By Maggie Dickman
Can’t Swim’s music feels like heartbreak. The lyrics linger in your bones long after the speakers go silent, and Chris LoPorto’s haunting vocals embody a form of catharsis for listener and singer alike.
Currently, LoPorto is looking ahead to the release of the band’s first full-length, Fail You Again, set to drop this spring. And while contemplating that upcoming release, and looking back on debut EP Death Deserves A Name, he finds himself amazed by their first year as a band – and by the dedication they’ve drawn from fans in that time.
“We played Pittsburgh, and then maybe 30 days later, we played again on the other side of the city. This kid just comes up to me, lifts up his jeans, and has this big tattoo of our album cover,” Loporto says, amazed. “He was like, ‘Yeah man, I saw you guys last month, and I just got so psyched. I got a tattoo that night, and I just wanted to show you.’”
The group’s first year has been filled with more than just lively gigs and rad as hell fan tattoos, though. They also managed to garner the attention of Pure Noise Records, toured both the U.S. and Europe, and played their first-ever headlining show in London.
It sounds like a lot, but give Death Deserves A Name a listen, and you’ll understand why Can’t Swim are making waves.
Every aching chord is matched by crashing rhythms, coming to a conclusion with the title track’s poignant summation. Lyrically, LoPorto leaves no emotional stone unturned. His vocal potency would never expose the fact that he was never technically a vocalist. Or a guitarist, for that matter.
Growing up a drummer, LoPorto had never played anything with notes before. So one day he picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play from YouTube tutorials, recording demos along the way.
“I had the thought, ‘Oh maybe I could get someone to sing on them,’ and then that quickly fled me because I was like, ‘No one’s going to want to do that,’” LoPorto says, laughing. “So I was like, ‘Okay, maybe you could just try to sing on it.’ I never sang before, so it was all very, very new.”
Can’t Swim’s drummer/producer/engineer/mixer Danny Rico finalized the EP. With a lineup consisting of their mutual friends (who had technically never played together until they recorded their first music video for ‘Your Clothes’) and just a single EP to their name, the group played their first live show on a run with Four Year Strong. There, they learned that there’s nothing like being crammed in a van to forge true friendships – or, in Can’t Swim’s case, a true band.
“It was like we’d known each other for years,” LoPorto says. “We all started to get each other’s vibe, and then we started touring so we really had no option. We were in a van for 12 hours a day with each other, so we all became really close friends pretty quickly.”
Following their debut, the band spent the rest of the year on the road, touring with the likes of Hit The Lights, Seaway, Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties, Moose Blood, and Set Your Goals. The year reached its crescendo after taking to the stage at Riot Fest, and then heading on a European run with Boston Manor.
Of course, their year on the road resulted in more than just learning how each person handles living in tight quarters. They also had the opportunity to jam new songs as a group and produce a record with that “full band” feeling. Death Deserves A Name was essentially spawned by LoPorto himself. But with Fail You Again, the group wrote and assembled ideas as a collective, which is what excites LoPorto the most about their new music.
“In comparison musically, I think we were just a little bit more ‘band,’” LoPorto says. “We had a year of playing together, and we could jam out the ideas, so I definitely think that it sounds more like a rock band.”
Their stinging take on alt-rock doesn’t simply stem from their time together, though. Because of their shared do-it-yourself mentality, LoPorto sees a whole new dynamic coming to fruition – something like “being married four different ways,” he explains. A full band comes with a varied set of influences, proving that the approach to writing, self-recording, engineering and producing that they maintained for their full-length is backed by a solid background of musical breadth.
Fail You Again sees Rico uphold his role as the “wizard when it comes to recording.” Bassist Greg McDevitt throws in a sense of “musical complexity.” Guitarist Mike Sanchez brings his knack for “hooks and [finding] where the listener is going to be interested.” Sonically speaking, Fail You Again embodies everything from soft and slow to fast and aggressive. But LoPorto explains that the new record is not a new Can’t Swim – it simply sees the band expanding their musical boundaries.
“I think we all come from the same mindset, but we all grew up in very different musical backgrounds, which I’d like to think works for us. It’s not just a regular pop rock band,” LoPorto says. “There are some poppy songs, there’s some more sludgy, rockier songs. I like to think it’s a little more diverse and a little more dynamic than Death Deserves A Name.”
Can’t Swim’s explosive debut is followed by a brutally honest record packed with everything it takes to cement the group’s place amongst alt-rock’s elite and LoPorto has managed to steer clear of any anxieties with their follow-up record. Because really, Can’t Swim’s experiences have already surpassed any expectations and now they’re simply going with what feels right.
“I never imagined any of this. I never even imagined us practicing or playing a shitty basement show, but I definitely never thought in less than a year that we’d be playing shows in Belgium and England,” LoPorto says. “The more and more we tour and the more and more we do with the band, the more it feels like this is what we want to be doing.”
Fail You Again is released on 10 March 2017 through Pure Noise Records.