PropertyOfZack Interview : : The Swellers
PropertyOfZack had the chance to speak with our good friend Jono Diener of The Swellers just last week. Jono and I discussed the band’s decision to leave Fueled By Ramen Records, where they see themselves in the current landscape of the scene, excitement for the future, a new 7”, future label situations, and so much more. Make sure to check it all out below!
It was just recently announced that The Swellers had parted ways with Fueled By Ramen after three or four years on the label. When did the discussion start and when did things come to fruition?
Definitely a few months ago. We all started talking about what was best for us in general. I think a big part of it too was that we kind of realized that they would understand because they have these bands that are doing so well. And then a band from a world like ours. A DIY and I guess punk band being bunched with those other bands doesn’t really make any sense for them because of the way they promote. They have a surefire way of doing promotion for those bands. But when you put a band like us in it, it doesn’t really work. So one thing led to another. The little things added up. Not saying that the label is doing poorly. You look at a band like fun. and they’re breaking world records right now for sales. We just wanted to do our own thing and we think we’ll be better off.
It doesn’t seem like you guys have any bad blood with the label or anything. But The Swellers don’t really fit on the label too well. Do you regret it at all? Or do you think it’s helped regardless?
I think it definitely helped. When we signed, the whole point was that we signed to a label that was the best choice at the time. It definitely was. We got some really crazy opportunities out of it. It definitely opened a lot of doors. And the sound we’ve had since 2009, I won’t rewrite anything. I like what happened to us and it got us to this point. But because we did all of that, it’s not that we learned from a mistake, we just learned how the reality of things worked in the major label affiliated world. I think we are where we are today because they chose to sign us in the first place. And that’s a good thing, that’s not a bad thing.
I feel like the landscape of our genre has shifted too since you guys got signed. I feel like pop punk or whatever you want to call it was the last in the forefront and now within the last two years it really has begun again to be the center of attention. Even if it wasn’t a priority for a label like Fueled By Ramen. Are you optimistic about things too? It seems like there are all these great things for other pop punk bands, even if you don’t want to be on a label like No Sleep or Rise or Hopeless. But it seems like there is a large community out there now that wasn’t there when you signed.
Yeah. The comparison a lot of people make is talking about how back in the Drive-Thru Records heyday where there was a whole label of bands that people were stoked on. Regardless of how the label operated, people are like, “Oh man, I have Rx Bandits and The Movie Life.” All those bands. It developed into this huge thing to where they would tour together and do all this cohesive stuff together. With us, we were always in a weird spot. Because we were on a label called Search And Rescue Records. When we were on that, we had Alucard which Ryan in our band was in before. That was the only band we could really tour with. We never had a label that was like, “Hey punk rock fans. We’re putting this out there for you.” We never had that. We never had hype, we never had this big connection with all this other stuff. We were just the weird odd band out all the time, but we just happened to make friends with bands in other scenes and all that. It is bizarre because when we started the band and over the years, all we were thinking about was, “Oh man these Fat Wreck Chords bands. We’re going to be touring with them all of the time. It’s going to be the best.” Then after a while it was like all of the bands we grew up listening to either broke up or don’t really do anything anymore. It kind of moved over into that new pop punk direction. So I think when Four Year got signed to Decaydance. And Set Your Goals got on Epitaph. I think there became a mini signing spree. It was like the Sunset Strip thing back in the day in the eighties. So I think people thought we were part of that, but all of us and our friends bands each got signed with different labels. So it was really interesting seeing where that went. Now you look at a label like Rise, they have like twelve new bands. But they’re all really good bands. I think it’s really cool and I’m just interested to see how things turn out. Like how they are now. Because you can look at a label and the way I look at is if you would go to their warehouse and you could leave with five different bands’ shirts, you’re like, “Okay, that’s really cool that they can do that.” And there’s a lot of labels where there’s this one band you like and then with everyone else you’re like, “That’s alright.” It’s pretty cool. I just hope that it doesn’t isolate people too much. Because whenever a genre gets too big, it’s like a radio song. A song blows up on the radio but then you get so sick of it because you hear it every day. It’s the same as hearing people talk about pop punk all of the time. It’s so cool that’s it’s doing bands like The Wonder Years and bands like Transit and Man Overboard and all of them. But is it going to be this weird bastardized version of what it is and all of these local bands start doing that? And then over time it just gets so obnoxious that it kills itself. And then some new genre destroys that. It’s all cyclical. It happens every few years. Once you realize that and not only adapt but kind of stick to your own thing, so everything is blowing over you, you just keep chugging through. I think that’s kind of what our band did. Every time something kind of got popular, we didn’t do it. So maybe that hurt us in the long run, but we’re just doing what we want. Hopefully people can notice that, you know?
PropertyOfZack Road Blog : : The Swellers (Final Update)
From Jono Diener:
This final week has been so great. It was full of some of the big awesome cities and smaller markets that surprised the shit out of us with great shows. In Atlanta we met up with our good friend Ryan Russell and did an acoustic session for his series NERVOUS ENERGIES. He’s done a lot of great bands like Against Me, Lemuria, etc. Nick and I did acoustic versions of our songs “Inside My Head” and “Runaways” and based on the performance we think they were great, but maybe we’re just extremely cocky and they could sound horrible? Who knows. Well, we know. We’re great. That’s it. WANNA FIGHT ABOUT IT?
Charlotte and Norfolk were tied with confusing awesomeness after rarely ever playing either place. The crowds went nuts, a lot of kids knew the words and came up to us telling us they’ve been waiting for a Swellers show for a while. I love seeing touring actually help our band. We do it a lot, like 8-9 months out of the year a lot. It’s the best feeling doing well in places that used to be so hard for our band. The Norva in Norfolk, VA was a great place for tour bonding. The Title Fight guys got our tour manager Robert Cheeseman to play “point blank” with them, aka you run around a ping pong table and hit the ball to each other. If you miss, the person next to you throws a ping pong ball at you as hard as they can point blank range. The guys played for 30 minutes and looked like they had ringworm all over their backs. I don’t understand why they played, but I completely understand why I couldn’t stop watching.
After that we played a game of lightning at the INDOOR BASKETBALL COURT in the venue. If you didn’t have a childhood, it’s a game where a bunch of people lineup at the 3 point line, single file, then you have to try to make a basket before the person in front of you to get him/her out. It got really dirty pretty soon into the game, lots of balls slapped out of other’s hands, that’s what SHE SAID OH MY GODDDDDDDD and then I would’ve won if Tim the stupid merch guy for TItle Fight didn’t cheapskate me by hitting my ball down the court. F YOU DUDE. SERIOUSLY. Ok, I had to get that out. Need to calm down, you know? Andy from SHARKS was killing it. He’s a beautiful british baby and surprised everyone with his talent. Sometimes I think he’s from Led Zeppelin or the past or a prince of some sort.
PropertyOfZack Road Blog : : The Swellers (Update IV)
From Jono Diener:
Hollywood! MOVIE DIRECTORS! SCRIPTS! SURFING!?!?!? We had a great time playing the House Of Blues in Hollywood, mainly because we got to be incredibly famous via other people. The day started off with me going on a walk with Chris Speer and walking down the Sunset Strip to the Hustler Store where he explained to me the difference in each model of the Flesh Light. He explained that porn stores are like his record stores. Ladies, get a hold of him! The night took a swift turn when we played and it was just perfect. The crowd was going nuts, more than they ever have in LA for us, and we had an absolute blast. After we played we had some big talks with our manager Kenny about the future (it’s looking awesome) and got to hang out with Benji Madden of Good Charlotte. We heard the GC dudes were fans of our band for a while, and talking to Benji was really cool/uplifiting. He’s a super down to earth dude and had some great input and advice on being in a band. Much respect to that fella. I also heard he has a pet tiger or something…
After the show we headed to Swingers instead of Angels & Kings after party (I can’t really handle that place…) and saw Davey Havok, Nick 13 (Tiger Army) and after I used the lavatory, walked outside and met with the other guys… we saw Russell Brand standing about 5 feet away from us. He was glistening with stardom. It was pretty awesome then he jumped in a super nice SUV and drove off into the sky (i’m assuming it was half jet). We continued to eat, reminicse of times past and present with our friend Marwan (aka him talk about hardcore and vegan food) then retired for the night.
The next day we play Soma in San Diego and continuing the tradition of my last foodaholic blog, I ate at one of my favorite burrito places, Sombrero, TWICE. Both times I ate a huge burrito with french fries in it and an oversized cup of horchata. Don’t worry, there’s more to this story than just food. We played one of our favorite sets due to the fact that there was FINALLY no barricade in front of the stage. It’s nice actually being able to see people while we play. During Gallows set (and my 2nd time eating Sombrero) we got a text from a friend saying a kid stage dived, everyone moved out of the way, he landed on his neck and didn’t wake up for about 10 minutes… That was incredibly scary. They stopped the show for a while but the guy spent the night in the hospital and ended up OK. Hoping the dude if he hasn’t already makes a full recovery!
PropertyOfZack Road Blog : : The Swellers (Update II)
From Jono Diener:
Welcome to the second installment of The AP Tour Road Blog Presented By PropertyOfZack Hosted By Jonathan Diener of The Swellers. I’m working on revising the name, but I think that has a good ring to it and would sound great if chanted in arenas from thousands of adoring fans. The good news is that if you read the previous installment of The AP Tour Road Blog Presented By PropertyOfZack Hosted By Jonathan Diener of The Swellers you would already know the bands playing the tour, the people we brought on our crew and how much fun we’re already having. If you DIDN’T read the previous installent of.. just kidding. I saved you.
One thing all bands from the states dread is having to deal with the Canadian Border. The shows are always fun and a blast, but when crossing back into the states you’ll be lucky if you aren’t stuck in a brick room with no windows for 5 hours until they finally let you off with a “warning”. This has happened to us many times, and yet we keep doing what we do and never actually get in trouble for it. Now you may ask yourself, WHAT would get such a wholesome band in trouble? Are you guys druggies? Did you smuggle (according to the signs at the border crossing) things like fruit, meat and parrots in your trailer? No. We did something MUCH worse… WE BROUGHT T-SHIRTS TO SELL. WHhhoooooOOOooAAAAAaa!!! Yeah, I’m really sorry if that ruined your perception of us, but for some reason we try to bring merch from the states into Canada to continue making our living. The countries consider that stealing money from them and want to tax you on it, but that’s bogus. I could just give them fifty bucks if they really cared that much. When crossing INTO the Canadian border they’re incredibly nice, barely ask questions and let you go through. On the way back in the states it’s like watching the 90s show Lieutenant Dad… but he’s no longer your Dad, he’s just a mean fella to you. We were clenching our passports as we pulled up, some of us sweating, some of us probably having to poop. We roll the window down, start talking to the border guy.. and within 2 minutes we’re off headed to Ohio. So.. I guess that worked out! You’re glad you read that paragraph, aren’t you?
Read Jono’s second tour blog by clicking ‘Read More’!
Wrong blog. You should still read the blog though, it’s a good one.
PropertyOfZack Road Blog : : The Swellers (Update I)
The Swellers are currently out on the AP Fall Tour with Four Year Strong, Gallows, Title Fight, and Sharks. Jono Diener from the band has been kind enough to sign on for another PropertyOfZack Road Blog to keep fans updated on the tour. Read up and check back for more!
From Jono Diener:
For the first time in a while i’m writing an actual road blog and not some weird bummed out contributor blog whining about pricing in the music industry or how I want to riot against the government. OK, maybe the last part isn’t true but my punk blood boils when I hear the word “cops” or “governments”. It’s a hard living the life of an anarcho psycho rocker. The reason I’m really here is to tell you about our travels on the 6-week juggernaut THE AP TOUR!
This is a very special year for the AP TOUR as all of the bands are very, very awesome. We have the bright-eyed Clash rockers from the UK known as SHARKS, the hunky Swellers boys, the underground hardcore boy vinyl selling mosh masters Title Fight, another UK veteran band full of pissed off cool guys rounded out by their new Canadian vocalist known as GALLOWS, and… Four Year Strong. We’re going into the tour already knowing Title Fight and Four Year but we were really excited to meet the other UK guys. We’re also helping each other out and making the show run very easily for everyone. I’m sharing my SJC kit (had to awkwardly mention the brand because I’ll get like $5 if I say it on a blog) with Sam, the drummer of Sharks. The guys from Title Fight are letting the first 4 bands use their guitar cabs which is VERY generous. And Four Year Strong is letting us use their beards. We load in, play, load out and things run very smoothly.
Our crew on this tour is also exceptional. We brought our dear friend, and previous Swellers merchant: Chris Speer. He loves Jwoww’s boobs and pizza. The new addition to our van for this tour is our Tour Manager, Robert Cheeseman. We met him while touring with Daytrader this summer and not only did he somehow get them all free Chipotle on an almost daily basis, but he got all of us free movie tickets one night. Is he a nice guy and a good dude? I dunno. What we DO know is that free stuff rules and we brought him along to help us with that aspect.