The Swifts are a totally solid pop-punk band that writes songs with a skate-punk punch. Their latest album All Sunshine has been getting universally positive reviews and is highly jammable. Here is The Swifts vocalist Mike Little.
Do you remember your first real concert? What was it and what did you take away from it?
The first concert that I remember that really moved me was seeing Mötley Crüe in the early 90s. It was a massive production with tons of lights and explosives. People in the crowd went absolutely nuts for them. What I took away is that I had no idea what a big production live music could be and how a concert can create a certain feeling and make a really lasting memory if you do it right.
What journey did you take to go from fan to musician and ultimately performer?
I always wanted to play to guitar as a little kid. At my request my Mom put me in guitar lessons. But they turned out to be lessons on acoustic guitar learning old church hymns so it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. As a kid of the 80s I wanted to play guitar like CC Deville and Richie Sambora. Needless to say those lessons didn’t last long. It wasn’t until many years later that my roommate in college taught me to play. I immediately found myself surrounded by musicians. I probably only played guitar for 6 months and was asked to join a band playing bass with some friends. I still couldn’t really play at all, but it was a punk band so it didn’t matter. We played live all the time and all my friends were in bands. I think we all used each other as fuel to drive us to become better performers.
Your debut full length album All Sunshine has met with much critical acclaim. Did you know you had something special while you were recording?
There were a couple songs that during the recording process I felt that sense of “yeah…we’ve got something here.” But no, in general I didn’t expect the response that the record has received. As a songwriter or any sort of artist, it’s always scary to put your work out there and wait for the feedback. I’ve been really humbled by all the positive reviews and kind words.
How did you balance the art, musicianship and the all-out punch that All Sunshine delivers?
The album art was done by Mike King. He’s very talented. His stuff can be found at www.velveteenrobot.com. In terms of the music, we owe a lot to Ahrue Luster who produced the record. He really challenged us to experiment with different arrangements, guitar parts and vocal harmonies. Ahrue has a great ear and really knows how to make a song the best that it can be.
Were there any special instruments, techniques or styles implemented while recording?
On “October Sky” we used some piano and acoustic guitar which was all played by Ahrue. Beyond that it’s pretty much your standard punk rock. We used a fun technique to record the backup vocals. We’d take a digital lead vocal track and change it with a keyboard to create the harmonies. We’d come up with something we like then we’d sing over the keyboard tracks. It was really fun and I think we came up with some really interesting harmonies. Maybe everybody uses this technique, but it was a first for me.
What is the most sentimental thing about All Sunshine for you?
I’m the most sentimental about hearing the completed version “October Sky” for the first time. It’s a song that I wrote about my Mom passing away. I wasn’t in the studio when the guys recorded their parts so I had not heard the tracks. When I did hear it all together I loved it so much. Also Ahrue knew what that song meant to me and he really went above and beyond to make it stand out. Again, the piano in the chorus and the acoustic guitar…that was all him.
All Sunshine, while musically drives the listener always forward, the lyrics of the album are quite a journey. How did you meld the two different situations?
I wouldn’t say it was intentional. The songs sort of document my life for the past few years. They cover the highs and the lows. The highs came out as these sort of party songs like “One More Drink” and “Zombie” and the lows come out as more cynical songs like “Snappy” and “Normal”. Regardless of the lyrical tone, we wanted to keep the energy high throughout the album and not stray too much from happy sounding melodies.
What are some of the most impactful songs on your life that you go back to when you need an emotional boost?
Wow that’s a great question. Here are a few that come to mind. These songs all remind me of a generally care-free time of my life and they always cheer me up. “I’m Dying Tomorrow” by Alkaline Trio, “Livewire” by Mötley Crüe, “Wait” by White Lion, “Horror Business” by the Misfits, “Cheer” by the Descendants, “Anti-Manifesto” by Propaghandi, “Roots Radical” by Rancid, “Make Way” by the Riverdales and “My Name is Jonas” by Weezer.
Skate punk is a significant part of your style but you have no full out skating songs. Why is that?
You don’t know how happy it makes me that we are starting to get called skate punk. It’s funny because I’ve thought about writing a song about skateboarding. All the ideas so far are just bad…really bad. But I will make it a goal to come up with something.
What have been your musical and non-musical best moments of the year so far?
For The Swifts, getting all the positive feedback on All Sunshine has been amazing. Like I said before, it was humbling to hear all the unexpected praise. Non-Swifts yet musical related was seeing Rancid at Punk Rock bowling. I’ve seen Rancid many times but there was something special about that show. I’ve been watching them play live for 20 years and it’s still amazing. Non-musical, I took my two sons to Los Angeles this summer. We stayed on Hollywood Boulevard and did a bunch of touristy stuff. My younger son Sam is into Mötley Crüe so it was especially fun showing him the Sunset Strip and all the places those guys hung. I guess that’s still music-related.
We are very much looking forward to the next round of your songs. Are you writing and planning on recording soon?
Yes, we’ve got several new songs written. I’d like to get back into the studio late this year or early next year. I love the recording process and can’t wait to do it again.
What non-musical sound do you love?
Easy…the sound of a skateboard when you land perfectly and roll away.
What’s up next for The Swifts?
We just want to keep on keeping on. Get back in the studio, play some shows. Just enjoy the mere fact that we get to do this. I really appreciate your time. Thank you!
The Swifts Band Links:
The Swifts are:
Mike – Vocals
Rob – Guitar
Jim – Bass
Rich – Drums