Tête-à-tête: Sharkswimmer

I had the incredible opportunity to chat with Sharkswimmer at the end of a very nice, very long weekend. It was a Sunday night, and whereas I tend to hate doing work on a Sunday night, I had been looking forward to this interview for quite some time. Justin has amazingly positive vibes (we texted back and forth trying to find time for the interview), and Steph is honestly my hero. You’ll find out why later on (tip: keep reading).

I started the interview by just getting a quick lay of the land if you will, so I asked, ‘who is in the band anyway?’

Justin: There are four of us—myself, Justin, I play guitar and sing, Stephanie plays bass and sings, we have Jesse, our drummer, and Danny, our lead guitarist. They’re both wonderful.

I found out that Jesse and Danny weren’t able to do the interview because “they are jetsetters and fly all across the world.” ONE DAY WE WILL TALK FELLAS, ONE DAY. In fact, if I can muster up the strength and revive my party-girl-past, I could meet them at the EP release show at Saint Vitus tonight.

Throughout the text exchange where we coordinated the interview, Justin let slip that he and Steph were moving into a new apartment, so I had to ask.

Left Bank: So, are you in a relationship or just friends?

Steph: We’re married …

Left Bank: Holy moly! (why would I say that? who says holy moly these days?)

Steph: I don’t ever want people to see us as the ‘couple band’ I joined the band later on, after they had been playing for a year, and the previous bassist (Ted who plays with Shadow Year) decided to do that full time, and I didn’t play the bass at the time, that was about a year ago and by this time I already knew the band, I was good friends with Danny, and I was like ‘I wouldn’t be that annoying wife like hey I want to do this’ …

Left Bank: right (aside: my worst fear is becoming an annoying wife; it’s also pretty much inevitable)

Steph: So I learned how to play the bass and yeah …

Justin: She grew up playing piano for like ten years, so she had some musical training and an ear for it. She picked it up way faster than I could have ever picked up any instrument

Left Bank: That’s impressive

Steph: It was a good creative outlet for me at the time when I joined because I was in a job that I just hated

Left Bank: I have so many questions for you guys …

Pause to discuss the super awesome band Blushing, who is also from Austin, and could be actually called a couple band (they are made up of two couples). Justin’s friend also put out Blushing’s first 7″. Yes, ladies and gentlefreaks, it is a really small world.

Left Bank: So how did you get started, how did you guys become a band?

Justin: So it has been a little over two years since we started the band. Steph and I moved here [NYC] from Austin about five years ago, and I had a band called Inside Voices that I kept flying back to Austin to go on little tours with them … it took me a while to find people to play with here so I was sort of doing this as a solo thing. I’m not really a singer-songwriter kind of guy but I would get asked to play these little solo things, and one of the songs was actually called “Sharkswimmer.” I really liked it for a band … I found Danny, our guitar player when I was in this band called Trash Gendar and we played with Fraidy Cat, which was Danny’s old band, and whenever I saw them play I would be like ‘oh my god literally they would be the backing band that I would want for this band that I’m thinking about calling Sharkswimmer.’ So I talked to Danny after they broke up and he was interested in putting something together, then we found a drummer after trying a few people out and started playing shows.

Steph: Jesse, our drummer, is fairly new. He joined us like four months ago, right before our first EP release show.

Justin: When we found him [Jesse] he was at one of our shows, before David got in the accident (he was already planning on quitting the band) …

Paused to discuss terrible bike wrecks that both their drummer and guitar got in. WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING PEOPLE, AND LOOK BEFORE YOU OPEN A FREAKING DOOR. JAYSUS.

Steph: He really liked us and I knew our drummer was about to leave and after the show, I talked to him, and I was like ‘yeah so are you looking to play with any other bands’ and he was like ‘actually I am’ … so we poached him that night.

Left Bank: It’s not the first time I’m hearing this type of story. I often hear about bands getting new members from fans in the crowd at their shows

Steph: Yeah it’s such a tight-knit community, just Brooklyn bands in general

Credit: Michelle LoBianco

Steph: I feel like we’re actually coming into our sound. The band feels solid, it almost feels like a different iteration from what you started with

Justin: Yeah, it’s been really great

Left Bank: And Steph do you feel comfortable putting your own spin on the bass parts?

Steph: Yeah! The first five months or so when I first started, all of the songs on the last EP were songs that Justin had taught me, that the previous bassist had written. But immediately when I joined the band, I became part of the scene and got the itch and wanted to write my own songs and I was like ‘I want to be a badass.’ I saw all of these other female bassists killing it on stage and I also wanted to do that. Over the summer, with “Break the Spell” that was the first time that I wrote my own bass parts. And also wrote the lyrics to the song.

Left Bank: No, really?!

Steph: Comin’ in hot …

P.S. Steph is also a writer in her professional life so that’s why she thinks writing lyrics came naturally; I think she’s being humble.

Left Bank: So who wrote the other two on this new EP?

Steph: Windowsill was me

Justin: Steph wrote “Windowsill,” well, the lyrics for it. And I wrote the words for “Another Year in Review”

Left Bank: So this is your second EP total? And you’re playing the AdHoc show? That’s impressive!

Steph: Our first EP release was an AdHoc show

Justin: … that was like me begging them to work with us

Steph: We have a great group of friends and we got a lot of people out. It was fun so I think AdHoc was like ‘well you packed that room so let’s do it again’

Left Bank: I’m still begging them [AdHoc] to pay attention to me, for like, a second …

Justin: There are so many great bands and when I reached out to them, I was like they aren’t even going to respond

Left Bank: So you’re releasing this and you’ve got the show, what do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

Justin: We’re going out of town for our first time, we’re going on a tiny tour November 8th, playing Baltimore and D.C. and Philly. So that’s exciting.

Left Bank: And DC … Correct me if I’m wrong but did you play the Taciturn show or you’re just fans of theirs?

Steph: We played with them at Brooklyn Bazaar

Justin: CUP asked us to play that show. They [Taciturn] rule, I love them!

Left Bank: That’s sick, that’s really cool! You guys are playing some really good cities …

Steph: … and after that …

Justin: We got asked to open for TheMovielife, which is a band that I grew up really loving, at Rough Trade at the end of December for their holiday show.

Left Bank: At Rough Trade! You guys are like famous!

Steph: I’m scared shitless.

Left Bank: You know what I find interesting? How a band can start, or be a different iteration for other bands, and that new band will just take off … or not. And you just really never know.

Steph: It’s all about the people, finding that right fit. It doesn’t mean the sound is wrong, its all about timing.

Justin: … the vibe, how you are on stage together …

We took a minute to talk about how much we both love CUP and TRASH TV. CUP or TRASH TV, If you’re reading this, send me anything for the site. In fact, I’ll just give you the keys to Left Bank. You deserve it.

Left Bank: So I was listening to your new EP Stolen Goods, it’s really good. I don’t mean to sound surprised, but you know how sometimes there’s a band you really like, and then they release a new album and you’re like, hmm I don’t really like this. It’s a pleasant surprise hearing an album that I love; I’ve been doing this five years now, and I have followed bands religiously and then release a new album or a track and they want me to write about it, and I just don’t feel it. It sucks. So it’s nice I love this new album haha! All that to say, I was listening to it and was like this is so good. It feels like you’re talking about the political climate …

Justin: Exactly. Even with the first EP we had a song called “PHD in anxiety” and I wrote it the moment after Trump got elected

Steph: It’s hard not to let this ongoing conversation about the current state of things, [it’s] distressing and you feel like your reality is completely warped

Justin: We try to make it less obvious; don’t want to shove it down people’s throats

Left Bank: I wonder, say we had a really great President and things were better, it’s not great that he’s president but as a whole, people are making so much art in defiance of it …

Steph: That’s a more positive way to look at things too, and I completely agree. I think there’s been so much progress because of this person being in office. It’s a movement.

We went down a very proper rabbit hole about the importance of voting in smaller elections as well, because these are the people who, when put together, can make really big change. Go vote, today is the day.

Left Bank: Do you feel you’re more inspired to write in New York or Austin, or is it kind of the same thing?

Justin: I feel like I wrote so much more growing up; I don’t know if it depends on being in Austin or New York or wherever, I think it just is being inspired by life events

Steph: Honestly, going out to shows makes me inspired. Anytime I go to a show I’m like ‘oh god I want to write’ … and then I just go home to sleep

Throughout our chat, I learned that for Sharkswimmer the lyrics and songwriting process tend to come at the end of the process, not the beginning.

Steph: It’s funny, we are more of a melodic, lyric-driven band, so it’s funny that the lyrics come last.

Justin and Steph sat down once to try to write lyrics for a song together, and that just didn’t work; it’s something they have learned they will never do again.

Left Bank: Finally, what is your measure of success and how would you know that you’ve made it?

Justin: I think honestly with music, just as a kid and seeing bands and being like ‘I want to do that’, my measure of success is just playing for people that love your band; just making music that make people feel something

Steph: That people connect to

Justin: Just meeting people and being able to offer them something.

Alright, so who wants to hear the new album (put out by the small label Cosmic Western) …