INTERVIEW: Swimsuit Addition

Swimsuit Addition

When Jen from Swimsuit Addition calls me, she’s a bit flustered. She has good reason to be – it’s mere hours before her punk-inflected grunge pop band is scheduled to play a show in their native Chicago to celebrate two huge milestones in their career: the release of their latest album Wretched Pinups, and their subsequent two-week tour to support it. Sporting purple hair and tiger-print leggings, Jen ran to Target for some last-minute must-haves, and made a scene when she thought she’d lost her phone – only to find it in her back pocket.

“Something bad always happens on release days!” she gasps breathlessly, recounting stories of lost keys and other mild crises that put a damper on otherwise ecstatic moments. But today, crisis has been averted, and the only thing left to do is celebrate and reflect on the making of the record, how writing with a full lineup shaped the record, and where their first ever East Coast tour will take them.

AudioFemme: We’re loving Wretched Pinups over here and can’t wait for your tour to come through Brooklyn. My favorite thing about the record is the great balance you push between topics and ideas that are kind of serious, even aggressive statements and how that gets mixed in with some healthy doses of humor and fun. Was mixing it up like that a conscious decision?

Jen of Swimsuit Addition: Some of it’s conscious. Some of it acts as a kind of nervous laughter in a way. We kind of have to put that in there because… at some point you have to laugh. Also we collectively have this dark sense of humor – or anyway, I do, and maybe that kind of bleeds over. Becca [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][my guitarist] is famous for mishearing something. A couple of the lyrics on it that are funny are actually things that she’s misheard what I’m saying in a lyric and I’ll be like “That’s funny, let’s just leave that in there, or let’s change it.” That actually happened a couple of times.

AF: Can you talk a little about your writing and recording process?

SA: It’s funny because some of the songs take a half hour to write… just like the basis of them. Some of them take weeks or months to write. So I do a lot of demoing for my bandmates where I’ll just put a ton of guitars on it where I want to hear different elements of the song, and I’ll put electronic drums on it and I’ll show them the demos and then everybody inevitably writes their own part that they play in the recording. It’s kind of like if we were a coloring book and I was drawing the outline and everybody’s kinda coloring in the picture. Sometimes I’ll just bring a handful of “colors” or something and just be like “Let’s bring this together!” Sam brought two songs that she kinda outlined and then we put together, so we’re learning to write better together. Sam also kinda helped me finish some of my songs before I brought them to the band. For this record I think I brought a little more than half the songs to the band and then we all kinda just fleshed them out.

AF: So was that different from the way you’d approached writing your first release, Kittyhawk?

SA: Well with Kittyhawk we had a completely different lineup – it was me, Sam [on bass and keys], and this other drummer. Sam and I just like wrote everything – we kinda just told her what to play. I think I wrote 90% of that album too – Sam wrote the beginning of one song, I kinda helped her finish it. So it’s kinda like each album there’s more writing from each of us. For our next record that we’re doing, Becca wrote a song, and I’m hoping that Sam brings more songs. As we get better as a band we all get better as songwriters.

AF: Do you feel like the steps toward more collaborative songwriting have changed the sound on Wretched Pinups versus earlier releases?

SA: If I give Becca a riff to play, she adds something to it. Or if we give Sarah [the percussion] an idea, she would do it, but she would do it in her own way. And that’s partly because, you know, Becca and Sarah are extremely creative people. No one really wants to be told what to play; when you give someone something it’s really awesome to see how they take it to the next level. So I think in that way, a lot of the instrumentation on this album was more sophisticated than what we had on Kittyhawk. We play off of each other, we build off of each other. We’re always trying to decorate the songs more.

AF: Were there specific inspirations in writing this record, either musical or otherwise?

SA: I would say the big inspirations are kind of unknown 60s pop bands, a lot of 90s indie and grunge… those are the two main things. My emotions are the other thing. I’m a very emotional person. I take a lot of my emotions and put them into things that I create. So there’s a lot of that. Wretched is a very moody album. Unlike Kittyhawk and unlike our next album that we’re gonna put out. Very moody and emotional.

AF: Where are you getting the titles for your records? They’re really interesting, kind of loaded phrases. 

SA: For Wretched Pinups, I need to give credit to my friend Josh who was in a band called Wretched Pinups. They weren’t around very long, but when we were hanging out I was like “I’m obsessed with your band name – it’s so awesome, it’s my soul or something.” I traded him a name – I had a name from a comic strip that I was doing. And I was like, “You can have the name from this if I can have that name for a record,” and he was like “DEAL!” For Kittyhawk, I don’t even really know how that came up. I think it was just because it was like, the first. Then we saw the collage with the spaceship cat [that we used for the album cover] and it matched.

AF: What was the comic that you were drawing?

SA: I have this little comic that I do called Emo Grrrls. My main character has a band called Jane Acid & the Hollowheads. And he wanted the band name The Hollowheads so I was like “Take it!” It’s just on a tumblr right now while I try to figure out what I’m doing with it. I’m maybe gonna print it and put it in some zine stores or whatever, but right now it’s one of those cathartic things to me. I take time while I’m doing it, but it’s a project that I haven’t really finished yet. It’s a fun thing for me.

AF: Do you feel like zines and Riot Grrrl have been a big influence on what you’re doing with Swimsuit Addition? 

SA: I try not to talk about that a lot – they’re definite influences and it’s an obvious comparison that people make. But I hate to say that we are “Riot Grrrl” or something because Riot Grrrl is sort of a time capsule movement. It existed at a specific time we aren’t a part of at all. We’re definitely influenced by it, we respect it, and we love it,  and it definitely influenced all of us at our core but we’re not trying to claim any real part in that movement.

AF: Do you feel like songwriting and being in a band is a sort of catharsis for you? 

SA: Absolutely. I kind of have always wanted to say no to that question, but when I’m being truthful that’s where it comes from for me personally. It’s very cathartic for me to create – that goes for creating music or doing visual art or doing other musical projects even if they are completely different. To me, it is about getting those emotions moving and getting them out. So yeah it’s always kinda been like that.

AF: I think that making something acts as catharsis for a lot of creative individuals, myself included. I’m curious as to why you want to distance yourself from making that statement.

SA: I think it’s because, like, the initial catharsis for me, like starting when I was twelve years old and dealing with a lot of stuff, was just to get it out. And now what actually makes me feel good is finishing something. For years, even until I was like 22, in other people’s bands, playing their songs, I just wanted to get it out but I didn’t care about the final product. And now, for me, the important thing is the final product. The initial process, what sparks it, is just kind of like barfing up those emotions, but then what allows it to be like an actual finished thing is going into it in your head, going into it when I’m not emotional and being precise about how that gets tied up. So that’s why I wanna say no, because it’s like a project, something I’m consciously doing and I’m really thinking hard about it. Because it’s not like I’m crying my way through writing the song, but that’s almost how it starts. Something upsets me and I have to sit down and write about it.

AF: I always think it’s worth it to process even happy emotions. That editing process, too, there’s catharsis there, organizing ideas around how you feel. You must be feeling very excited about the tour right now! How long will you be out on the road?

SA: I keep saying it’s ten days…

AF: Have you toured a lot before? 

SA: No! This is like the first thing…  We’ve done weekend tours and stuff like that. I started booking this tour in December so I’m really proud of how it shaped up. My bandmates are all like, “Let’s have one day off!” and I was like [in a faux-tyrannical tone] “NO! We all got this time off, we have a van we’re gonna be out there, we’re playing every night!” We’re gonna be crazy exhausted afterward but it will be totally worth it.

AF: Anything in particular that you’re really excited about? 

SA: I’m like really excited to meet people and just be in other communities. We play so much in Chicago, and when we go outside of Chicago we have such an amazing time. Most of the time it’s like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan. But  we have such a great time and we haven’t ever played on the East Coast before so you know, it just puts us in this whole new group of people. Obviously we have friends out there, and we know a lot of people out there but it will be really great to just like see a whole other community and meet people and have a lot of fun.

AF: Do you feel like there’s a good community in Chicago as well? What is the scene there like?

SA: Yeah, it’s a very supportive, awesome scene. We had a Kickstarter, and we weren’t really asking for much, just asking for people to pre-order merch. Like if they were gonna buy [the record] anyway, we were just like “Hey can you pre-order so we can have some cash to rent a van?” But we met our goal in like, four or five days and we were just like “WHAT??!!” It’s incredible. We have so many people who come out to shows, and people who are supportive, just with little things. And that goes for everyone – I feel like everybody’s trying to uplift and support each other. We’re all very happy when it comes to another band [doing well] cause we’re all friends with each other, we’ve all played with each other at some point. And we’re all very happy for each other. It’s a really great community.

AF: I don’t want to put you on the spot, because my mind always goes blank when people ask me stuff like this, but are there other Chicago bands we should be listening to? 

SA: YES! There are so many, and I know I’m gonna forget some. We’re kind of like family – Absolutely Not is an amazing band. We’re gonna try to go to Austin with them next year. The Peekaboos are really great, I played in a band with two of them and with this project they’ve got such great energy. They do the comedy-within-emotional music thing really well. My favorite band right now, who I asked to open for us, is Kangaroo. I’m really obsessed with them right now – there was one weekend where I think I saw them like three times.

AF: You mentioned you have plans for another record already, even though Wretched Pinups just came out. Do you want to talk about it a little? 

SA: We kind of had it planned from the beginning, it’s called Dumb Dora. And we play a lot of the songs that are on it when we play live because a lot of them are crowd favorites, they’re really fun songs. Wretched Pinups has a lot of the moody songs, and Dumb Dora is supposed to be like, for your sweet tooth.

Check out Swimsuit Addition on tour if you live in one of the stops below!

7.11.14 – Chicago @ Hideout w/ Kangaroo & Kithkin

7.12.14 – Detroit @ Trumbullplex w/ My Pal Val

7.13.14 – Cleveland @ Happy Dog 

7.14.14 – Buffalo NY @ Glitterbox with Vanilla Sex, Newish Star, and Mink

7.15.14 – DC @ House Show w/ Peoples Drug

7.16.14 – NYC @ Cake Shop w/ Clinical Trials, Electric Mess, and Bradley Dean and the Terminals

7.17.14 – Brooklyn NY @ Muchmores w/ Plastiq Passion, Tiny Tusks, and Pussywolf

7.18.14 – Baltimore @ Club K w/ Chia

7.19.14 – Pittsburgh @ House Show w/ The Lopez and The Ovens

7.20.14 – Bloomington @ Rachael’s Cafe w/ Kithkin[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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