The Swingin' Utters arenâ€™t getting any younger, says frontman Johnny Bonnel, but that doesnâ€™t mean the band is looking to call it a day. In fact, if anything, the band is ramping up its output, the latest of which is a new full-length on Fat Wreck Chords called Fistful of Hollow. Across 15 tracks, the band continues to maintain its signature sound, with a few new elements thrown into the mix. In advance of the recordâ€™s release, Punknews editor Adam Eisenberg caught up with Bonnel to talk about the new album, learn about the bandâ€™s songwriting process and discuss the Swinginâ€™ Utters/Lagwagon double bill thatâ€™s coming to a town near you.
The Swingin' Utters are releasing a new record called Fistful of Hollow. Can you tell us what to expect?
Itâ€™s got a lot of new stuff going on, itâ€™s going to have some that sound like Poorly Formed, itâ€™s also got two or three that are much different than anything weâ€™ve ever done. We try to make each record a little bit different and try to show that weâ€™re growing even though weâ€™re at our ages right now. Weâ€™re pretty happy with it. It was a fun record to make. Right now, with all the guys in the band, weâ€™re pretty content with each other. Everyone knows how to behave themselves and be cool to each other.
Miles Peck, the bass player for the Swingin' Utters, became much more involved in the songwriting process this time around, right?
Yes, thatâ€™s correct.
Whatâ€™s it like to integrate a new songwriter into the bandâ€™s writing process? I know you did this previously with Jack Dalrymple as well.
I think we were just hoping that Jack would eventually start writing. We always wanted him to, and as soon as I think we let him know, like, â€œHey man, itâ€™s about time, youâ€™ve been in the band for a while nowâ€¦â€ We were sort of waiting on it and I think finally we gave him the little push and he started sending me a bunch of music and I started writing lyrics to it and we really liked how it turned out.
We knew when Miles joined the band that he was talented as well. I always want to do collaborations. I think theyâ€™re much more creative and fun to do, so I got the ball rolling with him and asked him if he had any songs without any lyrics or singing. He had a few, then I wrote a couple and went over to his house and got some songs done that way. We just want everyone to pitch in or else itâ€™s not really a band if theyâ€™re just playing their instruments and thatâ€™s it. I could see someone being bummed out about that. We want everyone to get involved, and we trust everyone in their talent and songwriting and musicianship so itâ€™s kind of a no-brainer.
You mentioned that the band is trying to grow with everyone new record. Did integrating new songwriters open up any new avenues for growth?
Yeah, itâ€™s another brain being introduced into the band, so itâ€™s definitely going to sound different from our past records. Just the fact that itâ€™s another person contributing. We enjoy it, and weâ€™ve always been fans of both Miles and Jack before they were in the band in their respective other bands, One Man Army and Sore Thumbs. We always wanted to get them involved. It just took a little bit longer than we expected for Jack, but Miles jumped in right away.
Youâ€™ll be touring for the next month or so with Lagwagon. Howâ€™d that come together?
Weâ€™ve always been friends with all the bands on Fat, or at least most of them, and we were looking for a tour because we had the record already recording and waiting, but we couldnâ€™t find a tour because I guess you have to start booking six months out these days. We were sort of late on that. This fell into our lap and we jumped on it right away because weâ€™re big fans of Lagwagon. Weâ€™ve never toured with them. We played a few shows, but never toured, so weâ€™re pretty excited about it.
There was a period in the mid-2000s where the Swinginâ€™ Utters were relatively inactive, but since 2011â€™s Here, Under Protest youâ€™ve been pretty prolific, with a new album just about every year. Was that period of inactivity re-energizing?
Yeah, I think itâ€™s a combination of things. Weâ€™re not getting any younger, so letâ€™s start pumping them out. What have we got to lose? I enjoy songwriting, I think itâ€™s a lot of fun and a great way to express yourself and a great release for me. I think the other guys are really into it too. Itâ€™s just another form of art that weâ€™re all into. Itâ€™s really gratifying to get stuff recorded in a way that you like. We just want to keep plugging away. I try to write at least one line a day for a song, just to be on my toes. I think that practice makes perfect. Well, not perfect, but practice makes you a better songwriter. The more the merrier. Weâ€™re just going to keep plugging away until someone tells us to stop.
Does the addition of new members also add a new energy?
Definitely. Thatâ€™s huge for us, especially because like I said, weâ€™re not getting any younger. These guys have a few years below us and a little bit more energy when it comes to touring and playing live. So yeah, it injects energy into the bandâ€™s songwriting, touring. We want to take advantage of their youth as well as their friendship.
Any other touring plans following the Lagwagon tour?
Iâ€™m not too secure on where weâ€™re going, but I know we have a European tour lined up in March. I think it starts in February. Before that I think we plan on doing little chunks of the United States, like the south, east coast, midwest and west coast. We usually do that in two to three week chunks. So yeah, we plan on hitting the road fairly soon after the Lagwagon tour. There might be a little break for the winter.
What are the biggest differences touring now as compared to back when the band first started?
The beginning was the toughest, because there were no cell phones. Youâ€™re pretty much using these cards that you could make how many phone calls on to try to bookâ€¦ â€œBook Your Own Fucking Lifeâ€ I think was the name of the book we went through to try to do it the first time around. Then someone picked us up as a booking agent and helped us out and that was a relief. When we got Leave Home Booking it was a lot easier to tell her what we wanted and where we wanted to go and then she could deal with all the booking. Itâ€™s gotten way easier and itâ€™s all because of technology. Back in the day it was kind of nightmarish, kind of scary, but then again, it was probably a little bit more fun because it was so dangerous.
Is there anything going on with any of your other projects, like Filthy Thieving Bastards?
Weâ€™ve been wanting to do something but really havenâ€™t had the time. I sent everyone in the band an e-mail saying I wanted to keep going with it and they were all behind it. I donâ€™t think weâ€™re folding up or anything, but as soon as I get some downtime Iâ€™m going to be getting together with Darius to write some new stuff. I know thereâ€™s a lot of songwriting going on between me and him, and some of the songs we think are for Filthy Thieving are placed aside, so Iâ€™m sure could probably pull together a record pretty quickly.
Druglords of the Avenues, my other band that Iâ€™m in, weâ€™re planning on releasing new material. Thereâ€™s going to be singles and splits and whatnot, and hopefully a full-length if we can find someone to put it out.