Edinburgh trio Swim School are poised to make a splash with their vibrant guitar-rock.
Words: Ciaran Picker.
Photos: Grace Equi.
How do you even begin to describe the year that Swim School have had? Support slots for Pixies, Lovejoy and Inhaler, slammed-out festival tents, releasing one of the best EPs of the year in ‘Duality’ – and all while working day jobs. Their year is far from done, too, as they take to the road again in December with The Amazons across the UK. Guitarist Lewis Bunting is chomping at the bit to get out there. “Their first album was so important for me musically, and we’re getting to go to a whole load of places we’ve never been before, so I can’t wait!”
Swim School aren’t the first band to work multiple jobs while trying to find time to write and play live, but it’s hard to think of anyone working as hard as them right now. “We get back home mid-December; we’ll probably take a few days off then be back in the studio,” levels frontwoman Alice Johnson. “It’s the Hannah Montana lifestyle,” she jokes. “We don’t care about making millions; we just do it for the love of music, and if we can do that full-time, then that’s the dream, really”.
There are so many signs that their gruelling schedule is paying off, especially with regard to the band’s confidence in their ability and their trajectory. Not only have they personally been through a rollercoaster of a twelve months, but they’ve had to put up with a lot of external pressures that they frankly wouldn’t get if they had a male lead singer, particularly when it comes to comparisons with other female-led bands. “I get less of it now,” Alice reveals, “but it’s like women can’t be original or talented in their own right. It’s just such lazy misogyny, it’s like, ‘Oh, you must be inspired by them because she’s a woman’.” The fact that these comparisons are dying off, though, shows that Swim School are now icons in their own right.
Confidence is oozing from this band, more so now than at any other time in their history and it’s reflected in both their writing and live shows. 2024 promises another new body of work, their fourth multi-song release in as many years, but this one brings with it a real sense of ownership and self-assuredness that can only spell great things for the new year.
Struggling to not give too much away, Alice teases that “it’s more inspired by 90s shoegaze. It’s more energetic, heavier, more mature, and more genuine.” Lewis agrees, adding: “It’s just us saying what we want, the way we want to do it. It’s the music we’ve always wanted to release.”
“We don’t want to be the next ‘insert female-fronted band here’. We want to be the first Swim School.”Alice Johnson
Their newest work will not only feature a super personal, stripped-back moment but also harks back to the band’s roots by re-releasing an earlier track. “We went into the studio when we originally released the song and weren’t comfortable enough to say ‘no’ to producers. But now, we’re using the original room record, so it’s the way it’s supposed to sound.” Taking their cues from Alice’s long-time idol, Taylor Swift, they’re not only taking charge of their own future, but they’re also entering their superstar era.
Outside of the studio, their nonstop live schedule will kick back into top gear, with a UK headline tour on the cards. “We’d love to get back over to Europe. We had so much fun over there, and of course, we’re manifesting Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds!” says Alice. Festival season this year gave the band a host of “pinch me moments”, not least making a main stage debut at Glasgow’s TRNSMT Festival, with their family and friends in the front witnessing them take the leap into the upper echelons of today’s immensely exciting guitar-rock scene. “It’s so hard to imagine what’s next. Everything’s so good already; how can it get better?”
So, basically, 2024 is going to be another huge year for Swim School. Alice knows that “all my lyrics are really depressing”, but at the band’s heart is a genuine love for what they do and for each other, which allows them to be bold, brash, and brilliant.
“We don’t want to be the next ‘insert female-fronted band here’. We want to be the first Swim School.” If 2023 was the confidence boost Swim School needed to climb up to the high board, then 2024 will be the year they dive off it into stardom.
Taken from the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Dork.
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