Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Can't Swim

CAN'T SWIM

Interview by Mike Newdeck

Can't Swim came to prominence really quickly. Starting as a solo project when band leader Chris LoPorto impressed a record label with some demos cooked up on a laptop the only way has been up for the fledgling band with ensuing tours in the UK and a debut album 'Fail You Again' released recently. Mike Newdeck chatted to Chris about the prominent rise of the band from the humble beginnings in New Jersey.


Cant Swim - Interview New
You're pretty much a fledgling band how are things turning out for you so far?


Well I was doing music as a hobby really, I was never really song writer and I never played guitar either. I was primarily a drummer who'd played in a million bands. I was really doing stuff for fun, goofing around after school on my laptop and I learnt guitar from messing around rather than learning it in the normal way. Once I had got a grasp of things I then went onto writing songs and then Can't Swim kind of started. I made some demos which I sent to a few friends and then Pure Noise got to hear it and wanted to be part of it. I was totally unexpected.

So you're basically a band of drummers and ex-drummers?

Yeah that's right, I did the drums on the first release, then Danny and I split it on the full length and now we have Andrea a friend of mine playing. We're a bunch of drummers masquerading as guitar players. We're not the most gifted of drummers but we like to write good songs and leave it to Andrea who's more dynamic and tight but it helps to have lots of rhythmic people in the band.

Do the band share information about how to get the best out of each others instruments?

Well. every band member plays every instrument to varying degrees. On the album the bass player played some guitar parts, I played some of the bass. Our producer and guitar player wants to always get the best performance out of the band and so it's horses for courses. One player gives a straight down the meddle performance another might give a more groove feeling to the sound and we then use whichever fits best for that song. I play my guitar in a pretty rough style which suits a other songs. Pride for our instrument and parts goes out the window, it's more to do with getting the right end product. Maybe on the next album I won't play the guitar at all. We have toyed with the idea of Danny using different instruments live to give us a different soundscape but generally we stick to our own roles although we do freestyle sometimes by playing our parts differently.

Female drummers seem to be the trend at the moment?

Well, we didn't consciously pick a female, we just wanted to keep the band as friends rather than bring a stranger into the set up. We went to high school with her and she lives on the block so she's a great friend. When the vacancy for a new band member came up she was first on the list.

Working with friends is a double edged sword though isn't it?

It can be like being in a marriage with all the strains associated with that; I had that in previous bands. In Can't Swim the dynamic is far more easy going and supportive and we're all in it for the same reason and we don't have individual goals. In fact the band has probably brought us closer and we're like a family when we're on the road. In previous bands there'd be a n argument over where to eat.

The dynamic no doubt helps the writing process?

For sure. The first release was just me and I did everything but for this release everyone is involved with their differing personalities. That way we get more emotion feeling and personality in the music as well as an increased openness because we all know each other so well. We're all very open to criticism and many bands fail if their not. We're not defensive about anything. An idea becomes Can't Swim only once it's been through the modification process.

How about media criticism, are you open to that?

Well we know our limitations but we just do what we do as a band and outside criticism doesn't really come into play. I do like inducing emotion in people though negative or positive, it's all good but ultimately it's about your own team being happy.

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How has the band progressed since the last esp musically?

Well this is more of band really rather than a solo project. My guitar knowledge is limited and so the rest of the band have more to offer in terms of chords and making the sound fuller. The e.p was meat and potatoes whereas this album is complicated and there's more vocal interplay. It's different lyrically too; the e.p was more to do with a specific relationship whereas now it's more varied in its subject matter.

Did the album turn out how you expected it to?

Well I never thought that the first five songs that I did would ever leave my laptop and even now doing the full length I still had shaky legs, it's unbelievable but also truly beautiful. Everything has exceeded my expectations

What opportunities are there for bands in your neck of the woods in New Jersey?

I'm very out of touch with the local scene really, probably because I'm in my late twenties. I'm unfamiliar with this type of genre. Growing up we had loads of bands play this area but many of the clubs have closed down now which is a shame but I'd imagine that there's still a scene as we're so close to New York. Can't Swim don't do anything locally and we've played more times around the rest of America than we have in our home state. Our first gig was in Maine with Four Year Strong.
I lose sight of us being from around here sometimes because we started touring straight away. Ohio is a state that we play often and we've played in the UK more than around here, it's crazy.

UK and European bands aspire to being big in the U.S Can't Swim is operating in the opposite direction isn't that a bit odd?

It's luck, fate, call it what you will but all I know is that you guys seem to like us over there; we always get enthusiastic responses when we play there. I'm really not sure why we're liked in the UK, it's a bit of a mystery. Sometimes I wish that I was born there really it would make things simpler. We've talked about moving over there before not only for the music but also for the economic and political reasons. We were in the UK when Trump got elected and so we really wanted to stay. It's a great country and I suppose it would make sense to move here if we're going to tour. The Descendants did a similar thing they moved to Chicago because they were touring the country so much.

Touring costs money and Pure Noise is only a small label do they finance it?

Well it's all worked out in the budget and the label are incredibly supportive of us, they don't just hand us a million dollars though. We have enough to play, tour and eat so that's more than enough for now.

Can't Swim has a live raw edge on the latest album and a sense of realism was this conscious?

It really comes from inability. I can't hit all the notes I'd like and so I suppose it comes over as realistic, and that's what it is really. We play to our strengths and it all came pretty natural to us being that way. Combine that with a producer who wanted a genuine performance and that is what comes out. We're not a polished pop punk outfit and we don't want to be. There's no autotune, compression or tricks, it's just us.

Pop punk bands are usually upbeat, bright and breezy, Can't Swim is far more angry aren't they?

I think again that comes from what a find natural to sing. In fact I find it easier to yell rather than sing and so I think we tailor the music around that aspect. The other thing is that if you can't sing in a particular way in the studio it won't be possible at a gig.

From what you have said, is the band name a reflection on your insecurities as a singer?

Well in first grade I was very nervous about speaking in front of people and the teacher went round and asked everyone what their defining feature of their life was. I really didn't know what to say and the kid before me had said that he loved to swim so in a nervous voice I just said that I can't swim. Everyone laughed and twenty years later I thought it would be a great name for the band.

'Fail You Again' is out now on Pure Noise

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