In one of the more striking transformations of the last couple of years, Swim Deep have gone from baggy, indie-pop daydreamers to full-on psychedelic voyagers. Second album ‘Mothers’ is a reinvention and an exercise in pushing boundaries to new levels. Here, frontman Austin Williams gives his track-by-track rundown of everything you need to know about their new record.
1. ‘ONE GREAT SONG AND I COULD CHANGE THE WORLD’
Austin: “This came at the back end of the album recording. We wanted to make something sound a bit weirder then the rest of the album – but that was the same on every track. We had vintage synths in the studio, so we had a lot of fun with them. The refrain is a bold statement that we wanted to make, because there wasn’t much of that on the first album. We felt like it would be good to lift off the album. The ethos that music is the backbone of life and the rhythm of life – it’s really important. Welcome to ‘Mothers’…”
2. ‘TO MY BROTHER’
“We wrote and recorded this first for the album. It was the first thing that we’d genuinely been excited by. Sometimes the words come out of your mouth whilst you’re writing it and you have figure out what they actually are. ‘I start to get the feeling all I do is preach my brother‘ came straight out and I thought that must mean something, so I had to develop on that. Then we took it to the studio.
“It was the first time we used the 303 bass – the acid house sound – and that made it really exciting for us. It was like a different genre of music we were meddling in. And as soon as we realised it was a dance song, we made it into one. It definitely put us into motion with what we wanted to do on the record.”
3. ‘GREEN CONDUIT’
“This was quite an early track. Around the time I was listening to a lot of soul music, really slow R&B vibes. My dad told me about how, when he was 24, he quit his job at the MOD and became a gardener. One garden he was working in had a lake at the bottom. It was really picturesque – so much green to get your hands on. He slowly became really connected and he felt like he had a real green finger. And then one time he – he didn’t do drugs at this point I’d like to point out, that came later on – he turned around, heard this flute noise and his first thoughts were that some kids were playing the flute. ‘But that’s strange,’ he thought, because they were young kids next door who won’t be able to play like that.
“He turned around and, lo and behold, he saw this green little man that resembled a leprechaun, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. He thought, ‘This is too clichéd to be real.’ His immediate thoughts were, ‘This guy’s good, not quite good enough to be a busker though’ and then as soon as he thought that, he blinked his eyes and, of course, the leprechaun was gone. The song came out of that, because I thought it’s just a brilliant story and no father has a reason to lie to his son or his daughter about something like that.”
4. ‘HEAVENLY MOMENT’
“These lyrics stem from me thinking back to when I was 21 and I tried acid for the first time. First and last time actually. A lesson to everyone there! It was in some club for my 21st birthday, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had a big smile on my face and thought I’d do it. I was with my girlfriend as well at the time and we’d not long been going out, maybe six months or a year. I can remember thinking: ‘As long as I’ve got her I know I’ll be alright, so I can just do this and get away with it,’ which is a bit selfish but it was my 21st birthday. I kept running up to people saying, ‘It’s my 21st birthday, this is my night!’ And I had this weird trip and I got home. Me and Cav, we had a photoshoot in the morning, and the looks on our faces in those photos are so bizarre! We don’t look real. So the lyrics stem from that.
“The chord sequences were inspired by sci-fi soundtracks that me and James have bonded over. It’s different – the way it’s shaped dynamically is quite different from most of the songs we’ve done before, because the verse and the chorus, which make up the main bulk of the song, are kind of interweavable. And then there is this big, loud pay-off at the end. That’s a structure we hadn’t really tried before. It was natural, it came out naturally. And this is the best thing about this album, I think. There are a few parts that just came out as a reaction, just as a natural instinct. A lot of things on this album just came out and we kept it in.”
“I think this is just blatantly the single. It came from when I moved to me and Zach’s house. It’s a big warehouse and there was a Hammond organ. I’ve got a lot to thank to this Hammond organ for. It evolved me from a songwriter that was just working on keyboard – there was sustain, there was a lot of release, everything was quite wavy – to, suddenly I’m hitting notes that don’t last if you take your hand off. So the melodies changed dramatically and I kind of exploded into this new world of songwriting that was just a really exciting time for me – I used to sit on it all day, all night.
“Those chords came out and then the melody came out for this and I just knew it was a really great song. It came at the back end of me listening to Aretha Franklin’s ‘Greatest Hits’ constantly on repeat. I knew that in a way, if I listened to it, I’d influenced by it, and I wanted to be. I think that’s the greatest thing about music – you can be influenced by it if you listen to it enough.”
6. ‘IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE’
“I was living with two other bands at the time, and they came in and they were like, ‘Jesus, man, that’s a good guitar line.’ I thought it sounded a bit like, Mac DeMarco or something like that. Quite happy, barbeque vibes. I was a bit nonchalant about it.
“Then the verse keys came, and then the hook in the verse. I think the hook sounds a bit like ‘Light My Fire’ by The Doors, at some points. It was the first time that I just thought I would write what I feel about love and the person that I love. It was nice to express myself like that. I was quite happy with it, it’s one of my favourites.”
7. ‘FOREVER SPACEMAN’
“James told me all these conspiracy theories about the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There’s this mad conspiracy theory that Russia was the first people that got cosmonauts into space, but they never announced it because the cosmonauts died – they couldn’t be saved, so it was seen as a failure [Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was in fact the first man in space, in April 1961, and he lived to tell the tale – Anti-Conspiracy Theory Ed]. It’s the idea that this astronaut who’s gone into space has just got lost in space and no one’s ever found out about it. There are some lyrics in here that I think are really poignant. I really like “floating headline in space“.
“It doesn’t follow a verse/chorus structure, it’s all different parts. You have the bit called the ‘Black Hole Section’, which we just wanted to transition two different parts together, but make it interesting. James was playing the bass and just trying to cram as many different notes in as possible. I think that’s definitely a Paul McCartney thing. He’s just one of the greatest bass guitarists of all time.”
8. ‘GRAND AFFECTION’
“Not that it means that much right now, but the name comes from a track our producer had called ‘Pure Inspiration’. I thought, ‘That’s great, I’m gonna use that technique and just find two great words like that.’ The song’s about having a grand affection about everyday things. And slagging The Queen off a bit. It touches upon a few things, but in a very shallow way – I’m guilty of being a bit shallow sometimes in referencing, and of being a kind of preacher, in a way.
“We wrote it when we’d all been listening to the Caribou album. We did a first demo of it, and it sounded like Depeche Mode – it was all disco-ey at the beginning – and then we recorded the final version and it was completely different, we put loads of it on bass, synths, and turned all these arpeggiators on. Someone described it as a song with three choruses.”
“I’d just bought an Oberheim Matrix 1000 – a rack synth. It was used by loads of bands like Tangerine Dream, and on a load of soundtracks, sci-fi soundscapes – Blade Runner and stuff like that. I just had to get it. I spent all my money from royalties and getting played on fucking Made In Chelsea. Cheers, Spenny.
“In the morning I got out of bed and straight away went to the keyboard and started working on the sequence that I had been working on all night again. You get addicted to things as soon as you make them. James came in and he didn’t even say anything, he just sat down, took his bag off, picked up the Hoff and then started doing this amazing bassline over it.”
“Me and James had just been to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Camden Roundhouse. They’re collectively a favourite band in this group – it’s always been an inspiring kind of movement, that music, especially the way Anton Newcombe went about being a recording artist and using his label to his advantage, it’s quite inspiring. We woke up the morning after and we all started jamming. James was on this synth – it was the weirdest sound, using the pitch bend for every note.”
11. ‘FUEIHO BOOGIE’
“The lyrics are kind of the main attraction to this song for us, because it’s just something that we’ve never really done. Along ‘Green Conduit’ it’s a proper story about something that we heard about. When we went to Japan, which we were so excited about as we all had never been there before. We were asking everyone questions wherever we went so we could absorb the most, just like a bunch of excited kids. This one American guy came up. He was like, ‘Yeah, you can’t dance here man,’ and we were like, ‘What the fuck?’ We were freaking out. Everyone was like: ‘That’s not true!’ We had to find out if it was true or not. There’s a law that you can’t dance there after 12 o’clock in clubs. Everyone we tell this story to is just as jaw-to-the-floor as we were. We researched a bit about it and there’s so many great stories about it. I just thought: ‘I couldn’t not write lyrics about this and put them to this song.’
“I think my favorite line is: ‘They call the police/Play all the hits/It’s four to the floor here/How could they resist‘. It’s all about the club playing all the hits, everyone dancing and the police get there, and then the police start dancing. Because that’s what happened. The law is Fueiho in the state of Fueiho. They keep it enforced because they can raid clubs and get all the kids doing drugs and stuff, but it’s completely nonsensical, it doesn’t make sense. It’s a really dystopian law where you’re playing music so you can express yourself and enjoy yourself, but the law is that you’re not allowed to express yourself. But they actually repealed it recently. We fought the law and we won. It was really fun that track as well, I remember the way we wrote it – it came out just from us jamming. It was just that thing going round and round and round. Then we went in to demo it. We didn’t really have a song, but as we tracked everything down we just came up with new ideas and put them on top and on top, and then the song just got longer and longer and longer. Then we left that and went to record the fourth version in the studio, it got longer and longer and longer. It was so beautiful. Every part of that song that we recorded, I felt human, and I felt like I was really doing something with my life. It was an achievement for me.”