CAN’T SWIM know a thing or two about honesty. The New Jersey outfit live by punk’s DIY ethos and while they’re a band you are more likely to discover via a fellow Jane Lane who only listens to Sports and After Laughter, they’re pros at tethering emotions to hooks that will punch you right in the mouth. Their new record This Too Won’t Pass (out now on Pure Noise) takes the “bitter basement anthems” of 2017’s Fail You Again and refocuses them into a heavier, sharper alt-rock context — pinning heartfelt odes and poetic interstitials to a greater sense of chemistry that levels you in seconds.
With the group doing a North American tour with Trophy Eyes, Seaway, Hot Mulligan, and Microwave (see dates), we spoke to frontman Chris LoPorto about finding peace, learning from others, and how This Too Won’t Pass is a tenacious epitome of the band “in its purest form”.
This Too Won’t Pass is intended to be an album for those who live by music and depend on it in times of need. What influenced you to write a record for those who find it really tough to articulate their thoughts, emotions, and anxieties?
Music was exactly that for me when I was younger and still is to this day. I was always attracted to it for that reason and when Can’t Swim started, it seemed only fitting to make music in the same regard. Almost like a “payback” for all the bands that were there for me when I was a kid.
Are there any records you turn to when things aren’t going so well?
Oh, big time. The Lemonheads’ It’s A Shame About Ray, Alkaline Trio’s From Here To Infirmary, and Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight are three. My uncle Mike showed me The Lemonheads at a young age; he was also the first person to teach me how to play the drums. I suppose there’s a sense of nostalgia when I hear that record. It reminds me of when I started learning music and how important the relationship I have with my uncle is.
Frightened Rabbit are a band my ex-girlfriend and I really bonded over. Whenever they would play New York, we would go. They were a great part of my life and we really got so much closer because of the music we both enjoyed. That was the first time I realized how important that was to me and what having similar interests can actually do for a serious relationship.
Alkaline Trio are probably the most impactful out of all three to be honest. I love their songs and I loved the aesthetic of the band, and their songwriting really changed everything for me. They showed me lyrics don’t have to be covered in metaphors and tricky word play to get your point across. I just loved the band’s honesty and it really inspired me to write in a similar way with Can’t Swim.
From your perspective, how would you describe This Too Won’t Pass? And how would you compare it to last year’s Fail You Again?
I think it’s the best interpretation of our band yet. We have had a few years now to really figure out what kind of music we want to write and figure out what our strengths and weaknesses are as a band. Fail You Again was really spread across the spectrum — kind of shooting in the dark to find ourselves and I think it was very important for us and a good way to figure it out. When I listen back to This Too Won’t Pass though, I really hear our band in its purest form.
Are there any new songs that you’re particularly proud of?
“My Queen” and “Congratulations, Christopher Hodge” had so much of the other guys’ influence on them. I am very proud that we all have gotten to a place where writing songs comes naturally and nobody puts up roadblocks for another person’s creativity. To collaborate in the studio, and sometimes in the spur of the moment, is something I always dreamed about doing in a band.
One of the greatest aspects of the record is how it experiments with tempo and melodies — from the riffs in “Daggers” and “Sometimes” to the chorus in “Amnesia 666”. What was it like working with the other guys on this album?
So great. I had a bunch of demos before we went into the studio so we had plenty of material to work off of. All of the guys put their two cents into each song and that would sometimes change the entire shape of the track. It was certainly produced our most collaborative release yet and I think that’s what really makes it stand out from our other records.
What inspired the new art direction for This Too Won’t Pass?
Growing up, I was really into Japanese culture. Anything from the movies and television shows to even the fashion and particular brands I became obsessed with; it was just a constant interest of mine. The Oni head on the cover art is a symbol for “the devil” or “demon” in Japanese folklore and literature. A lot of the lyrics on this record have to do with evil and my general distaste for how people treat each other. We wanted to portray that theme throughout and we needed a fresh start from our previous releases. The Oni was very fitting.
During the recording process, you found yourself gravitating towards the word “evil” and how it summarized elements in your life. This is somewhat difficult to ask, but what were those particular elements? And how have you found a way to cope with them?
When you’re a year away from turning 30, the opinions you have on the world around you change. I’ve grown pretty tired and frustrated with many people in my life and witnessing the negativity in general started to take a toll. It’s really important to find peace within yourself, but also to live your life in different ways to not be apart of the evil. This band has always been an escape for me personally as it provides feelings of comfort and friendship. Writing about those things and accepting them helps — like turning a negative into a positive. I’m just lucky to have Can’t Swim as a way to vent.
Do you think society and norms play more of a significant role when it comes to our interpersonal relationships nowadays? I went through a breakup a few days before Halloween and while it was an example of “right people at the wrong time”, it was cut short due to the pressures that come with dating in 2018 opposed to 2008.
I’m sorry to hear that! I certainly see what you mean though. Now more than ever people seem to be obsessed with their image and how other people perceive them, and their actual wants and needs take a back seat. I do very much sympathize with young people in this generation with the constant criteria of selfies and self promotion. When I was a kid, I’d be nervous to walk into a room with 10 people let alone post a picture of myself to an audience of millions.
Is there any advice you’d give to those who find it difficult to move on from the “evils” of today or the events of their past?
Honestly, I might not be the guy to ask (laughs). My only suggestion would be don’t try to blank it from your memory. That can be impossible to do sometimes but it helps to come to terms with it and accept it for what it is. It’s not the end of the world by any means as life goes on.
What’s the story behind the song “Winter Of Cicada” and its title?
Greg [McDevitt], our bass player, was in a band when we were kids and they had a song called “Summer Of Cicada”. I always kinda looked up to those guys and they made a big impact on me musically growing up. I have a line in the song that mentions winter and I just used the play on words as a working title to kind of joke around with Greg. After looking at it for a few weeks, I liked the sound of it and decided to keep it. Lyrically, it just touches on a relationship I have covered in many Can’t Swim songs. It’s basically the summary of coming to terms with the end of it all, and I found it very fitting to close out the record.
Are there any writers that push you to put your thoughts out there and blur the lines between poetry and personal reflection?
I was a big Ben Gibbard fan growing up. Evan Dando. Robert Smith. Tim Kasher. The list goes on and on and on. I feel very privileged to be apart of music in these few decades as there’s a lot of great stuff to dig your teeth into. Like Nate [Hardy] from Microwave constantly blows me away. I find myself digging back through his lyrics pretty often and just really enjoying them. He has a very unique way of getting his point across and all of his words are so relatable.
Pat [Kindlon] from Drug Church is another one. These last few days, I have listened to nothing but their new record Cheer. His lyrics are so brilliant, pissed off, and motivating. I really think that record could appeal to an 18-year-old and a 48-year-old all the same. I’ve been lucky enough to tour with both and they really set the bar pretty dang high.
Is there anything you would like to accomplish in or outside of music in the next year?
Sleep more. Eat less. Really hone in on my Tetris skills. I also need to get a grip on my black licorice addiction (laughs).
What do you hope fans can take away from This Too Won’t Pass?
I hope it excites them enough to come out to a show. Our band really relies so much on the sharing of the music in a live space — it’s why and how we write the songs. So learn the words so you can come out, sing along and jump around.