(Photo Credit – Asia Hunter)
Night Swims is the personal project of Ohio-raised songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Thomas and the band have recently released their excellent debut album ‘IDLE/WILD’. Michael began writing songs during the pandemic and, having recruited his friend (now bassist in Night Swims) Dave Savoian, the pair began shaping the demos ‘into something more refined.’ Drummer / percussionist Nathan Atwood rounded out the group, which was then completed with the addition of guitarist Tim Powers.
It’s a record that is richly textured and immersive and covers a number of musical styles; from alternative and indie with some rock, gospel, Americana, Psychedelia, Punk and R&B mixed into great effect. It is clear that the band has spent a lot of time working on getting it to sound exactly the way they want it to be heard. My favorite tracks: Neverless, All Night Radio and Hide Your Dreams.
We caught up with Michael to talk about ‘IDLE/WILD’ and the influences to his life that helped create
Hi Michael! How’s everything going right now?
Everything is going well. A bit chaotic, but I’m overall very pleased with Idle/Wild and where we landed in the final product. We are a band that started during COVID so instead of starting off by working towards playing shows, we started with the goal being to record an album. The shows were ultimately secondary. Having the time to just focus on making the record gave me the time to really develop the material first before we even played our first gig which has been beneficial in our live performances thus far. We had a solid year of rehearsing before we even hit the stage which made us refined musically right at the beginning of us playing live. It has only gotten better since. I’m feeling excited by that.
What classic album cover is your current mood?
I’d say PJ Harvey’s “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.” I feel as though I’m standing isolated, trying to remain grounded whilst the rest of world is moving too damn fast around me
Your debut album ‘IDLE/WILD’ was released last month and its a great listen. How does it feel to have shared it with the world?
It’s a bit of a relief frankly. There was so much inner pressure in leading up to Idle/Wild being released. I am now feeling like “Ok, I put all of myself into this first record and now it is out there. People are either going to get what I’m about or snub their noses at it.” Idle/Wild is very reflective but also hopeful. I made it strictly for myself but now is the time to share. It’s exciting in that respect. There is relief and excitement. And a bit of anxiousness.
You wrote over 100 songs during the pandemic – how easy was it to narrow them down to the final ten on the album? Is the next album already almost there?
I’d say it was rather easy because these were the best songs I wrote during that time. They were also the most honest I feel. There are songs I put together but ultimately shelved as they didn’t speak to me as deeply in the way the tracks on Idle/Wild do. I was very much looking for retention along the way in these songs and believe I found that. It’s not a skin deep record and has a lot of layers. There is a lot to explore and discover on repeated listens. As for the next one I have to say that currently, I’m just enjoying this first one being finished. It was two years of my life and I need to savor its completion However, the next album is in the writing phase. I have a lot of new ideas and a direction I’m developing for the 2nd. I write everyday and will continue doing so until I feel I have a collection of songs that adequately speaks to where I am right now. As I said, I don’t want to rush something just to get it out. I need it to be well refined and sustain my interest.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
“Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating in Space” by Spiritualized. It’s a masterpiece in the concept of full records. It was the first full record I listened to where I felt complete afterwards. If Jason Pierce hadn’t released anything there after, I would have been able to accept that. It has everything I’m interested in as far as musically, sonically, emotionally, and I hold it as an achievement to strive towards; creating a record where you don’t want to miss anything.
The album’s sound is difficult to pin down to just one genre. It reminded me of early Doves records in places. Who did you grow up listening to and how did they influence how you approached recording ‘IDLE/WILD’?
I grew up privileged in regards to the music I listened to before I even started branching out on my own musical journey. My family had an eclectic taste that gave me the yearning to find more. I listened to Isley Brothers as much as I did Black Sabbath. I grew up on a lot of R&B and heavier rock which led me to The Stooges. They were like nothing I ever heard before when I was around 14. I played guitar already but Ron Asheton played guitar in a way that made me want to actually play the guitar, not just use it as a tool for writing. He taught me that making fucked up noise could be beautiful. As for songwriters, Townes Van Zandt showed me the romance in being troubled and weary. I love Dylan, but Townes spoke to me more intimately. When I was around 5ish, the first record I ever remember really hearing was probably “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic or “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns and Roses. However as I started defining who I was as a listener, English music began to resonate with me the most. Everything from 60’s stuff like Them, The Kinks, The Beatles, The Stones to 70’s Floyd, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath to the 80’s like The Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Stone Roses, and then into the music that was current at the time like The Verve, Blur, Radiohead, Pulp and of course Spiritualized. I also had an affinity for a lot of solo artists such as PJ Harvey, Scott Walker, and the likes. When I was growing into my teens, I became obsessed with American Psychedelia Rock too. Bands that were contemporary like Dead Meadow, The Icarus Line, and then more classic like 13th Floor Elevators, The Red Krayola, and such. There was also a lot of heavier punk and stuff that got me. A lot of the LA punk scene from the 80’s and early 90’s.
You’ve lived in a few different places, from Ohio to Ireland and Chicago and now you are in San Diego. How have the different locations and cultures you’ve experienced affected what you write about in your songs?
I’d say the influence I’ve gained from each place is what I’m still learning about now. I grew up in a pretty small town in Ohio where it was a bit closed off. There wasn’t a lot to do and everyone knew everyone. That drove me to become a bit more private. Once I moved to a bigger city like Chicago when I was 19, I stopped being so private and really put myself out there, but in a very unhealthy way. Bigger cities have a way of making you feel unimportant and that is a strike to your ego. How you deal with that can either be positive or negative. I was definitely subject to the former. I dealt with feelings of inadequacy by being belligerent, and self destructive. I eventually grew to understand a bit more of the complexities of ego and how to balance your self worth, but that took a long time. Dublin was a bit of a blur to be honest. I loved Ireland and thought about staying permanently but ultimately it was just a way to escape Chicago for a bit. After I left Ireland I moved back to Chicago for another couple years but permanently moved from there to San Diego, which gave me some peace that I truly needed; time to look inwards with sincerity and honesty. It gave me the chance to look at my life and start navigating it more effectively and in much better health.
Your next concert is at The Kensington Club in San Diego on March 23rd – are you planning to tour the record across the US (and maybe further afield) later this year?
We are planning to tour the album, it’s just a matter of when. Right now we have a bunch of dates in California lined up, but we are looking to the end of July to start putting together smaller tours before the next album, at which point we will look to plan a full US and beyond. However if things progress as far as the reception to Idle/Wild we could be making plans sooner.
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Ricotta, Spinach, and Mushroom. Not sure what to call it.
What else do you have planned for 2022?
As previously stated, small tours around the US and writing for the next album. Most importantly though is the refinement and elevation of our live performances; that is my main goal. I just want to play live as much as possible and promote this first record.
The debut album ‘Idle/Wild’ from San Diego-bred Night Swims is the personal project of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Michael Thomas of the alternative, multi-genre rock band Night Swims, who released their accomplished and atmospheric debut album ‘Idle/Wild’ on 11th February 2022.
The lead track from the album is a song called ‘Neverless’, which explores themes of authenticity and bravery. Night Swims have received strong support from Buzzbands LA on the release of ‘Neverless’, which was positively reviewed, played on Buzzband LA radio and included on their ‘Greatest Hits’ Spotify playlist this week.