Swim Deep: ‘We always knew that this record was good’

Swim Deep

Swim Deep - Credit: Archant

Ahead of a date at Tufnell Park Dome, keyboardist James Balmont talks to Alex Bellotti.

Bypassing any fears about the difficult second album, Swim Deep were talking up Mothers from the very start. In one 2015 interview, lead singer Austin Williams said he envisioned their sophomore record as a “modern day Screamadelica”, while keyboardist James Balmont sums up their reaction to the acclaim it garnered upon release last autumn.

“I’d love to say that it was quite a surprise,” he says, “but we always thought it was really good anyway. Though it’s good that a lot of the press agreed with us.”

Moving away from the indie pop of their 2013 debut Where the Heaven Are We, Mothers signalled a shift towards acid house and dance culture – particularly on songs such as To My Brother and Namaste.

For the Birmingham five-piece, part of this change was indebted to their time playing at the Ibiza Rocks festival, which took them away from their traditional audience demographic.

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“Obviously we were in the middle of a party environment with lots of clubs, but even though it was a very different crowd to what we’d normally expect, you could see that everyone was having so much fun,” explains Balmont.

“That electric, active type of music was an early inspiration; there’s so much rhythm and percussion that makes people move. Although when we made the album we had no idea how we were going to play it live – we’d used so many instruments that it took a long time to figure out.”

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Now that they have, the stage is set for a mouthwatering show at Tufnell Park’s The Dome on February 24, which Swim Deep will play as part of the 2016 NME Awards tour.

Celebrating the success of Mothers, the night will partially be an affirmation of Balmont’s own talents. Initially a touring musician with the band in 2014, his emergence as a full time member also saw him share song-writing duties with Williams on the record.

“I joined as a session musician, but I had absolutely no intention of being a session musician,” he says. “Whenever we were rehearsing or sound checking we’d always be jamming around, so it wasn’t long until we started writing music together.”

As a band increasingly geared towards the live circuit, Swim Deep have always acknowledged their debt towards independent venues.

Considering how rare it has become for any group to make significant money outside of touring, Balmont agrees there’s a strange dichotomy between this reality and the closure of so many venues in London.

“It’s really difficult for bands to break the boundary where you start making money off touring, and it is especially difficult when a lot of the smaller venues that act as stepping stones are closing down. Luckily I think there is a very strong support for live music as well all over the country.

“Fat White Family about a year ago did a crowd-funding thing to get them to America and that’s something I think bands should make use of more. There’s always demand and ways to make performing and stuff financially viable in today’s changing climate.”

Swim Deep play Tufnell Park Dome on February 24. Visit dometufnellpark.co.uk

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