Melbourne Jangly-Reverbed-Indie-Pop band Swim Team: “Sarcasm and self-deprecation is embedded in our personalities and sense of humour – we certainly don’t take ourselves too seriously”

Original photo by Kalindy Williams. Handmade collage by B.

From the first jangly-twang of song ‘Everyday Things’ that we heard while watching Rage one morning last year, the Gimmie team have been addicted to Swim Team. Their infectious sweet melodies, hypnotic harmonies and catchy hooks reel you in. We interviewed Sammy to talk about their debut LP Home Time, their beginnings, self-care and more.

How did Swim Team first come together?

SAMMY: I had been thinking about starting a new band for a while. At the time Krystal was playing in Bad Vision and I was playing tambourine with the Pink Tiles, and we were gigging around a lot and I was really into the scene and the kinds of garage pop bands that were popping up. In 2016, Krystal moved in with me and we had already been friends since we worked together in Perth back in 2005. Back in those days she was playing in punk garage bands and I was playing in twee indie bands. I suggested that we should start a new band together with both of us on guitar and so we both just started jamming at home.

I asked my friend Esther to join – I really wanted her to be in the band even though she had never played the bass, and Krystal recruited TJ even though she had never played drums. We built our band based on how we thought the dynamics would work with the four of us hanging out together, not for how technically good a player or songwriter anyone was. It was kinda like building our own fantasy football team or something, and luckily they were both keen to give it a red hot go haha.

We got together in a rehearsal room and the first song we played together was ‘Green Fuzz’ by the Cramps. Eventually I booked us our first gig which was with Girl Crazy at their Tote residency, and that meant we had a deadline to write a few songs and get our shit together. If there’s one thing that Swim Team are collectively good at, it’s working under pressure!

We love the jangly guitars in Swim Team’s music; what inspired you to choose this sound?

SAMMY: A combined love for bands like The Clean and Go-Betweens, a tendency to lean towards Fender and a penchant for chorus pedals haha.

I think that given mine and Krystal’s backgrounds in music and the kinds of bands we were both used to playing in and listening to, when we brought them together we ended up with this kind of sound naturally. It’s kinda a combination of my pop background, Krystal’s punk background, and both of us meeting in the middle, then evolving together.

Last year you released your LP Home Time which was written over the course of a couple of years, one of the main themes of the record being change; over the time of writing what do you think was one of the biggest changes you went through in your own life that helped colour the songs you were writing?

SAMMY: Oh boy, there was a lot of change during that period for us all, not to mention that in the time it took us to start writing the songs, recording and then releasing it, we had three different bass players.

Krystal and I are the main songwriters in the band and we both had a lot going on over the course of a couple of years. Krystal’s dad sadly passed away while we were writing the album and so there is some really personal grieving there. There are relationship breakdowns for both of us, whether it be family or friendships or just simple observations. For me, at the beginning it was the end of a long-term relationship, and then by the end of the writing process it was meeting someone new. So yes, it’s quite the rollercoaster thematically!  

Many of your songs can be self-deprecating; where does this come from?

SAMMY: Haha you might have to ask my therapist that! At the end of the day, I think that sarcasm and self-deprecation is embedded in our personalities and sense of humour – we certainly don’t take ourselves too seriously most of the time.

Your songs are deeply personal but written ambiguously so listeners can imagine themselves in the song story; who are the songwriters that you admire? What is it about their songs you love?

SAMMY: I have a deep appreciation of many different styles of songwriting, whether it’s poetic and metaphorical or literal story telling. One of my favourite songwriters is Mara Williams from the Pink Tiles. If you want deeply personal but ambiguous and completely charming, she is the queen of it!

What’s the significance of the album’s title, Home Time?

SAMMY: Aside from being one of the tracks from the album that we thought tended to sum up the entire vibe pretty well, it’s also a play on the title of our first EP ‘Holiday’. We went from ‘Holiday’ to ‘Home Time’ with these releases which is kinda symbolic of us growing as a band as well as our own personal situations.

Why did you decide to kick your record off with the track ‘Grown Up’?

SAMMY: We wanted something with a bit of an intro to kick things off sonically, but we found ‘Grown Up’ set the tone for the rest of the album in terms of context. It’s kinda a proclamation of this feeling of never really quite achieving those expectations that we set for ourselves as adult humans, and then bam – the rest of the album runs through and it’s a continuation of those general musings. Thematically we write about all aspects of life, whatever takes our fancy at the time: our crushes, our bad habits, our ex’s bad habits, our dysfunctional families, our grievances – both serious and silly.

The song ‘Everyday Things’ is an ode to first world problems; what first sparked this song idea?

SAMMY: Basically one long complaint about all the things that didn’t go right in a single day. They’re all a part of daily existence and not ‘actual’ problems. The song is laughing at the way we tend to complain about everything when in all reality the scenarios mentioned are trite and trivial.

What’s your favourite track on Home Time? What’s it about?

SAMMY: For me it’s probably a tie between ‘Time and Sacrifice’ and ‘New Year’. ‘Time and Sacrifice’ I feel has a different vibe to it than the rest of the album. The subject matter is far more complex and I think it ended up that way musically too. It’s also the one we experimented with the most as far as production goes, which was really fun. ‘New Year’ has been a favourite for a while, I have always loved what everyone has brought to the song in terms of parts and the feel – Anna really brought this to life for us!

Could you tell us a little about recording the record please?

SAMMY: We were lucky enough to have our dream team for our album recording. We had Anna Laverty produce and engineer it at our favourite studio in Melbourne, Audrey Studios. We tracked the majority of it live, all four of us in the room playing our parts, and then afterwards we did a few guitar overdubs and vocals. Working with Anna is always a real pleasure. We were lucky enough to have a bit of extra time to play around, and some of the songs had parts that were written on the spot which was something I’ve never had the privilege to experiment with before.

You’ve mentioned online that there’s been “a bunch of personal and health stuff that’s gone down since late last year” which has made you take a little break from making music. I hope everything’s alright? During the downtime what do you do to take care of yourself? Self-care is so important!

SAMMY: Thank you! Yes, self-care is super important for both our physical and mental health. For us it means eating well, exercising, doing things that make you calm and happy (for me it’s things like listening to music, pottering around the house, cooking and tending to plants), and not being too hard on yourself or having unrealistic expectations of yourself (that part is hard sometimes!) We had a really busy year with the release of the album and then with the personal stuff happening on top of that it felt like we needed to just step back and look after ourselves and put a priority on those things. We are actually really close friends outside of music so we have a really strong support network in each other – we are really lucky to have that level of support and understanding from one another I think.

Other than making music do you do anything else creative?

SAMMY: Krystal has a podcast that she hosts with her friend Ruth called ‘First Time Feelings’ that you can check out here. TJ is a tattoo artist and when there’s no pandemic you can find her at her shop Heart & Soul Tattoo in Melbourne CBD. Our original bass player Esther is a designer and owns the label Togetherness Design. Our newest member and current bass player Jill is involved in a bunch of comedy and fringe festival shows, but is known best for her role in co-founding the iconic Shania Choir. I don’t have many creative talents outside of music, but it keeps me busy enough for now.

What’s something – band, album, song – that’s really cool you’re listening to at the moment?

SAMMY: RVG’s new album Feral, and patiently anticipating the new Dianas record Baby Baby.

Please check out: SWIM TEAM. ST on Facebook. ST on Instagram. Home Time out on Hysterical Records.