The garage rock band SWMRS is made up of drummer Joey Armstrong, bassist Seb Muller and brothers Cole and Max Becker, whose blue and green hair you may recognize from Saint Laurent’s southern California-inspired ‘Surf Sound’ Spring 2016 menswear ads. But if you think all of that means the band’s story is a tale of four male models coming together to make it big in a boy band, you’re wrong. SWMRS are the real deal: They play all of the instruments on their album, they write all of their songs, and unlike other wannabes, their California sound is authentic being that they’re actually from (and still live in) California. They describe their sound as ‘Hawaiiange,’ which translates to grungy with a sunny outlook. It could also be compared to the Palma Violets or The Pixies mixed with the high energy of early Green Day, which isn’t surprising given that Joey is the son of Green Day’s lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong.
Even before the band was spotted by Hedi Slimane during the Burgerama Music Festival in southern California, SWMRS had accrued somewhat of a cult following. “Three of us had another band called Emily’s Army who were doing pretty well, but this promoter in England wouldn’t book us for a tour and let us play Leeds and Reading Music Festivals at the same time, so we did secret shows under the name SWMRS with a different bass player and then decided that it was a much cooler name, so made the switch to that band a permanent thing,” says co-frontman Cole. “Hedi saw us play under that name, liked our hair, and then asked if we would write a song for him. Then he told us that he was going to base the entirety of his next collection on our style.” Slimane went ahead and kept that promise. The band composed the soundtrack for the runway, the brothers were cast in the popular ‘Surf Sound’ campaign, and another music-fashion partnership was born.
Cole isn’t at liberty to say whether or not the band will be composing anything else for Saint Laurent in the near future, but he’s happy to confirm that you won’t be catching any members of SWMRS on the runway again any time soon. “It was a cool, super surreal experience the first time, but it was really tiring and I don’t think we need to do it again,” he explains. With that option out and their debut self-released album titled “Drive North” set to drop today, we have a hunch that there’s potential for some kind of collaboration with Hedi in the near future—but that’s just a guess. “Our average song is three minutes and Hedi asked for the show track for ‘Surf Sound’ to be twenty minutes long. Initially we didn’t know what to do, but we then we took a bunch of songs that we hadn’t recorded yet, drank a bunch of beer, and exploded it into a kind of drunk orchestral piece,” he says.
While such casual creativity is admirable, it’s atypical of the band’s regular songwriting sessions. For “Drive North,” Cole and fellow co-frontman and guitarist Max pieced lyrics with melodies over acoustic guitar before Joey and Seb “came in to give the songs a backbone.” “We try to write music from a really sincere place,” says Cole.“We hate fake people and this album is about being cool with wherever you’re from and being comfortable in your own shoes. It’s also a call-out and a challenge to all of those L.A. bands who are just riding on the wave of the current Cali rock trend to up their game because the rest of the world is catching up. Los Angeles is such an over-populated place that you can blow up in the city, but then never be anything anywhere else.”
Along with today’s album release, SWMRS has plans for their first two-month plus national tour of the US which kicks off next Tuesday, February 16th. They don’t have an official tour manager, but they’ve opted to bring along a friend to help with all the driving and have elected Max to be in charge of their expenses. “There is a business plan for us, but I don’t really like to talk about,” says Coles to conclude. “It would be cool to hear our music on the radio, but mainly I just want people to be passionate about it. That’s the biggest thing for me. If everyday there’s one more person that loves our music, I’m satisfied.”
Click here to listen to SWMRS on Soundcloud.
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