Track By Track: Swimming Tapes - ‘Morningside’
Swimming Tapes have just released their amazing album ‘Morningside’ - just in time for the summer! They took a moment to talk us through their latest release - track by track.
Jason: This was the last song we finished for the record but It stemmed from the opening riff I had written way back in the early days of Swimming Tapes. We were purposely thinking about writing an opening track for the album and I remember Robbie saying, ‘oh what about that riff we all like’ - so luckily it got to see the light of day again. This is also my favourite track on the album too - I would say it’s the best chorus we’ve written, but what do I know? We were working with Tom (Schick), who is based in Chicago and mixing the record there, so despite his amazing CV we were a bit nervous about how the distance would work, mainly the communication side of things. This was the first mix we got back from him and we knew as soon as we listened back we had nothing to worry about. He's done a great job across the entire record.
It Gets Old
Jason: This is another one of my favourites from the album. Lou and I’s duelling guitar leads at the opening, to the drop down in the verse and then in to the driving chorus - every part seamlessly flowing in to each other. My favourite part on the whole album is featured in this song - the middle eight where you see an instrumental flourish which contains some very tasty riffs. I also had the idea of Robbie singing along to the riff melody I play in the verse which gives the space a bit more jangle, but not distracting you from Robbie’s buttery tones. All in all this is a track we love to play live and we feel we captured the live element to it very well on recording.
See It Out
Paddy: This is one of my favourite Swimming Tapes songs. It has really been around since the dawn of Swimming Tapes. We had demoed it with a drum machine before we even met Andrew (sorry Andrew). I love how dreamy and transcending it is. I love a bass groove that can stay on the same thing whilst everything else just floats around sort of detatched. I feel it was a bit inspired by one of my favourite bands, Yo La Tengo. It really helped when it came to recording that we knew it well, we had played it live and had a good idea of the vibe we wanted to capture on record. We borrowed a music master bass guitar which was used on a lot of tracks on the album, I love the punchy muted sound it has. This track actually sounded better on the precision bass, it just has a more mechanical sound that suited the bass line better. The song was called 'The O.G" for a long time which stood for 'original gangster' as it was one of the first batch of songs we wrote together. If you listen to the start of the song you can hear the original recording in Lou's bedroom which we mixed into the start of the song on the album.
Robbie: Mirador is about a holiday to Lisbon with my girlfriend. I was humming and strumming it at home, but when the guys added their bits it became much punchier in the chorus than I imagined, which I really liked. We’d played it live quite a few times, so it was probably one of the ones we were more comfortable with when it came to recording, but it was harder than some of the other tracks to get the mix right, maybe because we were getting a vibe live that was hard to recreate. I had a bit of a sore throat when we were recording vocals, and I remember struggling a little with this, but we only had a couple of days left in the studio so we had to crack on!
Out Of Line
Lou: ‘Out of line’ was one of the first tracks we wrote for the record I think. We were chasing a few upbeat numbers and I stumbled over that intro guitar picking riff one night in my bedroom, it all came together quickly and clicked into place. When we took it to the practice room Andrew was just jamming about with the drumbeat and we all joined in after a while, we liked the way the drums started it so we kept it like that. It’s one of the only songs that Robbie and I do a duel vocal harmony the whole way through, we wanted to maintain that thick vocal sound throughout and it turned out nice. Jason doubled his lead parts with an electric 12 string put through a vintage tape echo, it really helped boost the vibe and gave his parts an eeriness that cut through and offset all the jangly rhythm parts in the chorus.
Lou: This was literally recorded on my iPhone on the night of 10.5.17 at a writing session in my bedroom. We wrote it on the spot pretty much. We did toy with the idea of re-recording it in the studio but we liked the feel that was captured that night and were scared of losing something so we just bounced and mastered the iPhone recording.
Lou: Silhouette was a song I had been playing around with for a while. I had the basic progression and structure in place and showed it to the guys one night and they liked it. Again, like most of the songs we end up keeping, it all fell into place pretty quickly and we all could feel the direction the song should go in. Lyrically it’s about a time I played a show in Marseille with an old band, it was my first time that far south in France and the area really captured me. It has possibly my favourite part on the record which is Robbie’s facemelter of a solo on the 12 string. I remember him being really wary of it being so long but we talked him into it and I’m glad we did. For me it’s a real moment on the record.
Say It Isnt So
Andrew: We made the decision quite early on that the album wouldn’t have any of the songs that we'd already released on there, so we knew we had to write a debut album pretty much from scratch, which was a really interesting and exciting thing to do as you know over the course of an album you can take the listener in slightly different directions than you can on a 15 minute EP. We had a few older ideas knocking around, and once we had written about 7 or 8 songs we felt maybe there were a few touchstones that we hadn’t landed on yet. So there were two songs on Morningside that we wrote with very specific purposes in mind. We wrote Passing Ships very deliberately as the album opener and we wrote Say It Isn’t So as we felt we wanted a track to sit somewhere near the middle of the record that had a real change of pace.
It’s one of the only pieces of Swimming Tapes music to come from a jam in a practice room. That’s not really how we write. But the long intro was born out of these little jams we go on at the start of rehearsals to get everyone warmed up. I really like the wall of harmony that hits you in the chorus. I also really like that Silhouette has quite a long outro with no vocals, and then runs right into this track with a very long intro. None of the album is crazy in your face, but it feels like this moment of calm near the middle of the record where you just have us playing music together.
Paddy: I remember with writing Pyrenees we wanted to try something a little different, and keep it simple, short and poppy. Lou introduced a more straight guitar rhythm which really drives the song along. I think we were all channeling a bit of the 'Is This It' era of the Strokes here. I like the contrast of the more bouncing bass line to dead straight. The first solo is Lou and the second is Jason. I remember we played with the space echo delay on the tail of Jason's solo so we could feedback it back in in a pleasing way. Took a while.
Keep Her Closer
Robbie: This is definitely our most jangly tune, Lou’s vocal melody is pure pop and it features more tambourine than we’d ever used before - up until that point I hadn’t realised how complicated adding a bit of percussion could be. There were lengthy discussions on the deployment of the tambourine, we tried many different patterns... also the outro involved a lot of counting as people drop out at strange points. It sounds like an uncomplicated pop song, so why was I so confused?
In The New Year
Andrew: We have had this song sitting around pretty much ever since the band started. We have old versions of it from 2016 sitting on some our phones. It sounded very different. We had the verse and the little guitar hook and played around with three or four different choruses but nothing stuck. Alot of our songs come together quite quickly and we can be quite ruthless with ditching ideas if it starts to feel like its not coming together nice and natural. This song is a bit of anomaly as it was a real slow burner. We ditched it lots of times, but little bits of it kept us going back to it. We knew it was something that we wanted to include on our debut album, so Robbie and Lou met up one night and sort of decided not to go home until they’d made progress on it. They sent us through a little phone recording the next day and we knew we had it. I like the imagery of the lyrics. It’s a pretty intimate recording I think – we aren’t really hiding behind anything here. Robbie’s vocal is very out there on its own in parts. On record there is a little stab of a guitar string and a bit of studio noise at the start that we nearly got rid of, but actually we felt added to that idea of the recording being close and intimate. When we heard it back it immediately felt like a great way to close the album.
SWIMMING TAPES UK TOUR LISTINGS:
Thu 30 May - Flashback Records, Shoreditch (Instore Performance) **SOLD OUT**
Tue 25 Jun - Bush Hall, London (supporting Mt. Joy)
1-4 Aug - Neverworld Festival, Kent
Fri 1 Nov - Belfast, Voodoo
Sat 2 Nov - Glasgow, Hug & Pint
Sun 3 Nov - Leeds, Hyde Park Book Club
Tue 5 Nov - Bristol, Louisiana
Thu 7 Nov - Nottingham, Bodega
Fri 8 Nov - Manchester, Soup Kitchen
Tickets for all headline shows are on sale from the official Swimming Tapes website from Friday 24th May.