Detroit, Michigan has endured a tumultuous year thus far. The city's calling card automotive industry has been suffering a downright crisis and is still attempting to bounce back to some sense of normalcy. Compound that with the Red Wings losing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Tigers not making the playoffs, and things have been looking pretty grim. However, a glimmer of hope does shine from the Motor City this year, with Fenton based pop-punk act The Swellers releasing their new full length album, Ups and Downsizing. Punknews contributor Matt Pagirsky recently had an e-mail exchange with brothers Jonathan and Nick Diener about the new album, their recent signing to Fueled by Ramen, as well as their upcoming appearance at the Fest 8, and their national run with Paramore.
Pop-punk powerhouse Fueled by Ramen released your new album, Ups and Downsizing. After years of self-releasing records and having the support of Search and Rescue Records how does it feel to have the support of a much larger indie such as FBR?
Jonathan Diener: The run we had on Search And Rescue was a good way to start out and taught us a lot of lessons. The label would help us pay for recording and we would handle everything else ourselves. You just get to the point where you need a push to get to the next level. Being on a label that has specific people for merch, street team, design and covers all of the bases we usually worry about is definitely new to us. It's a relief being able to focus more on music for a change. We have an awesome team of people now and they all work as hard as we do.
Nick Diener: We never want to be stuck doing "more of the same," so with our new record, we figured we'd try something completely new as far as a home goes.
The new album has a more straight forward feel than My Everest. Can you talk a bit about the songwriting process for this record?
Jonathan: We started writing immediately after My Everest and had a few leftover ideas we ended up making into full songs. One thing we tried to do with this album is make it more dynamic. It's been two years since the last record and we've been touring for over three years so we've learned what kind of songs will have more life to them. Lyrically there's more of a theme to the record that you'll hear through other songs.
Nick: We took the sounds of My Everest and expanded them in both directions. We have some more chilled out, slower-tempo parts, and then some of the fastest, most aggressive songs we've ever written. It's less wanky (there is only one harmonized guitar riff on the whole record). Pretty much figured less is more, and we wanted to make songs that translate well live.
What is the significance of the title Ups and Downsizing? Are there any specific themes it represents on the record?
Jonathan: Nick and I have lived in the Flint, MI area (specifically, Fenton, MI) for about 8 years now. Where we live, everyone's parents work for GM, and most of them have gotten laid off at some point. This was going on years before the recession hit the country and eventually the world. About a year ago our Dad ended up losing his job and had 2 weeks to look for a new one or take a job offer in North Carolina. We're still trying to sell our house and things haven't been easy. I loved the quote "Strikes and gutters. Ups and downs" from The Big Lebowski and wanted to have it translate to something reflecting our situation. The title goes for all of the people who've experienced the sting of the economy. Other songs on the record are kind of a look back at childhood and missing when things were still simple.
Were there any bands in particular you were listening to heavily when writing and recording the new album? Are there any major musical influences on this album?
Jonathan: We wanted to finally reflect more of our influences. Nada Surf, Weezer, Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World, and we listened to some different bands like Oceansize.
Nick: We've been listening to punk rock all of our lives, and our last records show our influences pretty heavily, but this time we decided to not hold back and widen our horizons a bit. The album still sounds like The Swellers, just a more versatile version. We've been able to play shows with Paramore, as well as Propagandhi, and have an amazing time.
You guys will be kicking off a national tour supporting Paramore throughout the entire month of October. How did that end up coming together and are you excited to play to a whole new audience?
Nick: Hayley from Paramore was one of the biggest supporters of our band, even before we got signed to FBR. She was pushing us hard to the label after they told her they were looking into signing us. We'd always chat back and forth saying 'oh yeah it'd be so cool to tour together that'd be crazy', but we didn't think it'd happen so soon! Both of our records come out on the day the tour starts. We want to play our music to anyone and everyone. We want to stay on tour and hang out with our friends. That's all there is to it. If I get to play my songs, I'm happy. If a 14-year-old girl who loves Nickelback ends up loving my band… I feel like maybe she'll go check out Lagwagon or Millencolin next. That's how I found out about some of my favorite bands.
Speaking of other great opportunities, you recently were enlisted to play The Fest 8. How many times have you been down there so far? Are there any other bands you're looking forward to seeing or hanging with there?
Jonathan: This is actually our third year in a row playing The Fest. After the first year we became good friends with Tony and the people of No Idea Records and they keep inviting us back. It's honestly the best weekend ever and Gainesville is one of our favorite places. Leonardo's vegan pizza and Drag The River will be amazing. I have a list of about 25 bands I need to see. Our buddies Broadway Calls, Living With Lions, A Wilhelm Scream, Polar Bear Club, Comadre… there are just too many to list, and that means it will be insane.
What are some of the most memorable moments from your recent tour with Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong?
Nick: It was probably our most successful tour we've ever done, because it was loaded with great bands and a lot of kids hungry for new music. All of the bands were friends, as well, so it made for some great hangouts and cookouts. We all almost got escorted out of a Wal Mart parking lot because a female employee was convinced someone shouted "dark chocolate" at her. We showed the cops that we were BUYING dark chocolate (for s'mores) and we had lots of different skin colors ourselves. Then the cops hung out with us and took pictures of the giglife tour lineup in front of our trailer.
Jonathan: We actually all got "Gig Life" tattoos which was a crazy thing. Tour tattoos for 6 bands is pretty crazy. Grave Maker and us got the tattoos in Ohio and the rest of the guys got them in Texas. Such a good time.
You recently had an unusual mix-up with your new 7", Welcome Back Riders, where one side of the record contained a Metallica track. What is the current status of that situation?
Nick: We only have two copies of the test press, and Vinnie at Paper+Plastick has 4 more I believe. I want to hang on to our copies, but I know Vinnie wanted to do something special with one or two. We're all too afraid that Lars Ulrich will sue us, though. Are there any up and coming bands from Michigan or the Flint/Fenton area you think people should check out?
Nick: Cheap Girls. Thank you. Jonathan: Cheap Girls, Empty Orchestra from Michigan and Reviver from Salt Lake City, UT if they were from Michigan.