During the Omaha, NE stop of the Take Action Tour '11, we sat down with Nick and Jonathan Diener to discuss the band's upcoming full-length and sophomore Fueled By Ramen release, Good For Me. During the interview we discussed the inner workings of the aforementioned release, their favorite releases from famed punk rock producer Bill Stevenson, and their thoughts looking ahead to their overseas dates with Paramore.
[email protected]: Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourselves and give your role in The Swellers.
Nick Diener: My name is Nick and I play sing and play guitar.
Jonathan Diener: My name is Jono and I play drums.
[email protected]: You’re currently on the 10th Anniversary of the Take Action Tour alongside Bayside, Silverstein, Polar Bear Club, and Texas In July. How has the tour been so far? Any stand out moments?
Nick: Great. We know all the bands really really well now, the crowd’s been cool. It’s for a very good cause, and we’re on the home stretch now. Spirits are still high. Normally at the 3 week point of the tour everybody starts getting crabby, but we’ve all been pretty cool so far. We’re stoked.
Nick: The ones that we drove were stand out moments.
Jono: That was a joke, we’re driving every day. All of the bands would go out to eat once in a while. This tour is kind of like Warped Tour at a smaller scale. Everyone’s hanging out at all times. There’s no weird awkward band out. Even Texas In July, they’re a metalcore band, but we all still hang out just the same.
Nick: They’re probably the best dudes on the tour. They’re the only ones gonna be taken by the rapture.
[email protected]: You’re set to release your fifth full-length effort, Good For Me, on June 14th courtesy of Fueled By Ramen. What are your thoughts leading up to the release?
Nick: I definitely wouldn’t call it fifth - maybe third. The EP we put out in 05 was our first real release as The Swellers. Before that we were like fifteen years old. This record is really the world’s second look at us at a bigger scale, cause not a lot of people knew about us when My Everest came out. But when Ups and Downsizing came out we got on a lot of bigger tours and went all over the place. But I’m really excited to get this one out there cause I think it’s the best record we’ve ever made by far and we did it with Bill Stevenson (The Descendants, Black Flag) over at the Blasting Room. He’s a great songwriter and musician.
[email protected]:Guide us through the recording process for the album.
Nick: Craziness. Pre production for four days. Practicing for nine hours at a time, getting everything done and good. Bill was there with us getting the songs out as best as we could. While drums were happening, they’d be edited right after. Bass guitar would start while he’s still doing drums on other songs. While bass guitar would start, we got started on guitar in the other room. While guitar was going on, vocals were also. We had like two or three things going on at once. It definitely sounds like we spent a lot of money on it.
Jono: A lot more money would be a better way of putting it
[email protected]:How do you feel Good For Me compares to Ups And Downsizing from a lyrical standpoint?
Nick: It’s a lot more introspective and more personal. Ups and Downsizing definitely has a lot of that going on, but it was a little more pro active like “This is my city, this is what’s going on, this is what we need to do” whereas Good For Me is a little more “We’re living a real life now, we’re experiencing it”. A lot of it comes from what we’ve been thinking and going through. Since we are kids essentially, kids can relate to what’s going on. You can only write about one thing so much, but I feel like this is the most honest record we’ve in writing lyrics. Jonathan had quite a big part in writing lyrics this time around, normally it’s like 50/50. But there were some songs he wrote entirely and some that I wrote entirely. It’s definitely the most focused sounding record we have so far.
[email protected]:In a video update, you had mentioned that Bill was responsible for a number of your favorite releases. If you had to pick a single favorite release that he either produced or had a hand in, which album would you pick and why?
Jono: The Descendants’ Cool To Be You. He was in the band, produced it and wrote a lot of the songs. Also, Comeback Kid – Wake the Dead. That was like the first hardcore record for a lot of people. Bill made them an accessible band. Catchy and melodic, but they’re tough as hell too.
Nick: Mute Print by A Wilhelm Scream was the first record that we got into them through. Bill, at the Blasting Room studio, took on such a little band and made them sound so rad. We were like, we have to record there [Blasting Room] one day. And because of that release, we ended up really liking the band, playing with them, becoming best friends with them. We really owe the Blasting Room for making that record too.
Also, Propagandi’s newest record Supporting Caste. Broadway Calls’ Good Views, Bad News.
Jono: Everything that comes out of The Blasting Room is good. There’s never this weird “Ehhh I don’t know about that”.
[email protected]: How do you feel your influences shined through on Good For Me?
Nick: I think we were afraid to get really 90’s emo/indie on this one. There are a lot of guitar tones that are reminiscent of The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World and Weezer. We grew up with that stuff. We also grew up with 90’s punk rock stuff. So you’re gonna hear a lot more up tempo, aggressive melodic music. So when you kind of blend those things together, that’s why The Swellers became a band in the first place. I think this is the record where we kind of took everything that we’ve always wanted to do and rolled it up into one big awesome sounding record, as opposed to having “this song is gonna be the indie song” and “this song is gonna be the badass skate punk song”.
Jono: We wanted to make this whole record this consistent thing. Not that every song sounds the same, but that it sounds like it’s the same record, instead of just this schizophrenic random thing that so many other bands would do just to keep different fan bases.
Nick: Even Ups and Downsizing was a little too schizophrenic for me. Like, I love the record and I love all of the songs, but when you listen to the flow we had this acoustic rock and roll Guns N Roses type song and then this Henry Rollins, Wilhelm Scream inspired super punk jam about death. It’s weird. But we’ve always wanted to make music that we like, put it on the album and show everybody. This time we’ve not only done that but kept in the same vein, which is pretty important.
[email protected]: Collectively, how do you feel the band has grown since the release of Ups And Downsizing (from and instrumental and song writing aspect)?
Jono: I think a big part of it is that Ryan and Anto are officially in our band. Ryan was in it during Ups and Downsizing, Anto joined after the fact. And just as musicians playing live, so much, all over the world, you kind of “had” to get good. And I feel that we’ve become more of a tight band live, so in the studio when we were practicing and recording, these guys actually care enough to practice on their own and make everything sound solid. The producers were on our asses. That as a whole made us better writers, better musicians, everything.
[email protected]: Did Fueled By Ramen have any say in the recording process, or did they give you the freedom to do pretty much whatever you wanted?
Nick: Basically, all it came down to was we wanted to record with Bill and they kept saying “As long as you’re sure and as long as you think that’s the best for you and that’s what you want. Why don’t you check out these places” Cause you know it’s essentially their money and we’re their baby, so they want the best for us and they also wanna make sure that they’re not wasting their time and money, which is OBVIOUS, but in the Blasting Room we were like “Dude he’s in the Descendants, you know where we came from”. So I don’t think we could have made a better record, even with like a million dollar budget. I feel like what we did was so organic and just natural. The songwriting is just us, there are no fancy tricks. We just made the record we needed to make. And I’m stoked about how it came out.
[email protected]:In a previous interview with Absolute Punk, it was mentioned that there will be a number off B-sides from the album that will be released in some form. Tell us about a few of the B-sides and why they didn’t make the final cut.
Nick: Some of them are just so intense. That might be the only way to describe it. We were really stoked about this one song about a Flint (Michigan) serial killer that basically happened last year, it was a true story. There were bodies found down the street from our house.
Jono: He stabbed 13 people, mostly in Flint.
Nick: And there was also Toledo, West Virginia. He was this travelling psychopath that lived in Flint. They eventually caught him and it was great. But the song is from the eyes of a friend of mine who works at a hospital who had to clean up bodies, and was just saying how screwed up it was that a serial killer in our town. It’s from that perspective, from him just losing his mind a little bit and a song like that didn’t really fit in the record. A song like that just didn’t fit on our record even though it was one of our favorite songs ever written.
Jono: I think musically, It was just so intense, so many movements within the song, weird time signatures. We just kind of agreed that we wanted Good For Me to be a solid rock record. And the other songs, there’s a super fast song, there are big pop rock songs. They can go good together on individual releases. The thing is, so many bands are blowing their load on a big album and then they sit for two or three years and lose their momentum. With us, what we’re doing, like what a lot of bands are doing, release an album and then give people a little taste of something eight months or a year later, and that’s what makes bands consistent. A nice way of saying it – let’s see we’re on a best albums list for 2011. Next year we’ll have the potential to do that again and the potential to get onto bigger tours because we’ll have another release, marketing, everything, will just be consistent.
Nick: Those are all top secrets about the music industry.
Jono: That everyone knows and it’s super open…
Nick: I wasn’t dissing you! I’m just saying that’s actually how it works. It’s okay. There are other The Swellers songs out there, they are not extra songs that we didn’t use, they are Swellers songs that WILL be on a different release. We’re pretty stoked about that.
[email protected]:What are your touring plans shaping up to be once the Take Action Tour runs its course? When will we finally see a The Swellers headliner?
Nick: Whenever bands stop taking us out. It’s definitely not annoying to be out on support tours, but at some point we’re gonna need to test the waters and see how we do. Like we’re actually gonna be doing something in the Eastern US at the end of this summer, just smaller markets before we head out to Indonesia and China with Paramore so it’s gonna be something to do after the record. We’ve got a big US tour in the Fall that’s gonna be happening and maybe as soon as early 2012 we’ll be doing our own thing, full US tour and grab another buddy band and team up.
[email protected]:In August the band will be heading to Indonesia in support of Paramore for a few shows. What are your thoughts looking ahead to those dates?
Jono: We’re just gonna freak out. I don’t know anything about Indonesia, I’ll put it out there. We’re gonna show up with our jaws dropped and the shows are gonna be way too big. They’re gonna be the biggest shows we’ve ever played in our lives. And the way Nick put it, in two hours, 3000 tickets sold for one of the Indonesia shows.
Nick: We’re gonna play to a sea people.
Jono: We played Japan in 2006 and we got like 900 people and were like “This is the craziest thing ever!” I freaked out and got all teary eyed. That’s [Indonesia] gonna be times 20. I’m gonna feel weird. It’s a bigger deal cause it’s Paramore. Bands never get that opportunity. We’re thankful. And going to China? Going to China with Paramore? At this point, it’s insane.
[email protected]: What’s it like touring the world with your brother?
Nick: We have to talk and have things in common all the time. What’s cool is that you’re never completely homesick. Cause when we go home to our house, it’s like oh this is where we live and we’re still together, that’s cool. I did a couple of tours with A Wilhelm Scream years ago where it was just me, and I would call my Mom, call my Dad, call Jonathan, and I was like “this sucks, I’m the only one in my family not here.” So with Jonathan here, it’s cool, I’m not really away from home. Even though we both have girlfriends and stuff like that, that’s the best part about going home.
Jono: And the fact that we’re brothers makes our band not break up, we’ve had so many line up changes. And in all honesty, we’ve always been writing the songs, and it’s been easy to write songs with two like minded people who have enough different opinions to make something cool. It’s a creative compromise.
Nick: We’re tight as musicians together. We’re on the same wavelength. Even if we’re not, we kind of convince each other to be, to try new things. Jonathan wrote a silly song that was like “This sounds like it could be on an iTunes commercial” and we laughed about it, then it ended up on our record. I loved it. There were songs where I wrote where I was like “This might be okay” and Jonathan said “This is the best we’ve had so far” and we both end up loving everything that we work on, so it’s cool.
[email protected]: Seeing as the band is pretty close to Paramore, what is one thing that people may not know about Hayley?
Nick: She is a devout atheist and a big drug addict.
Jono: That’s not true.
Nick: It could be opposite day!
Nick: Really though, the fact that she’s rad as hell. She’ll go out of her way to meet fans. She cares about everything in the business, it’s not just about the money and image for her.
Jono: We once played this place in Nashville. Rocketown. It can only fit like 200 people. And Hayley was like “I’m going!” and she tweeted about it. It ended up to be a really awesome show. And the weirdest part is she was standing in the front row singing, and all these people are like “OH MY GOD IT’S HAYLEY FROM PARAMORE!” But she didn’t give a shit, she was just like “I like this band, I’m gonna hang out with them” She’s just so down to earth and cool. She’s someone we’d hang out with at home.
Nick: She ran on stage at our Hollywood show during this tour and the security guys didn’t even know who she was, they tried to drag her off stage. It was pretty funny.
[email protected]:Again, seeing how you are close to the band, what are your thoughts on all the drama surrounding the band?
Nick: They’re better off!
Jono: Yeah, pretty much. I wrote a blog after reading about it. I think the Paramore kids took it as their guidelines. What it all came down to is those guys didn’t have fun, and everyone else did. So now, they can have fun without those guys who didn’t have fun, and that’s it.
Nick: Cause it’s all about funnn!
[email protected]: While record sales and fan reaction are important, how do you gauge the success of The Swellers?
Nick: Doing better every year. If we can do better than we did the year before, in any way, like whether it’s have more fun, that’s success to me. It’s just been up and up from here. Slowly but surely, we’ve been having a better time.
[email protected]: Ultimately, what do you want people to take away from listening to The Swellers?
Jono: Having something to relate to, whether it’s the music, the lyrics, or the emotion it puts you through. We want people to enjoy it. Have fun at shows. Treat it like it’s a normal thing. We grew up loving records as we were listening to compilations and things like that; you kind of grow with the band. I didn’t know what my favorite bands looked like for years and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. But now in this internet age where everyone is so friendly and they know everyone and talk through twitter and videos. We’ve had this weird advantage where we’ve always done that and never really thought about it, but people have this deeper connection to us so hopefully that makes people like our band as opposed to “oh we’re friends with them so I don’t care”. It’s just kind of a cool thing in general.
[email protected]: Anything to add?
Nick: JUNE 14TH – GOOD FOR ME! Check it out.