THE SWELLERS with TWIN ATLANTIC and WE ARE THE OCEAN at the Pike Room

THURSDAY JANUARY 26, 2012
doors at 6pm
tickets: $10 ADV; $12 DOS (buy tickets)

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They just don’t make them like this anymore. Or at least, not as often as they should. In a time when musical trends favor style over substance, homogenized digital "creations" over actual live in-studio performances and photo-friendly boy bands over those who can actually play their instruments, The Swellers are one of the groups gloriously and unapologetically swimming against the tide. And they make it look easy.

Back with a new full-length—Good For Me, the follow-up to 2009's mind-blowing Ups and Downsizing—Flint, Michigan's finest are about to drop their most seasoned, unforgettable effort yet. And while the band's sound has certainly never been described as meek, this time The Swellers are truly on a mission to bring the rock. As anyone who's seen the band live knows, this is what The Swellers do best.

"Even though we wanted to make a record that's really reminiscent of the '90s pop alternative radio and '90s pop-punk that we grew up with, that's accessible and big and awesome sounding, we also wanted to make it sound like we do live: a bunch of sweaty dudes playing a show and not caring about anything else," says singer/guitarist Nick Diener. "It sounds like a big rock record, but we're a punk-rock band playing it on our terms."

The Swellers—which also includes drummer Jonathan Diener, guitarist Ryan Collins and bassist Anto Boros—formed in 2002, and released their debut, End of Discussion, in 2004. After enduring some early growing pains, the band turned in an even stronger performance with 2005's Beginning of the End Again EP, followed by the powerful 2007 full-length My Everest. Those early recordings and some serious DIY gigging eventually attracted the attention of punk scene powerhouse Fueled By Ramen Records, which signed the band, and in 2009 released Ups and Downsizing, a modern punk masterpiece and The Swellers' breakout performance, chronicling the demise of Flint amid decades of corporate pillaging. Several high-profile tours followed, including stints with Paramore and Motion City Soundtrack, as well as full runs on the 2010 Vans Warped Tour and 2011 Take Action! Tour.

With so much momentum behind them and the stakes higher than ever, The Swellers knew it was time to go seriously big for Downsizing's follow-up, and set out to create their most thundering recording to date. After enlisting the aid of producer/Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson (Rise Against, NOFX, Propagandhi) and his partner in crime Jason Livermore, the band converged upon Stevenson’s and Livermore’s Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins, Colo., emerging with the 10 scorchers that comprise Good For Me.

"We wanted to write timeless songs that have a lot of energy and melody. We took the two ends of our spectrum—the pop radio and the punk rock—and we honed in on it and got a nice middle ground. When we chose the 10 songs for it, we actually left off a couple of our favorite songs, just because they didn't fit the mold," says Nick. "This was the first record where we took into consideration the flow, and sometimes less is more."

The result is a remarkably tight 35 minutes of music, completely devoid of filler and laser-guided in its scope. Hinging around the multiple meanings behind the album's title—Good For Me conveys a mixture of self-help and self-loathing, depending on the inflection—the brothers Diener once again poured their hearts and minds into the lyrics. The songs run the emotional gamut, but are colored with a loving overall sense of nostalgia that counterbalances the album's more vitriolic moments.

"Without really knowing it, we made this big nostalgia thing the theme of the record, and the song 'The Best I Ever Had' pretty much describes what we're going for," explains Jonathan. "Growing up hearing your favorite songs, that transfers to you following those albums. Maybe that band breaks up one day, and gets reunited, or you find that record in your house, and you're like, 'Man, I remember this. It meant so much to me as a kid.' You put it on and it has the same feeling as when you first heard it."

"Since the last record, I've fallen in love, I'm in a relationship, and I'm still doing what I always do," adds Nick. "I'm learning about myself and definitely reflecting about how easy and awesome things were when I was growing up, and I'm trying to hold on to a little bit of that."

On Good For Me, the band intentionally shied away from too much Flint focus, not wanting to repeat themselves too heavily, but made an exception for the stellar track 'Parkview,' which serves as a central linchpin for the album, lucidly detailing a bleak period for the brothers during the winter of 2010. "We just went through so much stuff. At the end of the last record, our parents were moving and we were trying to sell our house and not knowing what we were doing. We ended up moving into a temporary house for two to three months, while all this weird personal stuff was going on. It was just a confusing time," Jonathan reflects. "We lived on Parkview Street, and it was one of the worst times in my life. My lyrics aren't always about documenting bad things, but there’s this therapeutic way of writing about them so you feel better later on."

"I was still living out of suitcases and boxes because I did not want to settle down, because it didn't feel right. It was winter time, there was a lot of snow, and everything was really bugging us," adds Nick regarding the track. "Jonathan and I went through a lot with our family moving around and with relationships and even with each other: he and I just trying to get along and write songs. 'Parkview' is just about trying to stick up for yourself and not get bogged down."

In sharp contrast, there’s the song 'Better Things,' which counters the plans friends make to escape their hometowns, in search of greener pastures, only to find people and things are the same everywhere. But perhaps the band’s most inventive Midwest commentary is found in the song 'Nothing More To Me,' which uses the true-story of a deadly tornado as the setting for the tale of a relationship in crisis.

"The tornado ripped through Flint in the '50s—the eighth most-deadly tornado to hit the United States. Instead of just writing a song about a tornado, I went a little further and wrote about a couple in a relationship that was going sour, while this tornado's happening," says Nick. "If you look at it that way and read the lyrics, it's like, 'Oh man, there's this tornado that's potentially going to kill these people, but they're so concerned about themselves, they're having a conversation while their house is being ripped apart.' That's where we took a little bit more of an abstract way of writing the record."

There's also 'Prime Meridian,' for which Jonathan penned lyrics that capture him staring up into the night sky, ruminating on life's big questions and finding peace within. The song is a perfect example of the personal healing process that underlies the compositions, which give Good For Me one of its inner-looking meanings.

"I'd look up at the sky and go, 'Wow, my problems really aren't that bad—this is such a miniscule thing compared to how big everything else was in the world,'" says Jonathan. "I was trying to capture the whole 'night drive' thinking process—a lot of people go through that at night, where they're reevaluating their life. I actually do that a lot, so I thought, 'I might as well put this into a song.'"

Now that the new record is complete, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to realize there are many miles of touring ahead for the band, as they bring Good For Me to the masses in 2011 and beyond. Coming off a crucial run on this year's spring Take Action! Tour, the group will spend the summer playing literally everywhere, with a full schedule of dates planned in both the U.S. and abroad. The Swellers will settle for nothing less than total domination, and aren't shy about demanding it.

"I look at the Foo Fighters playing Wembley Stadium to 80,000 people two nights in a row, and I go, 'I would love to do that one day,'" says Jonathan. "Now that we're traveling all over, it's changing the whole plan of our band; we can't wait to play California again, or go back to Japan and Australia. All we want to do is play for the world; the world is our oyster."

 

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