After 25 years, California punks Swingin’ Utters are gearing up to release another album after only a year since their last. The band may have disappeared throughout the mid-2000s, but they are back in full swing. AP caught up with guitarist Darius Koski to chat about how the new record differs from previous releases, Jack Dalrymple (One Man Army) writing with the band for the first time and what Swingin’ Utters means to him.
INTERVIEW: Kristen Swanson
You guys formed in the late 80s and are still a touring band. What makes being older and still choosing to live this lifestyle a good idea for you?
DARIUS KOSKI: I can understand giving up touring because it’s kind of hard on the body. And if you’re like us and you don’t really do this for a full-time living then it’s harder to tour, because how are you going to make money and how are you going to get a job? I can understand why people quit, but in ’94 when I quit my first job to do a lot of tours, it was pretty much when I decided this was going to be the priority. Since then, I’ve taken whatever jobs I’ve had to and quit when I’ve had to. I’m never going to quit playing music and I don’t really ever want to quit touring either, so I’ll be doing it [in] some capacity for the rest of my life. I just like it too much.
The last record, Here, Under Protest, was released in 2011, but there were some “technical difficulties” when making the record. Did you guys run into anything like that this time around?
Actually, no. We’re at this new place working with the same people. It’s a different set of circumstances and it’s working really well right now. Part of it is definitely us. We’re more prepared, and we have our first rehearsal space in probably 10 years, so we’re practicing regularly and everybody is comfortable with all the songs. Last time I would bring CDs in and we’d practice five times before we’d record and it totally didn’t work at all.
A lot of [the problems in the past] were our problems, but also the studio did have technical problems with the board and things like that. A bunch of things came together last time that made it all sort of disastrous. We came away with a decent record, but the whole process was really difficult.
There was an eight-year gap between Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones and Here, Under Protest. When you started compiling the tracks for Hatest Grits: B-Sides And Bullshit in 2008, did that inspire you to start writing again?
I think it did. All we would do is these weekend dates, hardly ever getting out of California. [We] hadn’t been to the East Coast in seven years. Then all of a sudden they wanted to tour again. I was really happy about that because I didn’t see the point at releasing records without touring behind; they go hand in hand to me. Once everybody was onboard and decided they wanted to tour again, I just figured that it was time to start writing again, because I never stopped writing.
So was the inspiration for making this new record about keeping the momentum of releasing music going?
Yeah, and we have [a bunch of] songs. We all just want to keep the momentum going. Jack [Dalrymple] from One Many Army hasn’t written for our band yet, so, on this record, him and Johnny [Bonnel, vocals] wrote six songs or so. I wanted him to write for us for a really long time. I mean, he’s been in the band for 10-plus years now and these are the first songs he’s written for us, so that’s exciting. The styles are different and I’ve always liked that about us.
Jack wrote songs while in Dead To Me. What took him so long to get involved with the writing process for Swingin’ Utters? Was there something that kept him from writing for the band previously?
I’ve been on him about it for years now, and I don’t really know. I know he takes a while to finish songs. I also think for some weird reason that he was a little self-conscious, which doesn’t really make sense to me, but maybe that was part of it, too. But all of a sudden, for whatever reason, he had all these songs. Part of it also might have been that I had a lot of songs for the last record, but for this one we started from scratch. I’m sure we’re just going to see more of this in the future because we just kept writing songs. I actually had to put a stop on writing new songs because we had so many.
What will this new record represent in the Swingin’ Utters discography?
This is cementing that we’re back. Our last record wasn’t a fluke. I want people to know that we’re actually back and making records, touring, acting like a real band, like we never stopped. I know that we have a sound, but I like for all of our records to be a little different from one another, and this one is definitely different because of Jack’s [involvement]. It’s really cool because those songs don’t sound like anything we’ve ever done before so it’s exciting.
How has Jack Dalrymple changed the sound?
I don’t think there are any super-fast songs, which I guess would make it in vein of the last record, but the style of songwriting is different and the stuff that he’s doing right now is sort of new to him; it doesn’t sound like One Man Army or anything like that. There’s a lot of cool guitar stuff going on. There’s a country song and couple of songs that are acoustic. It’s kind of all over the place, which is how we like it.
There’s something about Fat Wreck Chords that has a family vibe, but there also seems to be this loyalty to the label. What’s your personal experience with the label?
It’s definitely got that whole family vibe and loyalty. A lot of bands have come and gone on Fat, but we’ve been on there since ’96, and No Use For A Name and Lagwagon have been on there since before we were on there. They give us a lot of freedom to do what we want. A lot of it is also that we’re personal friends with people from the label and that’s a huge thing because I can’t really imagine most bands seeing the owners of a big-ass major label socially.
As far as your career as a band, how would you say it’s turned out so far? There was a tribute album put out in 2010, so how did that make you feel?
[The tribute album] was super-flattering to me. That was amazing that anybody went through the effort to do that. When I think about it, I think we’ve accomplished a lot. We’ve toured the States and Europe a million times, we have a dozen CDs out and regardless of how successful you are to the general public, the fact that we’ve accomplished that much is huge. We’re lucky to have gotten as far as we have. I don’t tend to see things in a positive light ever, but I do think that we’ve accomplished a lot and to be around for as long as we have.