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November 2019
Festival Chat

SWMRS: "If you're not convinced you're the best, no one else is going to be"

We caught the band backstage at Reading to find out about their crazy year of 'Berkeley's On Fire'
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Published: 9:03 pm, August 29, 2019Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Frances Beach.
SWMRS: "If you're not convinced you're the best, no one else is going to be"

Last year SWMRS opened the Radio 1 Tent at Reading Festival. They’d just released the first song from their as-of-yet-untitled second album and from the moment you heard the whir of ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’, you knew they meant business. Fast forward a year later, and the band got the call from Reading Festival to open the mainstage after someone else dropped out. Like Batman, of course they answered.

We caught them after their set for a glimpse inside their hectic twelve months.

Hello SWMRS. How’s life been since ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ was unleashed?
Cole: It’s been crazy as fuck. We wanted to make our shows bigger. We wanted to connect with people on a deeper level and we wanted to make music that was cutting edge.

Yeah, we’ve seen you a bunch this year and it feels like you’ve got a lot more confident on stage.
Max: I mean we look up to bands like The Hives who approach the set like, yes, this is a festival and you bought a ticket to see a lot of bands, but right now this is our show.
Cole: If you're not convinced that you're the best band than nobody else is going to be convinced. You know?
Max: The greatest part about getting sent to Main Stage is that people are starting to realize that we know how to do our job very well. We may not be massive. Yet. But if you put us in front of people, they're going to freak out. We just opened for Muse in front of 80,000 people and it was insane. We were playing a soccer stadium in Paris and we got the entire floor to crouch and then jump back up again for ‘Lose, Lose, Lose’. They went crazy and most of them had no idea who we are. Hopefully people start to realize that we mean business.

You only had twenty-five minutes on stage but you still made a point to talk about equality, safety and making sure everyone was looked after in the crowd. You said if someone felt uncomfortable, to let you or security know and it’d be dealt with. Why take the time to do that?
Cole: I mean, cause it's not about us. Our culture is so violent and it's so violent towards women. If you get a bunch of people who grew up in that culture in one place, then it's going to err on the side of the culture. It's going to be a scary, violent place for people. 
I think everybody needs to take that two minutes in their set to just make sure that people know that there's another way to do this where everybody can feel included and safe. If people don't feel safe at a show, then they don't get to experience music the same way. It's just so important. You see all these lads out here, they're 16 years old and most of them don't know what feminism is. And we're on a stage and they see a bunch of fucking cool rock stars up there talking about feminism, they're going to look it up when they go home.  I think that's how you change culture.

And what’s next for you guys?
Max: I wish I could tell you everything. We took a lot of time off between ‘Drive North’ and ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ and we’re not doing that again. There's no time off until we're done. We're done taking time off. We'll sleep when we're old. We've been working a lot, but we'd like to ideally surprise people with what we do next. But one thing we know is that we’ll be back in the UK early next year. And what's next for us is making the 2020s our decade. That's what we care about most right now. 
Cole: One thing we talk about is following movement. Music is special because it makes you move and you make music because you're moving your body and it's something that you can move your body to. So we've just been talking about incorporating dance music, incorporating things like reggaeton music, not because we want to be a reggaeton band but that's music that is universal. You hear that and you're like, ‘oh, I can dance to this.’ 
Max: We do a bunch of different styles of music and the key is when we want to do something hard, let's do something hard as fuck. And when we're doing something soft, let's make it soft as fuck. Let's not be in the middle anymore. Let's go to the extreme. When the time is right, do the extreme thing. One thing we care about most is listening to the youth. And the youth are always changing and growing and forming new opinions. And that's where we get a lot of our ideas from.

You’ve heard ‘People’, the new The 1975 song, right? Maybe it’s just us, but there are similarities between what you’re doing and what they’re doing.
Max: That song allows bands like us to stop running away from who we actually are. That band obviously has way more influence than us and if they're out there playing some punk ass shit then that means we don't have to be self-conscious about being punk as fuck. And it's really nice for us.

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