A Deep Dive With Swim School

Photo by Rory Barnes

Swim School are one of those bands you wish you knew about sooner, but as soon as you hear them you’re hooked. Consisting of Alice Johnson on vocals and guitar, Billy McMahon on drums, Lewis Bunting on guitar and Matt Mitchell on bass, the band are as fresh in formation as they are to listen to with McMahon only joining this year.

Through all the comparisons to the biggest names in indie, there’s still a certain vibrancy that separates the Edinburgh-based 4 piece from their peers. Their songs not only encapsulate the spirit of the indie anthem in every aspect but burst with enough raw emotion that you feel like crying and dancing at the same time. Speaking on topics of mental wellbeing and heartbreak, Swim School look to excite with their festival worthy grooves and choruses whilst continuing the conversation on self preservation. We asked the bands a few questions to get to know the people behind the music.

Where did the band form / where did you all meet?

Myself (Lewis) and Matt went to high school together, Matt being a year older than me. We met through our hometown music project, we were both in rival bands at this point. Years later we found ourselves working together in a hospitality job where we both realised we both had very similar music tastes so we started our first band together which ended a year or so afterwards. 

Myself and Alice were both in the same college class, we both started talking about bands we liked and got on really well, so we agreed to start a band together with Matt. The three of us always loved going to gigs, whether we were watching a local band or a big one it didn’t matter and it was going to gigs that we met Billy through his previous band. We needed a drummer around July last year and Billy was the first person we asked on ‘session’ terms but we always knew he was going to be our full time drummer.

How long have each of you been playing music? 

We’ve all been playing music from a super young age! We were all lucky to have found the passion for our instruments from our young teens and have been playing ever since.

Is there a story behind the name ‘Swim School’?

There is honestly no real story behind the name swim school, we just liked the sound of it.

Who are the biggest influences for your sound?

We love bands that are constantly trying to evolve their sound and try new things. Anyone who has read interviews with us before will know that we are huge fans of bands like Foals, Wolf Alice & The 1975. We feel these bands are great examples of acts who never want to write the same song – that’s something we really aspire to!

Where do you draw influence from for your lyrics? Are they diaristic or therapeutic in any way?

Everyday situations and experiences are what influences my lyrics. I find it easier and more real when I’m writing or singing about something that has actually happened. Expressing how you feel through music is extremely therapeutic, and when you see that other people are connecting to the lyrics you wrote, it’s such an amazing feeling. All of the tracks on the E.P. are based on mental health and the struggles. The reason for that is because it was a tough year mentally for everyone but also the subject surrounding mental health was talked about more than ever.

What’s the main theme / story you were trying to explore / tell on the upcoming EP?

Our debut EP ‘making sense of it all’ lyrically, really focuses in on mental health. It covers everything from opening up to people, helping people suffering from mental health to removing toxic people – it’s all in there! 

What is the importance of talking about mental health within your songs? 
We just hope it helps someone in any way shape or form.

What’s it like to get back onto these stages again and play for an audience? 

It’s honestly the most incredible feeling, we just played Latitude Festival a few weeks back and we were totally blown away with the response the crowd gave us, we just can’t wait to get back out there and play again! 

What’s the biggest thing you’ve missed about gigs? 

We’ve obviously missed playing to an audience, I’m sure every band will say that but I think for us we’ve just missed hanging out with other bands and chatting music with them, Latitude was amazing for meeting other bands so we’re looking forward to meeting new people. It’s honestly been so amazing watching other bands play live again too, it’s all very exciting!

What’s the best gig you’ve played so far? 

So far we’ve only played one show which was Latitude, we actually played two sets that weekend, one on Friday and one on Saturday – I don’t want to pick which one was the best because they were all absolutely incredible. 

If you could change anything about the music industry what would it be and why?

I’m sure like many other artists we’d love to see more females on festival lineups, before lockdown it was made very clear that people weren’t happy with the lack of female acts on certain festival lineups – I’m sure we’ve all seen the edits with all the names taken off the lineup apart from female acts and it was actually really disturbing. I’d like to think that with a year of no festivals and gigs it’s made promoters think about who they’re booking and that they should be seeking a good gender balance because there is a LOT of amazing talent out there and we all need to be given a chance to play a festival regardless of gender or slots. 

Making Sense Of It All EP is out now, purchase here.

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