Photography by Charlotte Dart
Originally published in Pebble
“The one thing we asked not to be on our rider was tortilla chips….and they’ve given us tortilla chips. We’re fuming.” sighs bassist Cavan McCarthy as he, along with the rest of Swim Deep, settle into their dressing room, prior to their slot supporting Two Door Cinema Club. The dressing room at Southampton Guildhall is almost as plain and unsuspecting as the contents of their rider (which in fact extends to a selection of off-brand crisps and juice) and provides an alarming contrast to the band, particularly drummer Zach Robinson, who removes his jacket and hood to reveal a nipple-grazing crop top and bright green dip-dyed hair.
The gig is the latest in a line of support slots for the band, who recently toured with Spector and Splashh, a period which lead singer Austin Williams describes as “a learning experience…probably.” When asked what knowledge it was that he actually picked up from the tour, he responds “when you tour with other bands, you learn a lot about how tight you need to be as a band and how much rehearsal you need to do to sound right.” Considering Swim Deep are a fairly young group, both in terms of their time together and their own years spent alive, having only started performing as a four-piece last March, they’ve been given plenty of opportunities to fine-tune and hone their sound. Since releasing their first single “King City” last year, the band have popped up on virtually every ‘ones to watch’ list worth reading and their wistful, brooding lyrics on their debut single King City caught the eye of Chess Club Records, who signed them last August. “Wanting to be in places outside of Birmingham inspired King City. I don’t think many of us have really travelled that much, apart from Newcastle and Southampton…but I can confirm theM42 is amazing” claims Austin, who’s trying his hand at learning Spanish on the tour bus, between their current shows “I downloaded a Spanish thing for my iPad, so I’m gonna be learning bloody Spanish soon, because we’ve got a few foreign festivals coming up”
In actual fact, they’ve got more than a few foreign festivals coming up. As well as booking a number of coveted festival slots, including Austin’s SXSW and Benicassim, the band are about to set out on their first ever headline tour later this month. “I think people should expect a really good show, because we want to work really hard for it, and to get a taste of the album” says Cavan. Ah, the album. With a handful of singles released thus far to a rousing reception, the pressure is really on the band to deliver with their debut full length. Recorded entirely in a studio in Belgium, it’s currently shaping up to be ready for release by May, or so they hope. “We were living in the studio when we made it, so when you wake up in the morning you’d just leave your bed and go to the studio in your dressing gown, it was very trippy because it was so surreal” recalls Zach, who adds that the band were used to recording in the middle of the night, crowded around in one room. “”When we started, we were just jamming, and then we realised we were good at it. Swim Deep is actually quite a recent thing, but it feels like it’s been leading up to this for years” remembers Austin, who met guitarist Higgy when they were both working in Morrison’s. From there, they recruited drummer Zach, and eventually Cavan joined the group last year. Before working in Morrisons, Austin claims he’d always wanted to work as a musician, or something similar…“I used to want to be a rapper. I became a singer because it’s the closest thing, I’m pretty much a rapper…just a little bit slower.”
Despite most of their songs culminating from various “jamming sessions”, the band do actually have a songwriter in Austin. Since they began rehearsing and playing together, he’s noticed the way he writes his music adapting and evolving, and one influence keep popping up throughout our interview. “The main influence for me was David Bowie. Before, we were just writing songs to fill the set that you’d been booked to play, but I ended up taking some time to actually write some songs instead. I spent a lot of time listening to Bowie, and that’s when I started realising what a song could be, and it could be so much more, and it doesn’t matter how small or big a song is, if it’s got a great melody it can be the greatest thing in the world.” They might not have come anywhere near to Ziggy Stardust’s decade spanning success yet, but if the throes of teenage fans they’ve amassed are anything to go by, they could be heroes, even if only for one album.
What do you listen to on the tour bus?
Austin: Cut Copy. Actually, that was only the last 20 minutes. Spiritualised?
Cavan: Loads of stuff, we listen to Led Zeppelin a lot.
Austin: And obviously Spanish audiobooks.
What are your favourite Swim Deep songs?
Austin: Mine’s King City. It was written ages ago, before Cav was even in the band. It’s like my little baby.
Can you all actually swim?
Austin: Me and Higgy used to go swimming after work actually, at Morrissons. There was a lot of headling Glastonbury talk in the saunas.
Why did you choose the name Swim Deep?
Higgy: One of our songs had the lyric swim deep, and it just seemed that the music we were making fitted into that name perfectly.
Austin: I don’t know what it is about it, there’s just nice imagery behind it too.
What’s been your favourite gig?
Cavan: Shepherd’s Bush was great.
Zach: Mine was Shepherd’s Bush
Higgy: Me too.
Austin: We played a christmas show in Birmingham with Peace, and it probably wasn’t the best we’ve ever played, but it was the most fun we’ve had.
Have you always wanted to be in bands, or make music?
Austin: I used to want to be a rapper, and I became a lead singer because it’s the closest thing to being a rapper. . I’m pretty much the same as a rapper, just a bit slower.
Higgy: I wanted to be a soul singer. Nah not really, I wanted to be the manager at Morrisons.
What song do you wish you’d written?
Higgy: Stairway to Heaven.
Cavan: I was gonna say that!
Zach: Down by the seaside
Austin: Life on Mars.