How 'School of Rock' inspired SWMRS' garage-rock gems
SWMRS, the pop-punk quartet from Northern California, includes the progeny of a Green Day member — Billie Joe Armstrong’s son Joey plays the drums — but the band has made its own way in the business. Earlier this month, the group released their new album Drive North, a collection of scuzzy nuggets helmed by friend and FIDLAR frontman Zac Carper.
Although SWMRS has come up through the same Berkeley punk scene that spawned Green Day two decades ago — including the vaunted music club at 924 Gilman Street — they’ve forged a path that doesn’t strictly adhere to the Bay Area’s regional stylings. “We’re kind of lodged into this L.A. garage-rock scene,” 20-year-old frontman Cole Becker tells EW. “But what’s really important to us about being from the East Bay and the East Bay scene is how it’s more than just music. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a way of thinking about the world that’s unique to the Bay Area.”
Becker chatted with EW about working with Carper, getting inspired by School of Rock, and meeting Joey at his fourth birthday party.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me a little bit about recording Drive North.
COLE BECKER: We did it in two weeks at a small studio in Oakland. We wanted to be really open to experimentation — we love FIDLAR, but the reason we chose Zac was more because of his willingness to experiment and his love of being in the studio. He has a very addictive personality, so since he’s been sober, him being in the studio is kind of a new addition and it was really fun to just let him go crazy on some songs. “Miss Yer Kiss” was just him and me f–king around for a long time.
How’d you connect with him?
We met him at Burgerama early last year and he saw our set. He came up to Oakland to cut some demos with us in our basement. From there we were like, “This will be really fun, you’re a cool dude, we don’t party that much, you don’t party at all.”
How long have SWMRS been playing together?
Max [Becker] is my older brother. Joey and Max and I have known each other since Joey’s fourth birthday. That’s like 16 years! We started playing music when we were nine, because we saw School of Rock and were like, “Oh my god, these kids are so badass! They’re playing music and they’re only nine years old. There’s no reason we can’t do this.” What was really cool about that movie, too, was that they wrote their own songs. From the outset we were always like, “We’re going to write our own songs, that’s what real bands do.” So we never got trapped into the thing of like, we should have someone co-write with us — that’s some bulls—t.
What’s it like having a son of a member of Green Day in your band?
It’s like having any other dad involved, you know. I think we like talking about our parents as much as [anybody] likes to talk about their parents.
Does he come to your shows?
Yeah, he’s pretty normal.
How did growing up in the East Bay influence your sound?
It’s very inclusive. And the all ages [rule at 924 Gilman Street] is so important to us. The idea that music is for everybody and you should do everything you can to make sure your shows are a safe space. That’s been so influential to us. We used to write political songs and that was very much in the vein of the East Bay punk aesthetic. None of our songs are overtly political anymore, but it’s still very much a lens that we think about our world through, and I attribute that to the East Bay scene. And Drive North is a documentation of growing up in the Bay Area.