swim school get angry to kick against the sexist pricks with their new righteous rager ‘Delirious’: “I’d had enough”

The band have just announced their new EP, 'Duality'.
Photo Credit: Rory Barnes

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get really, really cross with people. That’s the spirit that runs through swim school‘s just dropped new track ‘Delirious’. Documenting vocalist Alice Johnson‘s experiences with misogyny within the music industry, it goes harder than a half brick thrown at full pelt into tool infested custard. It’s part of a new EP, coming on 2nd June, titled ‘Duality’ – half angry ragers, half loved up fuzz. Given how we love a band with range, we dropped a line to Alice to find out more about what’s coming up.

Hi Alice, how’s it going? What are you up to today?
I’m doing good, I hope you are too. I had a day full of rehearsals with the boys preparing for our tour that starts next week, which was a lot of fun!

You’ve just released your new single ‘Delirious’, about misogyny – what is it that drew you to putting those experiences into a song?
We had a busy festival season last year, so we were constantly working with new sound engineers and people who work in music, and I had more bad experiences than good. I encountered a lot of sexism, rude comments and lack of respect from the men we worked with. As a woman in the music industry, I have experienced misogyny before but never so consistently over a short space of time.
When we would show up for festivals, I would feel so excited yet so anxious about how I was going to be treated each time. Constantly being disrespected and talked down to started to have an effect on me – it got to the point in which I felt like I wasn’t good enough. 
The turning point was when I was in the hotel room with the boys after one of our festival sets and just feeling so angry – I’d had enough. I knew that I deserved to be on that stage as much as the boys in my band, so I said to them, “I want to write a really angry, heavy song about misogyny so I can channel all my anger into it. I also want to put my guitar down and just be on the microphone, as that would be a statement.” And, of course, they were keen, so we started writing when we got back to Scotland the next day.

Was it important for you to tackle the issue head-on? Now at least you have something to play in soundcheck if someone is being a dick, right?
For me, it is so important to tackle these issues that affect me because I know that they affect others. There is something comforting in hearing that someone else is and has gone through what you are going through. I truly believe that sharing your experiences can help others overcome similar experiences. When it comes to sexism and misogyny, there is no easy way to avoid it. I noticed at times, these men would come up to me when the boys weren’t close so they could make their comments whilst I’m alone and in a vulnerable situation. It is never a nice experience; at first, you feel like crying, then you have this anger, but also the moment’s passed, so there’s not much you can do. The sad thing is that it felt like a routine for me – but now I have a song to show for it and to show that they will never stop me from doing what I love.
It’s funny because now if we ever have a bad experience with a sound engineer during soundcheck, I turn to the boys and say that, “‘Delirious’ is going to go off tonight”. A positive in getting pissed off before playing that song live is that it makes the performance even more energetic and angry – it feels therapeutic. It also feels good to take a bad experience and channel it into something productive rather than letting it destroy you and your confidence. 

Are there any songs by other artists that tackle similar issues that have resonated with you?
I actually think writing ‘Delirious’ was the first time I didn’t have a song that I wanted to use as reference – all I knew is that I wanted big guitars, big drums and heavy synths. The fact I had all this anger built up already meant we wrote the song so quickly. I wrote all the lyrics in the space of 10 minutes – they came so naturally.
One song that I could have taken inspiration from would be ‘Rebel Girl’ by Bikini Kill when it comes to the song’s energy, anger and passion. The song is about the support and inspiration you feel from other women, and that is an aspect I want to include in the music we write.

It’s from your new EP, ‘Duality’ – how long have you been working on it for? What was the timeline like?
I actually wrote the chords and lyrics to our first single from the EP, ‘Kill You’, in my bedroom last February. I showed it to the boys, and they loved it, so we finished writing it together with the plan to release it as a single. We then started writing more songs, and before we knew it, we had a body of work that we loved, so we decided to postpone the release of ‘kill you’ and record the EP.
We created it with producer Iain Berryman – we can’t put into words how amazing and talented Iain is. He brought out a new side of swim school’s sound, and we can’t thank him enough. We recorded the whole EP in London which felt so surreal for us and felt like a massive step up – we honestly loved every second of the experience, and now we can’t wait for it to be out. 

You’ve got two angry songs and two love songs on the EP Which do you find easier to write?
Definitely the angry ones. ‘Kill You’ was the first love song I had ever written, and then I wrote ‘Don’t Leave Me Behind’ after. Both these love songs share the aspect of feeling vulnerable whilst being and falling in love, yet I feel so vulnerable releasing songs about being vulnerable. I get embarrassed writing about love songs, yet I find it so easy to write about mental health – I’m not sure why, haha. 

What are the other songs about?
‘Don’t Leave Me Behind’ is about falling for someone but being unsure if they feel the same way. You’ve been hurt before, and you are scared of being hurt again. As I said, it’s about the feeling of being vulnerable and open at the risk of being hurt or let down. 
‘Kill You’ is about the safety you feel while being in love. You can feel the warmth, the fuzzy feeling of being in love through the instrumentation and the lyrics. It’s our summer festival song in which everyone gets up on their mate’s shoulders, the sun is shining in a field, and everyone is so happy and steaming – we want that to happen this festival season. 
‘Over Now’ is the complete opposite of both those songs – it’s about a toxic relationship being over. It’s about someone who has been in your life for a while, you once had a relationship with, yet you were blind to their toxic traits. They promised you the world but did nothing but constantly disappoint you, and it’s not until you take a step back, you see how harmful they truly were. The relief you feel when you are no longer involved with them is freeing, and you can finally move on. 

How did you find the process of putting this EP together compared to your first?
In between our debut EP, ‘Making Sense Of It All’, and our new EP, ‘Dualtility’, we have toured, played loads of shows and festivals all over the UK and experienced a lot – you can hear how much we have matured between both EP’s. Working with a producer as professional as Iain gave us so much confidence. 
I have never felt so confident as a vocalist. Iain somehow brought out this trust in my voice that I had never felt before when recording my vocals. When recording ‘Delirious’, Iain turned the studio lights red and took the microphone off the stand and said I was going to record the vocals whilst pacing around the room, which was so much fun. 
Lewis was in guitar pedal heaven. He and Iain worked together to create electric and fuzzy guitar tones. Lewis’ tones and parts on the whole EP complement my lyrics and the songs’ meanings so well, showing his skills. 
When it came to recording Billy’s drum parts, him and Iain produced these incredible drum parts, which showed how talented Billy is. I hardly pay attention to drums when I listen to music, but when we got the mixes back, I was blown away by the sound of Billy’s drums.

What else are you up to at the moment? Should we start whispering about an album yet?
We would love to record an album – when we were recording in London, we were saying how much we would love to lock ourselves away for a while to do a full album, but we aren’t ready yet. That’s not to say we can’t make a start at writing for it, though.
We have a busy year planned – lots of tours and festivals coming up, so we are going to spend the majority of the year touring and playing our new EP and growing as musicians. Then we can start thinking about an album.

swim school’s EP ‘Duality’ is out 2nd June.

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