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Wednesday, November 13

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Transmission
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Artist Fri Apr 06 2007

Who are the Swimmers?

Starting anew can be risky, especially when things seem to be on the upswing. But that's exactly what Steve Yutzy-Burkey did when he disbanded Philadelphia's One Star Hotel to start the Swimmers. On Thursday night they visited Schubas for their first Chicago show. Beginning with "It's Time They Knew", which has been a hit across the MP3 blogosphere, the Swimmers played an energetic 40-minute set rawer than the album, in which influences from all over could be heard - notably, Yutzy-Burkey invoking a bit of James Mercer's vocal style, the drumming of the Beach Boys' "I'm Waiting for the Day" on "Heaven", and a cover of "Mr. Blue Sky." Don't be surprised if they're headlining Schubas when they next come to town.

Last week before they left for this short Midwestern jaunt, I had a chance to talk with Steve Yutzy-Burkey about the Swimmers, his day jobs, and playing in a band with his spouse. Read it under the cut.

Gapers Block: It's been noted that the inspiration for the Swimmers comes from John Cheever's popular short story, The Swimmer, and that One Star Hotel was ended in favor of this band. What prompted your decision to form a new band instead of continuing with One Star Hotel and applying your interests in Cheever's story into its music?

Steve Yutzy-Burkey: I just wanted a chance to start fresh sonically and creatively and didn't really see it working in the framework of One Star. I had already been writing a little with the Cheever story in the back of my mind, and I guess I just decided to go for it in the manner of its protagonist, knowing it may or may not turn out well.

I made a conscious decision to write songs that were more fun to perform live, and not to be so concerned with much beyond that. It was only after The Swimmers recorded our first three songs ("Heaven", "All The New Sounds", and "Pocket Full of Gold") that we got such a good reaction and we decided to take it more seriously.

Another big difference for me was that I wrote almost all of the songs on an old clanky out-of-tune piano rather than guitar, and it just sounded better to pound the chords staccato, rather than letting the chords ring out of tune. Also, we all seemed to take a collective dive into the production of the Kinks, Beatles and Zombies at the same time.

GB: What are your long-term plans for the Swimmers?

SYB: Basically to put out this record, work hard to support it and have demos for the next one ready to go. Beyond that I think it depends on the reaction as to what we do next. I can see putting as much into the band as is supported by the public, or as little as making records at home for free and releasing them on the web. But I think we will always be doing something one way or another.

GB: What's it like to be in a band with your spouse, [Krista, keyboard/vocals]?

SYB: A lot better than we thought, it has actually taken a lot of the stress out of music for us instead of a lot of time apart we are working together towards the same goals. At first it was kind of her filling in on keys, and then we decided we could make it work if the rest of the band could handle us arguing about doing laundry or making out in the middle of practices.

GB: You've worked in a pipe organ repair shop and as a carpenter. Have these jobs affected or influenced your life as a musician?

SYB: Scott [French, drummer] and I both worked with pipe organs for years, we spent a lot of time in old churches in organ chambers fascinated by the mechanical and electro-mechanical methods of producing sounds much more character than electronic instruments today. It inspired us to dream up a lot of weird instruments and sounds, most of which never got built or used. On a tuning trip we started writing songs during the day on the organs and recording them that night in a hotel room using our suitcases as drums and whatever we could find as impromptu percussion, I think I actually took a solo with my cordless drill on one song. None of this ever made it onto the album, but it started us on a road towards making music that was looser and more fun, and keeping that DIY method of making interesting sounds and recording them ourselves.

GB: What discourages you most about the current music atmosphere?

SYB: I think the same things that discourage me are also the things I think are great about music today. More people than ever seem to be listening to music these days (whether or not they are paying for it), and on the internet it is easier than ever to find your specific genre
or little bands halfway around the world that you love. Almost anyone can make a record these days - and some home recordings can actually hold their own against more major releases.

But these things also make it really hard to get that first listen - there is just too much music for people to sort through. And it makes it harder to make money with your recordings, since a lot of people download things for free. Our thought was to put our record [Fighting Trees] on our website and let people stream it before the release and hope that if people really like it, they will support us at shows and when the record comes out.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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