Swim Mountain’s IF EP is out via Monday Records
We’re connecting ahead of the release of your new EP, If. What led to that title?
I think it fits the narrative of the EP and is very open-ended. Life has a lot of options and you either choose a path or it chooses you. In that sense, you could have multiple parallel lives.
The EP touches on those themes in detail – relationships, choosing a path, and even the juxtaposition of an online presence and real life. Were those parallels important to you while creating the EP?
I think that was definitely part of the narrative. I found it really interesting to think about relationships pre- and post-social media and the internet. I thought it would be interesting to think about the demise of a relationship, the complexity there, and how it differs from one decade to another.
‘If’ is the follow-up to 2017s Anyone EP, and sonically an exciting leap forward. How would you describe the development of your sound on this release?
It is a little different. I just really emancipated myself from any preconceptions of what Swim Mountain’s sound was or is. I wanted to experiment more with creating layers of sounds and sort of match the sounds to visions I had in my head of what the song was. I think doing it from that point of view rather than looking back to previous artists and thinking “oh, it would be cool for this to sound a bit like Pink Floyd, etc.” and instead, looking at it from a fresh perspective helped.
What was the hardest part of making this new EP?
Stanley Kubrick said something like “if you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the illusion that it has been mastered” or you’ve fixed it. That’s sort of like making music. You come up with an idea for a song, then you sort of grapple with actually getting what you want out of it. Sometimes, the song will sit for a year or two. You know the song is doing the right thing melodically and harmonically but you can’t really get it to sing the way you want it.
You first teased this new EP last year with the release of “Youth” and most recently with “Clouded.” Was there significance behind sharing these tracks first?
Yeah, I really wanted to start with “Youth” because it’s upbeat and has a bit of a punch. It was a good song to return with, whereas “Clouded” is a lot slower, somber and perhaps esoteric. It’s always hard when you’re releasing music, that’s when being signed with a label helps because they aren’t as close to the record and can definitely help there.
“Youth” is your first track accompanied by a visual – will we get any others with this EP?
I’m going to make a video with a friend of mine that’s a musician. It’s going to be interesting, we’re just going to do it ourselves and try to capture the essence of the song. I like his aesthetic and we’ve got quite similar taste, so I think he’ll bring something to that but we’re both quite new to videos so I think it’ll be interesting. It’s a DIY project for the song “Somebody New.”
“Somebody New” is one of the tracks fans will hear on Friday. It’s got a great thumping electro-funk feel that’s nostalgic and futuristic. You mentioned not being influenced by specific artists but was there anything that led to that distinct sound on this track?
Probably. No idea is completely original and that’s definitely one of the tracks that the sound felt different. More akin to Prince or someone like that. Not directly, but I think at the time of producing it, I was listening to a decent amount of Prince. That song is really straight forward though, apart from the bridge, and it’s just got a groove. So I thought I’d keep this one sort of simple in the production. I was looking for the right instruments for this and I ended up doing a few versions of this song. I was trying to move away from using the guitar and did it on synths but then I switched back because it felt like a purer funk-based track.
“Without Sun” is a definitive standout that rounds out the 6-track EP. How did that song start to take shape during the creation of If?
It’s probably my favorite one as well. I usually write the song first on the piano. I had this sort of piano idea that sounded almost ballad-like. I thought the song was good so I tried to support that with some interesting production. There are just infinite possibilities from there when producing, so I took a step back and tried to build it from visuals that I was envisioning and the narratives helped tie it together.
“Steel” helps close out the EP ahead of “Clouded” – can you tell us a little about that track?
Steel is the one that really dug into the modern era of relationships and communicating. We’re already possibly in simulation, at the very least, one step removed from reality. Now, it just feels like we’re two steps removed and I find that interesting. I wanted to explore that, the sort of blind and selfish way we watch things unfold from our phones. When previously, those things could be ignored or weren’t as present.
In the past, you’ve worked on a handful of film scores with Hans Zimmer’s studio – are you working on anything currently that we may we hear soon?
Not while I’m getting this all started up but I’m sure I’ll do some more in the future. It’s very different a lot of fun to do. It’s a job though, directors and producers are telling you to change things and to give scenes a certain emotion or feeling. In that sense, there’s almost a Venn diagram or overlap with my own music, how I visualize sounds, and how it then helps me create.
Last year, D.C. and the rest of North America were able to catch you for the first time on the road with Tourist and Matthew Dear. Will we get new tour dates in support of If?
Yeah – that’s sort of coming next, discussing how we’ll approach touring. I’ve got a few European shows coming up. I have one in Paris happening next month and then a few other shows supporting Tourist as a two-night Monday Records showcase. I actually really want to get back to D.C. soon though – I think the crowd was easily one of the best crowds of the tour. I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. and really didn’t know what to expect apart from what I’ve seen in politics.
Did you at least get to see any of the landmarks while you were here?
We’d have really limited time in between flying in at noon, performing, getting to the hotel at 2 am and then flying out first thing in the morning. We’d get maybe two hours in each city, so during that time, Will (Tourist) and I just jumped into a cab and went to see the Lincoln Memorial.
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