Paige Tate

Can’t Swim – Broken Noses, Torturous EZPasses, & Vinyl Variants

We wouldn’t call them pop punk, we wouldn’t call them emo, but we would call them one of the Garden State’s favorites.

For a band originally out of New Jersey, and with songs that reference said home state often, Can’t Swim’s reach as musicians is vast – some of their biggest fanbases via Spotify are Chicago, Dallas, and our neighboring city of brotherly love: Philadelphia. The bright lights of LA adore this band, people across the pond in London adore this band, and, appropriately, so do we. This week they come back here, their old stomping ground, to take over Garwood’s Crossroads for friends, family, and fans.

One month ago (to the day), Can’t Swim released Thanks but no Thanks, a 10-track LP clocking in at just over 29 minutes. Having had a couple of weeks to digest the hardcore-rooted alternative record, we can describe it wholeheartedly as so: short, but sweet; noisy, but melodious; edgy, but approachable. It’s not their roughest album to date or their most ’emo,’ both in terms of the early-2000s-garage-band-genre and it’s prefix meaning of emotional. The foursome have matured, experienced touring in and around the country, and granted themselves some freedom to try new things learned along the way and expressed through the rowdiest of beats and most memorable of riffs. Catching up with them means two things: breaking down the legitimacy of the lyrical content (in the best way possible) and being reminded of the growth of a local band, now on our cover.

What is it like to come back home to Jersey and put on a concert?

It’s always exciting to come home and play. Obviously we’ve all been pretty spread out throughout the years – Danny, our guitar player, lives in England, and our drummer lives in Atlanta, but Jersey always feels like home for me, especially because my family’s still there and all my friends are still there. We spend 30 days playing in random cities around the country and it’s always nice to come home and see familiar faces. I have been to Garwood, the legendary Crossroads, but never to play a show, so we’re very excited to actually get to play it. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since the tour got announced.

Crossroads is always a good, intimate time, but the tour itself has seemed to be really fun from what I see online, from what I’ve heard… I hope nobody breaks their nose here at the Jersey show, though.

[Laughs] You saw that, eh? Yeah, I guess it comes with the territory. Hopefully Garwood “keeps their hands to themselves,” but [Laughs] I think everybody was still having a good time.

Oh, yeah! On that same note, with this tour being generally so full of energy, what is like being on tour with these other bands? What’s the friendship like off stage and on the road? There are similar sounds and similar fans, but there are some differences and some newbies coming out.

That’s always kind of the name of the game – convert people into fans. I guess that is, in essence, what your job is to do on tour. You go out and play your music and hopefully satisfy fans that have seen you before and make fans out of people that never heard of you.

Luckily Free Throws are the nicest people in the world. We’ve been friends with them for years and years; played festivals and one-off shows, too, but never did a full tour with them. We are very excited to finally do the whole country with them.

I never try to pay too much attention to like, “Oh, this band sounds like this and this band has this fan base,” but I think Free Throw is very adjacent to what we try to do. The shows have definitely proven that I think both of our sets are being very well received. It’s cool. It feels very much like a family out here, like I said, because we’ve known them for so long. Sometimes when you go on tours it can be a little awkward if you don’t know the people in the other bands, but this was like a high school reunion.

For you and for your band, were any certain songs from this new record an immediate highlight on stage and in front of an audience?

We’ve been playing four or five songs off of Thanks, but no Thanks and obviously that’s a little Daunting, right? Because it’s only been out a few weeks now, so the biggest surprise has been “Nowhere, Ohio.” It’s one of the most well received songs of the set; obviously some singles were very familiar to the audience. “Nowhere, Ohio” seems to really have stuck, though, and we were visibly surprised the first time we played it ‘cause everybody seemed to know the song. 

Speaking of songs, “I’ve Never Paid a Toll on the Garden State Parkway.” We must know the validity of that as a New Jersey publication.

I don’t wanna dig a hole for myself here, but… yeah. It was this thing early on in my life when I started driving, I was an EZPass guy, and if you know about the tortures of EZPass, it just never seems to be accurate. I just figured, “Hey, maybe I just don’t pay these things anymore,” and now it’s been like 10 years running and it seems like I’m not in jail yet. So, I guess it’s been good?

Another song I wanted to talk to you about is “ELIMINATE” and the song title being in all capital letters. I’m curious about if there’s any significance to that, or if it just felt right?

Yeah, so the album has all lowercase and I think that one, lyrically, is like the biggest statement perhaps of all the songs. The fact that I say [eliminate] probably 30 times in the song, too… it just felt right to give the all-capitalization.

The artwork and aesthetic with Thanks but no Thanks has strong Can’t Swim vibes. You had the cake and you had the clown photoshoot. The visuals and the ethos are all in line with you guys. Do you agree?

Yeah, we pretty much do 100% of it. We are self-managed and our label has always kind of given us free range to do whatever we want, luckily, musically and artistically. All the music videos we shot and we did ourselves, and the artwork, too. I think we wanted to cater to the New Jersey aesthetics, too, so that clown thing is like right where we grew up and, as you mentioned, a lot of the song titles are very catered to a New Jersey lifestyle. We’ve always kind of used that little devil as our logo, but this time around we kind of made a more Asbury-Park-skateboarder-kind-of-devil-guy, which I think fit with the clown and the aesthetic going forward.

It really fits hand in hand with the DIY Jersey music scene.

Yeah, we wanted that. 

Our last question is on having a vinyl press of the new LP. This is no small feat for any band, for any artist, large or small, especially in this day and age. For you guys, why did you want to have vinyl made for this record? And do you, yourselves, appreciate and collect vinyl?

I think it’s always a big yes from us just because of what we’ve seen the last five/six years doing the band – a lot of our fans really enjoy that type of media. Embarrassingly enough, I don’t pride myself on being a vinyl collector. I never really got into it growing up. Greg, our bass player, definitely has a pretty big collection and so does our drummer, Blake. 

It just seems very fitting for this genre. I think the people who are into whatever this is – pop punk, emo, alt – really want a little bit more rather than just the Spotify playlist. They like the whole packaging, and Pure Noise, our record label, has always been very insightful on color schemes and the amounts and doing limited drops and stuff like that. We’ve always kind of let them steer the ship with that. I got the first copy of Thanks but no Thanks a couple weeks ago and it was so cool and came out great, so I am very proud of it. We’ve been selling the vinyl on this tour, too, so I think going forward every release that we do in the future will certainly have a vinyl variant. We still sell our past catalog on vinyl, too, so that’s definitely par for the course of doing a band like this, having the kind of fans we do, being in that community, so that’s why we do it.