015 by NME. Congratulations, that’s pretty good.
AW: Thanks very much. We’re lucky, yeah.
Tomorrow you start your tour with The 1975. You’ve toured with them in the past, right?
AW: It was like two years ago in Europe.
ZR: We’ve done a few shows in the UK with them,
AW: They’re nice guys. They’re quite grounded. They’re well-mannered, and just good people. They’ve come from the bottom as well, which is great. They’ve worked their way up. It’s inspiring.
Are you looking forward to doing anything in the city while you’re here?
AW: We did a lot today, cause when we found out that our stuff wasn’t gonna get in until [we thought] we could play, we decided that we would just go and look at stuff like tourists.
CM: We went to see the 9/11 memorial.
AW: We just walked for ages uptown, and then went to see the [site of the] Physical Graffiti album by Led Zeppelin. We went to the East Village and that area, and then it started raining so we went back to our friend’s. We’ve been here before.
AW: Yeah, and then I came here last year. It’s nice, it feels a lot more familiar now. It’s such an amazing place, I think.
AW: It seems fun, I wish I could stay longer.
Were you working when you were here last year?
AW: No, I just came on my own with a few friends for a holiday.
I’m glad you’re back. I remember the first time you were here in 2013, and a lot of the time, we get these bands from the U.K. who come here once and then we never see them again.
AW: Well, it’s money isn’t it? The thing that’s disappointing about tonight, is we may not have another chance to come out here for so long now. We can really only do this show, because we’re supporting The 1975.
And tomorrow you’re in Boston.
AW: Yeah, and then we play in New York on the day after that at Terminal 5. So at least we get to play here and I guess some of our fans, we share some of the same fans, will get to see us. It’s a shame, you know, cause musicians don’t get any money, so it’s hard to travel so much.
I bet you could get Virgin Atlantic to fund another trip out here.
ZR: Hopefully, we can.
AW: We can get our fans to tweet them.
I will gladly badmouth them on social media in support of that. I remember around the time your first album came out (Where the Heaven Are We in 2013), journalists in England started talking about a “B-Town” music scene, centered in Birmingham. Mainly, I think it was just you and (fellow Birmingham band) Peace that had become popular around the same time. Do you think there’s any truth to there being a B-Town scene, or is that sort of just hype that had been floating around the internet?
AW: As soon as the journalists put pen to paper, the scene’s over. So as soon as they name something, it’s over. But in terms of before that, yeah definitely. We were just mates, hanging out, drinking, trying to have as much fun as possible in the city. And then we all started bands, and started playing stuff, and then it was us and the band Peace that got attention, so I guess they wanted to get something out of it. There wasn’t much going on in music, I guess. I mean there was, but there wasn’t any “scene” or whatever.
Birmingham’s such a good place for music, because the people that go and see shows there are so enthusiastic and lively. They give so much to the band when they go and see them. It’s a great place.
I’m actually interviewing your friends in Spector tomorrow night. What should I ask them?
AW: Ask them who their favorite member of Swim Deep is.
That’s good. Fred Macpherson [vocalist of Spector] was in your “Namaste” video, as well. Was his appearance a result of you being friends?
AW: One, he’s in a band and people know who he is. And two, he’s our friend. Also, we just thought it would be really funny. We have this panel of contestants, and we were trying to think, “Who looks like they could be on a game show?” Fred seemed perfect for it. We needed like one guy, the weird guy. It was a good day, [shooting] that video.
I know shooting can be a lot of long hours.
AW: I hate music videos. I hate the experience most of the time. But there’s been some really great times, like when we got to go to LA to shoot one, and we got to come here to New York to shoot one.
Which one was shot in New York?
AW: “She Changes the Weather”
The one with the swimming pool?
AW: It was a Jewish center in Brooklyn that the swimming pool was in. And we spent ages there. There was such a funny lifeguard there, who said he never had to get in the water, and we were all laughing about it and teasing him because he was such a guy you could tease. He was so in his own world. And he said, “I never get in the water, because I just never needed to.” And then I think someone did something, so he had to go in the water with one of those things that go up and down. And he moaned about it so much. He said he didn’t bring a change of clothes to work. That was fun. That was a fun day.
A lot of people who have interviewed you have mentioned that there’s such a big difference between the sound of the first and second albums. Have you thought about a third album yet? What bands are you currently listening to?
AW: I’m listening to a lot more stuff, just constantly. A much broader selection. I’ve definitely thought about a third album, but I think it’s going to come at a time when it’s right for us. We’ve got to think about when we want to get together.
ZR: We’re so excited to get started.
AW: It will come when it’s ready. We’re letting all of our stuff bubble, letting all of our influences marinate and do whatever, and then we come together and think about it properly. I’d like it to be something that can headline festivals. Something that can really make an impact. Something that means something to people. Something we can play at 12 o’clock on a Monday at a festival.
Who plays at noon on a Monday?
ZR: We do. From 12-12. We have some festival dates coming up.
AW: I can’t wait. I want to start writing now, just speaking to it.
If you want something that sounds good at a festival, I guess it would be something really loud, right?
AW: Something that makes people listen to it. This last album, there are some tracks on it that really demand your attention, but I feel like the next one is going to be…it’s really going to demand it. Hopefully.
AW: We’re looking to do secondary places in England that we haven’t really done before, like the smaller towns and stuff.
CM: The Firefly Festival in Delaware.
What are your plans for the holidays?
ZR: We all go back to Birmingham.
AW: Go see our families. I haven’t seen my family in so long.
Do any of you still live in Birmingham?
AW: Zach and I live in London.[Cavan is in the middle of taking a sip of beer and gestures to himself.]
CM: [Nods] the best time of year in Birmingham is Christmas because everyone comes home. All of our friends.
Do you have any last words before your set tonight?
CM: Keep music alive.
AW: Sorry. And fuck Virgin Airlines.
Yes, fuck them.
AW: And see you next time.