When I recorded with my last band, we holed up in a little box on the north side of Chicago called Sentient Studio. Although most of the time we didn't have the money to pay for was spent playing Nintendo 64, an EP the likes of which we never expected materialized. To give credit where credit is due, Sentient owner/producer Mark Michalik was most of the reason the recording ended up sounding better than we'd ever expected, rather than ending up a complete piece of shit.
But I digress before I've even started.
We were pointed in the direction of Sentient Studio by now unfortunately defunct punk rockers Much the Same and early-nineties melodic punk revivalists the Swellers, both bands that we'd shared the stage with. Much the Same appeared to be starting down the road that eventually led them into extinction the night we played with them, so that relationship didn't last very long. But the Swellers kept in touch with us through lead singer, guitarist, and all-around nice guy Nick Diener. We played a handful of shows with them when they passed through our area, and we always had a blast rocking out with these guys. They were always just full of such raw energy; even in the later days when my band started sounding and looking like we were actually a band, we weren't much match for the Swellers on-stage.
So that weekend we recorded, Mark approached us during one of our many Nintendo breaks and asked if we wanted to hear the new Swellers album, which he had produced. The album came at me like a ton of bricks, a melodic and melodramatic masterpiece that took me back. Only a couple years back, but back nonetheless.
Our guitarist Jim was the first to point it out: "Hey, these guys kind of sound like No Use For A Name." A sentiment which he later communicated to Nick Diener in more or less the same words, to which Nick replied, "Gee, I kinda hoped we sounded like us." But sound like "us" they do. Although Jim might not have phrased it how he wanted to, the Swellers have a unique style that blends elements of nineties Fat Wreck bands with the raw youthful energy that bands like Lagwagon and No Use For A Name have lacked over the years -- which is not to say that Lag and NUFAN have lost steam, but rather to point out the formulaic pattern that they're, for better or for worse, in sync with. In contrast, the Swellers are to nineties melodic punk as Say Anything is to pop-punk. Simply put: a breath of fresh air in a genre that's grown musty and lost its appeal in the wake of the evolving punk scene.
We played with a lot of awesome groups over the year and a half we were together, but I'm confident the only guys I'll really remember and stay in touch with are the Swellers. So long as they don't mind me pulling out the NUFAN reference.
Guess what? They were just named one of AP's 100 Bands You Need to Know. Your efforts are paying off, gentlemen -- and, as usual, I'm right.
Remember to pour one out for your fallen homies Much the Same. Chipotle forever. Word to your mother.
"I love you too, but I'm gonna mace you in the face!" Jason Schwartzman, The Darjeeling Limited