"If I can write a song that sounds unlike any other Can’t Swim song then that’s always going to be a good thing" - Chris LoPorto
Can't Swim have today (May 06) dropped a surprise EP!
'When The Dust Settles' sees the band 'revisiting' songs from across their discography and making them all the more haunting, vulnerable and textured by interpreting them acoustically. It's a short and sharp shot of inspiration that not only proves the musical depth that exists within the band's sound but also serves as another experiment in what form the band can take moving forwards.
We caught up with frontman Chris LoPorto to discuss the EP and what stepping back into different moments of the band's journey so far felt like...
Where did the concept for this EP stem? Was it something already in the pipeline or has it been inspired by current circumstance?
Says Chris LoPorto: “It’s an idea we’ve always had. The label has always asked me to do something like this, stripped down versions of some of our more familiar songs or something. It wasn’t very predetermined until all of this happened though. I have a good amount of free time on my hands. So I basically sent them the version of ‘Stranger’ and that lit the fire a little bit. Then I spent a couple of weeks working on the rest and now here we are.”
Is it basically just you taking care of the instrumentation or are the other guys involved as well?
“We did a little bit of Skype/email magic. Danny (Rico, Guitarist) got stuck out in LA and he had a microphones set up at his end so he sings a bit on ‘Death Deserves A Name’ for example. It was still a collaborative effort as much as it could be.”
What was it that made you want to ‘revisit’ these particular songs from these particular moments in the Can’t Swim story?
“I wanted to do something that felt like a good spread. There are two songs off the first thing we put out ['16's 'Death Deserves A Name], one off our first full-length ['17's 'Fail You Again'] and then two off our latest full-length [18's 'This Too Won't Pass]. It felt like a combination of songs that I felt would actually work within an ‘acoustic’ vision, but also from me wanting to open up some of those other ideas I had. I must have written ‘Death Deserves A Name’ five years ago now, so it was cool to see what I had done in terms of melodies and little parts back then. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, which is always cool when you’re able to put it into your new stuff.”
What was it like actually stepping back into those different points and reflecting on the journey you’ve had?
“It’s funny; Can’t Swim has always made me feel like I’m stuck in a black hole. There are times when ‘Death Deserves A Name’ feels like two decades ago but the majority of the time it feels like it was six months ago. Whenever I step on stage I still feel like I’m new to this. The same whenever I pick up a guitar and say that I’m going to write a song. It’s very strange. It always seems like I’m just starting. Opening these up, I remember it all like it was yesterday but then I’m looking at old demos I have which are from 2015. That’s insane.
“I look at it as a pro though. I think a lot of artists, in any art form, grow to resent their previous work. I still feel like I’m in the same place making music for the same reasons.”
It’s almost a disservice to the mindset and the emotions you were feeling at that time if you push your previous work to one side. It’s still a huge part of part of who you are and who you will be in the future...
“Oh, yeah man. I don’t really like to look at music, especially my own music, as statistics or being just good or bad. The inspiration is always happening around you and what a good musician is able to do is grab and harness it. I think all of our releases are a representation of those couple of days in my life when I was writing songs. We’re not very nitpicky either. It doesn’t take us very long or there isn’t six pairs of hands in the pot saying ‘This sounds like this, let’s not do that’. It’s very much ‘This sounds good and you guys like it’.”
Saying that, there’s an awful lot of stuff in the Can’t Swim discography already. Two full lengths and, now, three EPs in five years is a pretty crazy collection, and each one stands on it’s own two feet as something unique to the rest...
“That’s always been the goal, to write what feels honest. It’s obviously a conscious thing for us to always want to switch it up and the music does very drastically change. ['19's] ‘Foreign Language’ is probably as far on the other side of the spectrum of this new body of work as possible, but it’s something we’re always trying to do. If I can write a song that sounds unlike any other Can’t Swim song then that’s always going to be a good thing.”
How have the sentiments behind these songs, especially ‘Death Deserves A Name’, changed for you over the years? How was it revisiting them with a different headspace?
“I always feel like that song is the blueprint of what Can’t Swim is and what it became. Lyrically it’s a lot of what people recognise the band for, within that very personal story of something that had happened to me. It’s very much like that black hole effect again, it’s really freaky how that event sometimes feels like a hundred years ago or feels like it happened last night.
“It’s like a drug though. You have one hit and it all comes flooding back. I wasn't conscious about that song for the last year or so, but then you’re suddenly recording and singing it again. It’s also really different when you’re recording a song like that in an isolated vocal booth. When you play songs live you can occupy your mind and do a little dance. When you’re by yourself, you really start to think where the song came from and that whole time period. It was an interesting night by myself singing that song again.”
That’s another thing about this release. Even if the idea of doing something like this was thrown around before, it was never meant to be in these circumstances. It’s very different revisiting moments alone in your own head rather than surrounded by the rest of the band…
“Yeah, 100%. Also within the process, knowing that these were going to be the final takes that were being put into the world was exhausting. When you're doing vocals by yourself, there’s no cheerleader there to encourage you or producer saying that you’re hitting the wrong note and taking ten takes at a line. It served to be a learning experience for me on the dorky recording side of things as well. I was very glad we got to do it.”
Aside from this EP, what else have you been working on? Where else is your creativity blooming at this time?
“There is another project in the works because of the current circumstances. I don’t know when the next time we will be able to play a show is, so we’ve been thinking of ways we can stay in contact with the Can’t Swim universe. The newer stuff I’ve been writing has been a lot more experimental with textures and stuff. There’s a lot more keyboard and more electronic drums. It’s a bit like a poppier Radiohead. It’s definitely less ‘Foreign Language’.”
Well, it’s like you’re scratching a different itch. Once you’ve scratched one thing, you’re not going to keep going at the same spot, are you?
“Exactly. The more I think about it, it’s a subconscious thing. You don’t know that you’re looking to scratch a new place, you just kind of go “Oh I’ve done that already, let’s try something else’.”
With all of this reflection, what effect has having Can’t Swim in your life had over the course of these 5 years? How has it changed over that time for you?
“Oh man, it’s by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in my life. It still blows my mind that it’s on the level that it’s at, and that’s not even in terms of success or whatever. I was a nervous wreck before playing in this band. In my early 20’s I was super shy and reserved and never thought I would be able to stand on a stage and sing. It’s done even more than that now. It’s given me the confidence to take something that I think is cool and something that I’ve worked on and not be too nervous to put it out into the world. It’s also done so much for me in terms of dealing with people and having to be the boss at times. Can’t Swim has given me the means to feel content with myself.”