Can’t Swim is a four-piece post-punk band from New Jersey who are collectively redefining what it means for music to be cathartic. Between poignant vocals and dynamic instrumentals, listening to Can’t Swim feels like relinquishing the chains of a nine to five normality for a life of pure emotional creativity.
On December of 2015, the band went public with the deal they made with California-based new-wave pop punk champions Pure Noise Records and also premiered their first song called “Your Clothes” with a music video, which will be the first track on their debut five-song EP Death Deserves A Name slated for a February 26 release. So how does a band go from relative anonymity to the forefront of one of the alternative industry’s hottest labels without first impressing the public? The short answer: networking. Frontman Chris “Krier” Loporto did some demos with drummer Danny Rico in a makeshift Brooklyn studio and they sent the tracks off to Chris Hodge, now the band’s manager.
“Hodge sent it to that kid Shane from Title Fight, who I’ve met but I’m not really close with him, and he sent it to a booking agent called Brad Wiseman who happens to work in the office that Pure Noise is in, and that’s pretty much it,” Loporto says. “Then Jake called me and everybody over there at the label seemed to be on the same page. It really didn’t take long at all.” But the circumstance of their rise from the run down streets of Keansburg is not the only intriguing aspect of Can’t Swim’s music. The sound is heavy and soft yet chaotic, they describe it simply as “rock” on their social media sites. “I grew up playing drums in bands, I never really played an instrument with notes or sang or anything.” Loporto says, “In a sense of not being very capable on the guitar or singing I think I have an advantage because a lot of the sound of what Can’t Swim sounds like is just because I’ve been a fan of music for so long and listened to a lot of stuff in the 90s and the early 2000s. So when I picked up a guitar I just started to emulate those things because of listening to it for years. So there wasn’t much pre-thought into, ‘I want it to sound like this’ or ‘I don’t want it to sound like that’, it was just whatever I was capable of, whatever kind of chords I knew.”
The progression of the music industry has debatably taken labeling genres to a specific extreme. Allowing bands to metaphorically shoot themselves in the foot by alienating listeners and essentially letting the genre-label they have given themselves dictate their sound. Loporto believes that the sound has to come first, and then you can worry about categorizing it. But as far as that goes—the broader the better. “Especially now with the Internet and how accessible music is, it’s important for a band to switch their sound up and do different things because kids will get bored,” he says. “They don’t want to hear the same kind of vibe three records in a row, because they can just go to another band for that. If you want a fan to stick with ya you have to give them something new.” Loporto and Rico, with brothers-in-arms Mike Sanchez and Greg McDevitt, hope to take on the world with their music, with tours in the works but nothing set in stone yet. “With this type of music you gotta tour, kids want to see, and all the dudes in the band are psyched, we’re kind of planning our lives accordingly,” Loporto says. “Pure Noise is a pretty big label; they do a lot of stuff in the UK and Europe so I hope we get a chance to do the whole thing. That would be great.”
Though the beginning of 2016 has felt downright dismal for music lovers everywhere, with notable deaths touching fans from all over the musical spectrum, the year has proven nature’s law universally applicable: There is life in death. Where one music career ends others begin in the inspiring wake. “If you can’t do something, you shouldn’t do it. Write within your boundaries and write songs that mean something.” Don’t think of it like skipping to the front of the line or cheating the system, it’s an example of how a well put together group of young men used the system to their advantage.
Noisey: Can you tell me about the EP?
Chris Loporto: I did the demos for it on my home studio laptop. I started sending it to a friend of mine named Danny [Rico] who is actually now the drummer of the band. Danny didn’t have much of a studio but he had a practice space in Brooklyn and he had a little rig. Honestly the budget for the whole thing was probably like a hundred dollars, because we used one mic, pretty much, on all the guitar amps. We did do drums at a separate place, a local spot in New Jersey. Yeah so actually the drummer of the band did the whole thing. He engineered it, he produced all the songs, so it came together pretty easily.
Do you think in a way the broader you are, musically, the better?
Yeah, I just think that, especially now with the Internet and how accessible music is, it’s important for a band to switch their sound up and do different things because kids will get bored. They don’t want to hear the same kind of vibe three records in a row, because they can just go to another band for that. If you want a fan to stick with ya you have to give them something new, and if you’re a jazz-fusion pop band for too long I think people might get a little bit bored of it.
So from your perspective, being the frontman of a newly signed band about to release their debut record, what is the most important part of making an album?
With a genre like this- you know it’s not like a dance or like a pop band, I think, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s to be honest, to write songs that you and the rest of your band are really psyched about. I don’t think you should get too caught up on, “oh what kind of people are going to like this?” and “what kind of bands can we tour with if we put out this record?” It’s just about everybody on board. Everybody in the band being psyched on the songs, because people can see that and, especially with this genre, that’s what it’s all based around, writing songs that mean something to you.
You guys are from Keansburg, New Jersey, what’s the music scene like there?
Keansburg, New Jersey is a very small town. It’s pretty washed up. It had a boardwalk here years and years ago. I don’t think there is one person that has an instrument in this town so it’s not much. Honestly, it’s been pretty quick, we didn’t do much when we got signed, we didn’t even play a show yet. I did the record in Brooklyn so we’re pretty close to New York, I’m sure we’ll play a lot there. We’re also like an hour from Philly, but I don’t think we’ll be playing in Keansburg anytime soon haha.
What is your best advice for a band trying to get signed in 2016, the age of computers?
But I think for a band like us, the least amount of that you can put into your music is what kids are going to react to. So like I said before, make it honest. If you can’t do something, you shouldn’t do it. Write within your boundaries and write songs that mean something. Or get into a room with the four guys and whatever happens then record that, don’t be too concerned with like “ah man the drums need to be punchier, I think this band does this we should do that.” If it works it’s gonna work. I don’t think you should try and be something that you're not, especially in this type of music.
Griffin J. Elliot is a writer based in Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter.