With a band name that comes from the trading of football stickers, Liverpool band The Swapsies fall into and place themselves into the not-so-well-known genre that is ‘Indie-Pop’. Singer and guitarist Huw Spink describes the genre as “essentially it is the pop punk DIY thing, but with pop music instead of rock music.”
“I hate genres personally. We call ourselves indie pop - just cause we’ve gotta call ourselves something”.
The Swapsies embraced the punk/post punk DIY ethic of fanzines with their last EP release in December 2013 titled ‘Sparrows’. The EP featured a zine made by Manchester duo ‘Young Explorer’. Half of the EP was recorded in their rehearsal studio, and the other half was recorded at Liverpool’s Mello Mello during the campaign to save the cafe and music venue.
Their release previous to this featured a set of stickers of football scarves and hats; and in their latest quest to find a bass player, they produced an ‘attractive handmade flyer complete with rainbow graphics’ bassist Matt McCall recalls.
After Huw, singer and guitarist Andy and lead guitarist Sean originally met as volunteers in Oxfam in central Liverpool, "over time we realised we all played - it took years - eventually we played songs together” They advertised on GumTree to find a drummer and in comes Elaine Kinsella - “I’d just finished drumming for another band, Jo Bywater and The Cool Waves and wanted to get back in to it again, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook which took me to GumTree’s site for bands looking for musicians and The Swapsies advert was short, simple and sweet.” “I listened to the music and fell in love with it.”
The group say that they found most commonly when there are adverts for musicians looking for new additions, the are many heavy metal adverts saying they're into ‘Cradle of filth and Satan’ Matt remarks “I can’t grow the hair for that anymore”.
Huw talks about covers bands and says that you can make a living if you are a good covers band, but he feels there is no art in playing covers music. ‘We are trying to make pop music and we hope that’s what we’re doing”.
The bands influences come from many different areas of music, their influences include artists such as The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Armatrading and Nick Drake, but Elaine says “The list is just endless when you start to think about it”. She jokes “oh and I like One Direction”. She likes what Joan Armatrading has done with music, and the fact she is a multi instrumentalist and records her albums herself.
The Swapsies themselves are multi instrumentalists, all of them having talents in guitar, bass, drums, vocals, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica and accordion there’s probably not an instrument that they can’t play.
Huw says that “people doing stuff is so inspiring”. “You always want to make songs like your heroes, but you can’t, so you get jealous” he jokes “and I hate them now”.
When asked ‘Is there a typically ‘Scouse' sound?’ they were keen to deny the question
“There isn’t a common Scouse sound - maybe back in the 80s and 90s there was a defined sound but today, anything goes”
Elaine says that one night in Liverpool you could be at a ragtime show, and another night you could be at a rave.
Huw says that you will always get people copying successful music “but there is also so much stuff that is not successful, thats the interesting stuff”.
“We need to make the distinction between what is popular in the media and whats going on in the bars and clubs” says Sean.
The ‘Get Into This Awards’ showed that there definitely isn’t a typical ‘Scouse’ sound - “I don’t know what that was about” says Huw. The awards began in 2012 and it was dubbed the ‘Scouse Mercury music prize’ and featured rap, pop and rock artists from Liverpool and the surrounding area.
The band have known each other for approximately 6 years but they have been as The Swapsies for 2 ‘and a bit’ years. When asked if it was hard to get into the Liverpool music scene, Sean replies - “Surprisingly, no. it wasn’t hard to get out there. People are very supportive of new bands”. “It’s not competitive, it’s very supportive.”
Elaine gives her opinion - “There will always be a good connection between bands in liverpool, no matter what type of music it is - its kind of a small community - you pretty much know if not everyone - you always know someone who knows someone.”
Huw says that it is about finding confidence “and then it’s all there for you, and thats the hardest part, finding the confidence.”
The Swapsies have had no interest from UK record labels, but have been approached numerous times by record labels overseas. The first was by, the now defunct, Manic Pop Records.
Huw tells me how they were discovered by labels overseas “Manic Pop offered to put out a record by us in America - this is the crazy thing, we’ve talked about the scene in Liverpool and he was from Minnesota, it shows that the world really is small, he decided he liked us based on the two songs we had online and he wanted to release a single for us on vinyl.”
They weren’t able to release that record as the label went under, but Huw goes on to tell me how they came into contact with their current record label February Records “I think it was at New York Pop Fest - we were spoke about and they found out about us and got in touch, and they are from Boston - so the world feels really really small, it’s weird.”
“This kind of music is pretty big in different places.”
“We released the last EP ourselves - but the one previously we released on February Records, and while they’re essentially the same thing- the one with the record company got a lot more response - it’s a thing releasing with a label, even if it is a small one - it just gets more attention - I think it feels more real.” says singer Huw.
Speaking about indie-pop again, “If someone sees the words Indie pop on a record and they like indie pop - they will go to it - regardless of where it is in the world. There’s not much love for it here as a genre but there is in other parts of the world - they will look for it, and there is a definite scene, it’s so underground and spread out, but its there and it does exist” Elaine tells me.
The genre of ‘indie-pop’ is generally for a niche market, there are many festivals dedicated to the genre though, such as Indie tracks in Derbyshire, Wales Goes Pop, and New York Popfest to name a few.
“By definition it [Indie-pop] is small, if you really want to do something with the music you have to break away from it a little bit. It can be supportive up to a point but if we wanted to play one of these festivals we’d have to get of our arses and go to it, they wouldn’t pay us to go, we’d have to do it ourselves.”
When asked about the critics’ response to their recent EP release - Sean remarks “me (sic.) dad loved it.”
“We’ve been reviewed on blogs - but it’s mostly in Spanish - so we can’t read it!”
So what’s next for this indie-pop five piece; among more releases and gigs- making a sticker book is on their list of things to do, “that’s the dream” says Huw. “Now we have a fifth member, it has given us a new lease of life.”
“We’re going to try and do everything we’ve done, again” Joint lead singer and guitarist Andy joins the interview late from his day job and replies to Huw’s comment “25% bigger.”
Huw tells me about how important collaboration is for the Swapsies - “If you put on a gig or make a record - it’s nice to get other people involved, which is what we are going to do now. It gives you an extra kick up the arse.”
The next release for The Swapsies is on a Norwegian net label ‘EardrumsPop’ and they are collaborating with Steve from Young Explorer, he is an artist himself called ‘Jam on Bread’ - “he wrote a song with Andy and it is being released on a collaboration compilation album called ‘Between Two Waves’” Huw tells me. “The idea was to create a new band, and we’re called Green Land Sea - and I think its the best song we’ve done, its really exciting.”
There is no stopping The Swapsies. Doing It Yourself is a huge element of the band’s ethic, and this will only work in their favour in their quest to spread The Swapsies love.