I had the great pleasure to sit down with Bay Area punk/rock quartet SWMRS for a bit of a chinwag about their experience touring with Rise Against, Star Wars, causes that are close to their hearts, and their reasons for changing the name of the band.
I’m joined by Joey and Cole, how are you guys doing?
Armstrong: Really awesome.
Wonderful. One first question how did touring with Rise Against come about? How did this start?
Becker: So we met them on Warped Tour 2 years ago and we instantly kinda clicked, I mean they’re such great role models to us, you know they’re great people and that’s sort of how we met and we met through our manager Dan who has worked with them and now obviously works with us. So we’ve always had a kinda connection with them and so we finely got to tour with them and it’s been great.
Now Pennywise are also on the tour, do you think there has been any influence from these guys as well?
Armstrong: Yeah, I mean they really know how to command a crowd so we’ve been watching them every night seeing just how they get the crowd going and they’ve also been super-cool and nice to us, giving us advice and things like that. It’s just being out here and watching bands that know how to play music really well and know how to interact with the crowd, it’s really inspiring.
Fantastic. Well you’ve sort of answered my next question which was do you feel you’ve learned anything from the guys you’ve been on tour with, like during this tour?
Armstrong: Yeah we’ve learned a lot from the techs as well, I mean the band, all the bands have talked to us a bunch, but Tim the drum tech has lent me equipment and has also worked with me on tuning and stuff like that.
Becker: Yeah and Mike fi has helped me a bunch with my guitars, helping me set them up and everything so it’s been really great both having the advise of the musicians and the techs who know how to take care of our equipment.
Check out the song “Figuring It Out” here.
Now has there been any memorable places you’ve played on this tour? Places that have stuck in your mind?
Becker: I think last night we played at the Civic Centre in Southampton, which was like the coolest venue I’ve ever seen besides this one obviously. It was like flat, big tall ceiling and you could just see the whole crowd and see every single person, so I thought that was really cool.
Armstrong: I think the last two shows have been great. We’ve been just getting in a pocket more and every show has gotten better and better just because we’re getting tighter and figuring out our set list a little better.
Fantastic. Now do you have any memorable stories about being on tour anything like you want share? Anything particularly fun that’s happened?
Becker: Yeah, so our bass player Seb, we like to late at night, he kinda turns into a different person so if you say the trigger word which is “where’s Batman” and all of a sudden he goes nuts and messes with our other guitar player and that guy goes crazy. But also we recently started watching all the Star Wars films and that’s been super fun. So like when we get to the hotel we watched Star Wars episode 1, 2 and 3 and we have on DVD 4, 5 and 6.
Please tell me this isn’t the first time you’ve watched Star Wars.
Armstrong: Oh no.
Becker: We’re huge nerds, so like Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings…
Armstrong: Harry Potter.
Becker: Harry Potter. But we’re just recapping, and watching back to back to back is pretty nice.
Well I’m gonna go off subject slightly now, so how do you feel about the new Star Wars movies that are coming out? Have you heard they’ve announced the title?
Becker: Yeah I’m really exited. I was nervous about them but I don’t know, I like JJ Abrams and what he did with Star Trek was pretty sick so….
Well I’ll give you guys a recommendation have you ever heard of a film called Fan Boys?
It’s brilliant. Basically it’s about a group of friends who decide to break into the Skywalker ranch because a friend of there’s has got cancer and he’s dying so he’s not going to make it to see episode 1. It’s basically a fan boy trip but it’s got billy Dee Williams in it, loads of people doing cameos so I do recommend you guys check that out. Now is there anywhere particular you’d love to play if you had the opportunity anywhere in the word perhaps. Let’s stick with England first, countries, cities, anywhere.
Becker: I’d really like to play Norway and we’re going to play Norway so I’m really exited for that.
Any particular reason for Norway though?
Becker: You know I’ve seen a bunch of documentaries about the fjords and I’m a huge nature nerd and the same time so I want go and see the big mountains and stuff like that and I also hear the food is really great and the people are super-nice and I like nice people.
Armstrong: I wanna go to Japan. I’ve never been there but I’ve seen pictures and videos it seems amazing and like sushi is my favourite food so it would be nice to go there and taste the authentic food.
Check out the song “Uncool” here.
Now I just want to touch on this very briefly, I’m not going to say who, but do you think your family ties, Joey, your family ties… has it had a part to play in any success you guys gave had? I know you’re going your own way and you try to play it down, but do you think it’s had a part to play in any way?
Armstrong: Yeah I mean I want to be playing music without my family so starting off at a young age definitely kinda kick started me, so I’m really fortunate for that but both of our families are super supportive. In fact everyone we’ve met has been super supportive, so it’s like the people we surround ourselves with are really push us in the direction we wanna go. It’s really nice to have that.
You guys are in the process of changing your name, but I want to start of by asking where the name Emily’s Army come from? What was the driving force behind that?
Becker: My cousin Emily has cystic fibrosis so as long as we were Emily’s Army and for as long as we will be SWMRS we try to raise awareness for her and her cause because a lot of people don’t really know about cystic fibrosis and it’s a terrible disease. So we’ve always wanted to fight for her and find a cure for cystic fibrosis and that’s where Emily’s Army came from.
With that are there any charities you want to put out and support, do a bit of plugging for the and to get people to donate?
Becker: Yes, so you can go to EmilysArmy.com and you can donate directly to Emily. Or you can go to the cystic fibrosis foundation website and that’s where you can donate to the whole cause.
Armstrong: And pipeline to a cure, that’s a good one too.
Now you’ve already mentioned you’re in the process of changing your name, it’s becoming SWMRS, is that correct?
Armstrong: Yeah, that’s right.
One, where did the name SWMRS come from? And two, what drove you to change the name of the band?
Armstrong: So we put out an EP and it was called Swim and then we were going to play some shows and we decided to play under a different name for fun and we were like “let’s go with SWMRS” and we liked it and all of a sudden we were like “wait this is a really cool name” and so we’ve also had a little bit of a problem because our style has been changing and when you type in our name Emily’s Army on YouTube you find videos of us when we were 15 and 16 years old playing pop punk or other styles of music that we don’t really play or sound like now, so it’s nice to have a new start with a new sound and also have a new band too and we have a different bass player with us as well so it kinda felt right and the right time too.
So you’ve mentioned your style is changing, do you think this is an organic thing for you or did you always want to try and stick with a particular style, but it’s just kind of evolved?
Armstrong: I think this is the most organic thing we’ve done, we weren’t like waking up one day and say let’s play this style of music, it was just kind of like this is the music we’re listing to now and we’re all listening to this kind of music, and it’s a wide range of music, it’s not just a couple of bands. We started playing that style and Max and Cole started writing these songs and it all clicked and we’re all on the same page and it was the first time for that in a while and that was really nice.
Now it’s a bit of a fun question this as we’re coming to the end of the interview. Do you guys remember a TV show called Celebrity Death Match?
Becker: Not really.
Check out the song “Miley” here.
I’ll talk you through it as this is my fun question so to speak, nothing to do with music. What it was, they created Plasticine characters of famous people who would fight it out in a celebrity death match scenario and being Plasticine they could do whatever they want so mad things happen. The question is clear, if you could be in a celebrity death match with anyone, as a band, individually perhaps, 1 who would it be and remember you don’t have to hate them, they could be your best mate, it could be a band mate, make it fun, but how would it go, how would it end, who would even win?
Armstrong: I think as a squad SWMRS we could take on some pretty big contenders.
Becker: I’d like to take on Pennywise.
Now that would be a good one, that will be the punks.
Becker: Yeah, I mean I love those guys but to prove ourselves to them I think we really have to battle.
Armstrong: I’d tap out pretty fast on that one.
Becker: I think I could take Fletcher, I think I could do it.
How would it all go down? As I said with this particular show people would get out random bits of equipment, I think there was one with Sigourney Weaver once when she ended up in the power loader and killed the enemy. How would it end? Would you use any props to win?
Becker: I think I’d have to. I think our advantage is that we’re well acquainted with Star Wars and all these cult nerd movies where we know plots of how to kill somebody without just brute strength?
Using the force?
Becker: I’m so much smaller then Fletcher, dice we are all so much smaller then Pennywise, we’d have to figure out some way to do it without just our bare hands.
Armstrong: We’d use Max as a weapon.
Becker: Max would be a weapon.
Armstrong: Max as a human shield and we could probably make some light Sabres.
Well that’s pretty much the interview, I did have one more question but it’s literally gone out of my head, but never mind. I want thank you guys for talking to us today, good luck with the show tonight and good luck with the rest of the tour. Thank you very much.