We caught up with Swingin’ Utters earlier this year when they played Riot Fest and spoke with singer Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel and guitarist/singer Darius Koski. We talked about their latest album, Fistful of Hollow, including its style and how it was recorded. We also discussed the reasons for the band being so productive as of late, having released three full-lengths in the last six years. Additionally, we conversed about their upcoming new album, which they’ve already begun writing and hope to release next year.
Bill – Your latest full-length, Fistful of Hollow, incorporates a variety of influences. Everything from Britpop to folk to West Coast punk is represented on this record. Was it your intent from the beginning to make such a diverse album?
Johnny – I believe it just happened on its own. We never really go into an album aiming for a certain direction or anything like that, or try to be as diverse as we can. We have so many influences as band members that they’re all going to be injected into the songs. We want each album to be as diverse as possible, but I don’t think we’re aiming for a certain sound. It was a good coincidence I guess.
Darius – I think a lot of what you’re hearing, because I think most of our records have a lot of weird shit on them stylistically, but I think what you’re hearing on the last maybe two records are the addition of songwriters who haven’t written for us before. Jack, (guitarist/singer Jack Dalrymple) on Poorly Formed and then Miles, (bassist Miles Peck) on this latest record, and that’s kind of why it sounds even more different than our previous records. There’s a completely different voice in there.
Bill – That was actually going to be my next question, I was going to ask about Miles. What do you like best about the contributions that he brought to this record?
Darius – Just the simple thing that he writes differently than we do, but it’s good, (laughs). That’s kind of all I can really say, but we’ve always liked him as a friend before he was in the band, he had his own band in the East Bay, but they weren’t really writing the kind of stuff he’s writing for us.
Bill – Where did you record Fistful of Hollow and what was your time in the studio like?
Johnny – It was great. We recorded at Jingletown in Oakland with Chris Dugan. It was awesome. That was the first we recorded with him, well, I guess we recorded a little bit with him for Poorly Formed, but that was more mixing. He’s really good though. He understands us, he’s really easygoing and anything that we wanted, he sort of bent over backwards and made it happen. He gives us free reign and doesn’t tweak the knobs so much that it sounds overproduced and we appreciate that.
Bill – The record’s title track is one of the most distinctive entries on the album. What inspired its creation?
Darius – I don’t know where my stuff comes from, it just comes and then you put it down and it’s done. Then when I listened to it, it sounded like the Buzzcocks to me. I think I was channeling the Buzzcocks, but I don’t know, it just came out like that. And then Fistful of Hollow, I came up with that title, but it wasn’t intentionally a Smiths reference. I’m a big Smiths fan, but then we just said “fuck it” and made it into kind of an homage to The Smiths with the whole cover of the record and everything. But I don’t know, I don’t know where any of this shit comes from. Probably from listening to the Buzzcocks when I was a teenager.
Bill – Going back to 2011, you guys have released three albums in a relatively short amount of time. What’s allowed for your band to be so creative recently?
Johnny – I think the hiatus that we had was mainly because of me. My kids were really young at the time and I just wanted to be at home. Touring was really not that exciting for me and I wasn’t in a happy place when I was on tour. So my kids grew up and it was easier to explain to them what was going on and why I was going away. And now with all the technology, it’s easier to contact them on tour. Now I’m kind of like “Aw man, there was a long time where we weren’t writing, so let’s catch up.” I just want to keep busy.
Bill – What were some of the highlights of your set at Riot Fest today?
Darius – Just playing Riot Fest. We’ve wanted to do it for a long time now. We’re a small band, man. We don’t have crew or anything, so it’s cool to play these festivals. Once you’re in, getting in is a fuckin’ pain in the ass if you don’t have a crew, but once you’re in it’s fun. The sound is always good and everything’s organized and I like that. It was a good set.
Johnny – I really enjoyed watching the crowd do circle pits and stuff like that. We rarely see that at festivals when we play, because we’re not on the top bill and usually like today, we’re opening up. So it was exciting to see that.
Bill – What does the rest of the year and beyond look like for Swingin’ Utters?
Johnny – A new record of course and more touring. It’s as simple as that. I’m just going keep writing, keep staying busy and try and get as many records as I can before I die.
Bill – How far along are you guys in the writing process for the new record?
Darius – We’ve been really lazy about it for some weird reason. I’ve got about four songs that are done and demoed. We all have a lot of material, but we’re just being really slow about it. We’re going to start when we get back home and actually start practicing these songs. I’m hoping we can get into the studio sometime in the winter and then have a new record out by summer.