Swingin' Utters

On the initial stop of the Swingin' Utters first Midwest Tour in six years, our own Tyler Barrett sat down with guitarist Darius Koski, also of the Filthy Thieving Bastards and the Re-Volts at Minneapolis punk dive, the Triple Rock Social Club. While the band's last studio full-length was 2003's

What made you decide to embark on a larger-scale tour after so many years without heavy touring, especially given economic conditions right now?

Well, [the economy] part of it is just bad timing. But you know, what are you gonna do, sit it out and wait 'til the economy gets good? No. So…I mean, we've been obviously really fucking inactive. And we've only done west coast stuff, and really only California stuff. And we haven't done anything in a really long time. Last time we were here was in 2003, last time we were on the East Coast was in 2003 or '04. Our last studio record was in 2003. And you know, people are probably just writing us off. When we recorded the last record it was for some reason kind of a stressful time, and Max [Huber] left the band. It didn't end the band, but we sort of have taken these weird time-off periods for years now. We all get along, everything's fine and everything, but, you know, we never made a ton of money… so we all have jobs, we have kids-me and Johnny have kids, Jack just had a kid. So we've just been kind of dealing with our lives, I guess. Johnny was kind of over touring, and was really bitterly against it-just not into it anymore. And he'd never really liked touring, but he just didn't wanna tour anymore. So I just decided to myself, like, "Fuck it, I'm not gonna try and convince him anymore, that's fine. We'll just do little things here and there."

So Johnny's had a change of heart, and we kind of sat down a couple times and talked about it, and long emails were sent back and forth, and phone conversations discussing whether we should just fucking call it or whatever. And we realized there's no real reason to stop because we like what we're doing, we're still into it, we've all been friends for 20-plus years. There's not any real reason to stop playing, but the thing that I brought up is, if we wanna keep doing this, we can't just be one of those fucking "they're-getting-older" punk bands that plays in California the same set list they've been playing for the last eight years. So if we want to be a band, we want to actually be a band again. So we're gonna go in the studio in the next few months, in the summertime, in June or July or something, and we're gonna do like what we're doing right now, little two-week stints. You know, Midwest, East Coast, South, various places. You know, we wanna hit everywhere again, like real bands. But just not be gone for a month at a time because we have jobs and we have kids and stuff so it's a little bit harder for us. So there ya go, long-winded answer there [laughs].

You mentioned it was just bad timing in terms of the economy, how long have you been planning this tour?

Probably three or four months. So it was already bad, but we're not gonna not tour because of the economy, you know? As long as our jobs are secure--and in our case all our jobs are secure-it's not an issue. So we'll just see what happens. I'm kind of worried, but fuck it, what am I gonna do? If it's a disaster, it's a disaster. Just move on, and that's fine. It's a fuckin' tour, you never know what to expect. I mean, nobody could show up at any of these shows for all I know. I really don't know.

Well, people were lining up at 5 o'clock…

People are here, so I mean…so far, so good. I have no idea, but I mean, it's kind of scary because you know, we're playing fucking Toledo, Ohio, and Ohio's in bad shape. So it's like…I don't know, are people gonna go to that show? And it's not something I wanna be pissed off about, 'cause when people are fucking losing their jobs, I'm worrying about how many people are gonna come see my band? [laughs]

Since it's been awhile since you released a full-length and did heavy touring, have you been able to notice any surge in interest or spillover of the rise of Celtic punk in the mainstream with acts like Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly?

Well, I gotta say, everybody always mentions the Celtic thing with us, and I don't really quite get it. Because I think there's a really small handful of songs in our entire catalog that are Celtic-flavored kind of songs. And I really think that-I'll fucking sit down with anybody and go through our entire catalog and ask them what they think sounds Celtic because…it's good music, don't get me wrong, but I never personally set out to write any Celtic-inspired shit. But I mean, obviously what it comes from is I love the Pogues, and they're a huge influence, so duh-I know it's there. But for me, most of the things people think are Celtic inspired, they're more like country-inspired. People really see that as much, but I think they're really holding and grasping on to the Celtic thing because there's Flogging Molly's and Dropkick Murphys' and that's fine, but I just think a lot of those references are wrong. Because I've read reviews where they're like, "It's got this great bluegrass song," and I'm like, "What!? Bluegrass song? There's no fucking bluegrass songs on our record!" [laughs]

In terms of other influences, going back to the last album [Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones]-it's always been easy to imagine your punk influences like Cock Sparrer, or the Celtic influence with the Pogues-however the last studio album almost seemed like it had some hardcore influence.

Yeah! A ton, yeah.

So what kind of hardcore bands do you guys appreciate and draw from?

Um…we don't-I don't think any of us really listen to hardcore. As far as-I don't know what kind of hardcore you're talking about-you mean like Sick of it All? We're friends with those dudes, but I've never really been interested in hardcore. I mean, you know, I like Minor Threat, that was a good record. I don't know if you consider Black Flag hardcore really. I guess you can…hardcore-L.A. punk. But there wasn't any direct influence for that record, I kind of went into it wanting to do some really hard stuff for the Swingin' Utters. Like, we're not a real hard, heavy band, but I wanted to do some really hard stuff just to do it, just for the hell of it. And that's one of the things I'm really proud of for our band is I like the sort of eclectic mix. I like that. Whether it's good or bad or whatever, I like the diversity. I like that there's mellow stuff, and there's some country stuff, Celtic stuff, and then there's some…


Yeah! I mean, whatever. Just throw it all in there. I think that's totally important for us and for our sound because we're all into pretty much every kind of music. So that was just a really concerted effort on my part to make some fucking hard shit because we hadn't really…I mean, "No Pariah" is like the hardest song we'd ever done.

I read that you guys started out as a cover band…are there any songs or bands that you'd be interested in covering, or thought about but haven't done?

We rarely do any, I guess, anymore. But there's some that I think of then kind of forget about and we never do it. But I kind of have always wanted to do what the Clash did with Toots and do some like, really old reggae or ska song differently. I've always wanted to cover the Replacements because we used to cover them a long time ago, and we're all really big Replacements fans.

How do you guys coordinate with all the different bands you all play in?

It's a fucking pain in the ass! [laughs]

Do you have a policy like, "Swingin' Utters always get priority' or "shows come before practice no matter which band"…is there a general rule or is it all just chaos?

It's kind of…not that easy to do. I mean, I work a lot, and I'm in three bands. And everybody is, I guess. Johnny's in three bands, Spike's in four bands, and it's just a total pain in the ass. Mostly it's a pain in the ass because I mean, Jack is in Dead to Me and--not in the last few months--but they usually tour a lot. So they're busy, and that was the biggest problem. So I don't know how busy they're gonna be in the future, or what's going on with that, but I just have to do stuff way in advance and I have to coordinate everything with everybody. I mean it's like, "Are the Gimme Gimme's going to Australia in June?" [laughs] It's like, fuck, I don't know. So I have to figure that out and yeah…it really kind of drives me fucking crazy.

Is there any chance that any of the offshoot bands like Re-Volts or Filthy Thieving Bastards or Druglords do any kind of wider-scale, bigger tour?

Yeah, I mean eventually I would like to do that. The only reason the Re-Volts in particular-I've been dying to-I just really, honestly don't think I could afford to do it. Just to take off time at work and not make any money and do that. So hopefully that'll happen someday but I don't see it happening any time soon. Filthy Thieving Bastards I think is something that's pretty likely will happen, but I think our drummer's gonna have problems touring and I think our guitar player who's going to school-he's a young kid-he might have problems touring. But we'll probably-we might have to tour with like, replacement players. But yeah, that'll happen eventually.

Aside from all the Swingin' Utters-associated bands, are there any good East Bay or San Fran punk bands that people should know about?

You know, this is a question that unfortunately I can never answer very well because I don't go out that much anymore, and I don't even live in San Francisco or the East Bay anymore. I live in Santa Cruz, I moved back like four years ago. So I just don't really go out to shows anymore. I mean, I'm trying to think of bands I've seen…

Sore Thumbs, maybe?

Yeah! Actually, Sore Thumbs are a good one. Sore Thumbs are good. They're not on a label right now. They're total buddies of ours from Oakland, they're a good band. But I can't really think…Goddammit! [in a joking voice] There's this great band the Re-Volts, they're really rad. Yeah I mean, I really can't say.

Can you persuade Jack to re-issue the first two One Man Army albums?

I can't-what I want to persuade Jack to do is to let us cover a One Man Army song but he refuses. He's super, dead-set against it. He doesn't want to do it. But eventually I'm going to coerce him into doing it. But that's a really good idea. Does Adeline even exist anymore?

Yeah, they do, they're just out of print and Adeline doesn't have the right for them.

That's fucking stupid. Maybe I can get Fat Mike to pick them up. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Anything else you'd like to add?

Just that we're gonna really start fucking buckling down. Badden the hatches, everybody, because we're gonna start kind of actually being a real band again. Because it got the point where it was kind of depressing, like being "the elder statesman of Cali punk" or whatever, "playing fucking L.A. again!" It actually got embarrassing for me after awhile, so we're actually gonna start doing what bands are supposed to be doing again. Which is good.