One of New Jersey’s prodigal sons once mused “who says you can’t go home?” – but CAN’T SWIM have never really left their Garden State surroundings.
Sure, they’ve certainly logged tens of thousands of miles over the past seven years, bringing their cathartic blend of rock, punk, and emo to audiences around the world on bills with A Day To Remember and Senses Fail and at festivals like 2000trees. But at their core, Can’t Swim are innately Jersey through and through: from the ghosts of Tri-State hardcore giants that oscillate through their high-octane sound to the very garages and studios where those songs take shape.
Now, the band plant their Garden State flag even deeper on their fourth LP, Thanks But No Thanks, an album that quite literally finds them going back to their roots.
After wrapping another slate of hard touring for 2021’s Change Of Plans, the group – vocalist Chris LoPorto, bassist Greg McDevitt, guitarist Danny Rico and drummer (and honorary Jersian) Blake Gamel – decamped to the Shore, insulating themselves in the comforts of home while working to hone in on the most elemental components of the Can’t Swim sound.
“This was honestly the most fun we’ve ever had making an album,” LoPorto muses. “We’ve reached a point as a band where we’re able to stop overthinking and instead just do what feels right. I think it’s brought a lot of joy back into our music.”
Joy has rarely been a word associated with Can’t Swim – awash in tempestuous lyricism and muscular energy since breaking into the underground with 2016’s Death Deserves A Name EP – but there’s a self-referential wryness to LoPorto’s lyrics on Thanks But No Thanks that winks its way through the album’s 10 songs, along with a finely tuned melodic edge that balances out the band’s more brooding nature.
With guitarist Rico overseeing production, mixing, and mastering (a position he held on 2017’s debut LP Fail You Again and 2018’s This Too Won’t Pass), first single “me vs. me vs. all y’all” is Can’t Swim’s most fully realized pop song to date, name-checking The Cure, The Lemonheads and Eddie Vedder, while the album-opening “Nowhere, Ohio” offers a playful tribute to the Alkaline Trio classic “Radio” in between stabs of downtuned guitars.
“It’s much easier to write songs from a mental standpoint these days,” LoPorto says. “It was a warzone in my mind there for a while, but present-day Chris is at peace and having fun.”
But don’t conflate fun with frivolity. The same emotional heft that’s made Can’t Swim a cult favorite in the scene – and earned them musical co-signs from the likes of Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara and Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo – is front and center on Thanks But No Thanks, from the sorrowful summer 2022 single “I heard they found you face down inside your living room,” mourning the death a close friend, to the classic punk rallying cry “ELIMINATE,” which tackles the gun violence epidemic with a strength-in-numbers call to arms.
In this way, the evolution of Can’t Swim as a band is really evident: What once were presented as insurmountable obstacles on previous albums are now framed as hard-but-necessary lessons that need confronting in to move forward and grow, calling upon new levels of resolve and strength to dull down life’s demons. Through it all, the band have been able to truly block out the noise and let their conscience resonate loudest of all.
“We’ve had so much advice from people throughout the years,” LoPorto says, referencing the album’s title. “There’s been a lot of people in this revolving door now, and a lot of advice that knocked us off the track a little bit. Ultimately, we realized no one knows us better than us, so let’s just trust ourselves to do our thing.”
Four records in, it feels like Can’t Swim are just now hitting their stride. They’ve stretched their wings over nearly a decade, dabbling in everything from frantic hardcore (2019’s Foreign Language EP) to ethereal indie (2020’s Someone Who Isn’t Me EP), yet have once again found their way back to their musical home.
“As a writer, we’ve always wanted to experience different sounds and explore different vibes, but I think that sort of exploration is pretty much done,” LoPorto says. “I feel perfectly confident in being ourselves at this point.”
The next few years will take them far away from their own beds as these songs reach audiences around the world – but that’s a sacrifice the band is willing to make because of how much these connections truly mean.
“My dad once told me, ‘Even if I won the lottery, nothing I could ever buy would mean as much as what you have with this band,” LoPorto says. “To look out in the crowd and see people with Can’t Swim tattoos blows my mind; that’s why I never understand when bands get so wrapped up in numbers and how they can get bigger. I was a garbage man in Jersey City when I was 23, and now I’m supposed to be bummed we only hit 200,000 monthly listeners? Come on. To have anyone care is enough.”