“We looked out, and there were people crying in the front rows,” remembers Vanessa. For Swimming Girls, the past year has been a particularly important one, connecting to vast crowds across the UK and emerging as one of the true purveyors of glorious anthemic pop. It’s a time captured perfectly from that view from the stage on that fateful night. “I turned to Roo and was like… is this alright? Is this okay? We’ve never had that before, so that was a real moment.”
Sometimes you just need to fall into a world and turn that volume up as high as it can go. It’s that exact moment that Swimming Girls were born for, pure blissful escapism that redefines how towering pop can be with the sort of effortless banger-ratio that makes us wonder why bother with anything else.
Across several releases, they’ve flexed and shaped that style and presence, growing in confidence, and now with debut EP ‘Existential Fears’ out in the world, they’re ready to step on even more.
“It was the first opportunity that we’ve had to work on and release something that isn’t just a standalone single,” details Vanessa. “We’ve got loads of different dynamics that we haven’t been able to showcase before so we’re excited for people to hear that.”
From the moment ‘Tastes Like Money’ was released, that promise of more has been at the forefront of everything Swimming Girls do. Each track drop has seen them head to another level. ‘Tastes Like Honey’ a warm Lorde-infused dazzler, ‘2 Kids’ a striding mountain-top cry of epic proportions, ‘Asking For It’ a bubblegum-80s swing, live driver ‘Back Of Your Car’ and the towering ‘Beneath You’ all setting them apart from the rest. It’s an insatiable combination of pop bliss and sharp neon vibes.
“It feels really good,” reflects Vanessa, looking back over the ride so far and the reactions they’ve had. “When a lot of little things happen, you don’t really take a step backwards and see what’s happening. You just kinda get on with it, you know what I mean? You don’t realise how far you’ve come; you can only realise that retrospectively.”
It’s a long way from those early days, Vanessa never even thinking about fronting a band but instead focusing on the acoustic tales and tracks forming in her mind.
“I never thought I was going to be in an actual band,” she confesses. “I used to really be into Paramore when I was younger, but I didn’t think I’d ever be in that place or position fronting a band. I’ve always done things acoustically, so this is very different from what I thought I’d be doing.”
Meeting in Bath, Vanessa, Roo, Jay and Max came together at a music course at University. “When I was doing the acoustic things I was just like, I dunno, I felt like it wasn’t something new and that a lot of people already do it. That’s when I was like right, let’s try something completely different and try and have an actual band.”
Forming together, the bond and love of 70s/80s pop melodies and insatiable hooks provided results from the get-go. As tracks have made their way into the world, that reaction has got even stronger. “It’s been really gradual, you don’t really recognise that reaction you get from people right away,” Vanessa continues. “The more we put out, the more people are going to catch on to what we’re doing.”
A recognised turning point was their run of shows with Pale Waves last year, teaming up with a band trading in that glorious cinematic world of 80s swagger for a feverish string of nights that saw true visceral reactions from those gathered.
“That was one of the first times we felt like we properly connected with an audience,” remembers Roo. “They got it right away, and that’s inspiring to see.”
Buoyed from it, ‘Existential Fears’ sits as a statement of the different shades and styles Swimming Girls have in their back pocket. From ‘1,2 Many’ and its up-in-lights panoramic shine to the delicately raw pulls of ‘Pray In Silence’ – this is Swimming Girls no longer focusing on knocking on the door, but instead bashing it down and demanding you click play. It’s a combination that proves why they’re one of the most exciting new pop bands of 2019.
“I feel like with this EP, it’s nice to write together four songs that feel like they’re part of the same era and body of work,” elaborates Roo. “Like, ‘Pray In Silence’ is the sort of song that Vanessa wrote for the EP which is closer to those early days when you were playing acoustically. That song is going to connect with quite a lot of people, and being able to connect with more with this EP is definitely something I’m looking forward to.”
“Exactly, back to those early days – but really showing that range of styles on the EP which is important,” confirms Vanessa.
As they gaze ahead, Swimming Girls are shaping up for a busy year bound to show off more of their euphoric triumphant pop credentials. It’s a long way from the days of Vanessa wondering if she even wanted to be in a band.
“Being able to collaborate constantly is so fun, and completely different each time,” she expands. “Whatever we do, it’s within that world of Swimming Girls – whether that’s videos or the artwork or anything. It’s really exciting.”
Swimming Girls are here to stay. Best to turn that volume up sky high, we’ll all be singing along in no time.
Taken from the July issue of Dork. Swimming Girls’ EP ‘Existential Fears’ is out now; find them at Truck from 26th-28th July.
Words: Jamie Muir