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A punk rock band from Oakland, California with a taste for vintage West Coast pop-punk and a melodic sense akin to indie rock, SWMRS (pronounced "swimmers") started out when they were too young to drive, but they've matured into a sound and style of their own. Making their official debut in the early 2010s under the name Emily's Army, they released a pair of albums -- as well as the prophetically-titled Swim EP -- under that moniker before officially switching to SWMRS in 2015. Signed to Fueled by Ramen, they issued breakthrough LP Drive North in 2016.
The SWMRS story begins in 2004, when Cole Becker and Joey Armstrong were inspired to form a band after watching the movie School of Rock; both were just nine years old at the time, but youthful inexperience wasn't about to stop them. Armstrong had a bit more knowledge of how life in a rock band works than the average kid, since his father is Billie Joe Armstrong, leader of Green Day, but he opted to play drums rather than guitar, with Cole Becker playing guitar and handling lead vocals, and Cole's brother Max Becker (the old man of the group at 11) filling out the original lineup on bass and vocals.
The trio was originally known as the Raining Souls; when they found that name was already in use, they switched to the Clocks, and after they learned that name was also taken, they decided on Emily's Army in honor of Cole and Max's cousin Emily, who was living with cystic fibrosis. In 2008, Emily's Army released a handful of recordings on their MySpace page, and despite their youth, began playing shows at small venues and festivals around California. In 2009, they released their debut EP, Goody Two Shoes, and that same year they expanded to a quartet with the addition of guitarist Travis Neumann. In 2011, Emily's Army released their first full-length album, Don't Be a Dick!, with Billie Joe Armstrong producing the sessions. Armstrong also produced the group's second album, Lost at Seventeen, which was released in 2013.
By this time, the group had mounted East and West Coast tours, played a string of dates in the U.K., and hit the road with the Vans Warped Tour. In 2014, the band released an EP called Swim, but while the record featured the lineup that had been together since 2009, by the time it was released Travis Neumann had left the band, Max Becker moved from bass to guitar, and Seb Mueller became the new bassist. With the new lineup, Emily's Army went through some stylistic changes, and they became reluctant to play their older material. In 2014, they were booked to play some festival dates in England, but discovered their contract precluded them from playing shows of their own during their downtime. To get around the contract, they booked a short U.K. club tour under the name Swimmers, and made SWMRS their official new handle once they returned to America.
In 2015, SWMRS released a single, "Miley" b/w "Uncool," and launched a short tour in the spring of that year, though Mueller was unable to make the dates (he was finishing exams at college), so Joey's brother Jakob Armstrong took over on bass until Mueller was free of his academic obligations. In February 2016, SWMRS released their first album under their new name, Drive North; the album was produced by Zac Carper of the band FIDLAR, and was released through the band's own Uncool Records label. After the album's initial independent release, SWMRS landed a new record deal with noted punk label Fueled by Ramen, which had entered a partnership with Atlantic Records. Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic reissued Drive North in a new edition in October 2016; this version added two songs to the track list, "Palm Trees" and "Lose It." Two years later, they issued the title track from their fourth full-length, Berkeley's on Fire. Released in early 2019, the punchy set was produced by Rich Costy (Muse, Death Cab for Cutie). ~ Mark Deming
- Oakland, CA