SWIMM’s Chris Hess on Their Debut “Sentimental Porno” and Swiping Right on the Sacred

We’ve been infatuated with Los Angeles based SWIMM for quite some time, entranced by their dreamy and distinctly danceable sound, a haunting and genre-bending blur of shoegazey psych pop laced with funk and falsetto, a swirling mixture of ethereal tones tinged with an edgy recklessness that is impossible not to get swept up in. Hitting that sweet spot between lighthearted softness and dark moodiness, their songs move fluidly through a kaleidoscope of human emotion, sexy and sentimental at the same time. This is music for long, sun-soaked drives spent remembering your past loves, and this is music for long, sweaty nights spent dancing until you’ve forgotten about everything except the movement of your body and the music pulsing through it.

Their wild and charismatic DIY shows have made them regulars on the LA indie music scene, and their highly anticipated debut album, Sentimental Porno, which dropped in early June, only serves to further cement why we’ve been crushing on them for so long. Epitomizing their trademark sun-baked, feel good vibes and crawling with tongue in cheek references to sex and “all that it stirs up,” they’ve made an infectious album that captures the yearning chaos of love and lust with a serene and sultry touch that we dare you not to dance to. In honor of the release of their debut albumChris Hess, the man behind SWIMM’s groovy guitar licks and sensual vocals, penned an exclusive piece for Live FAST touching on everything from Courtney Love to Raya to the enduring sacredness of the album in our “playlist culture.”

Catch SWIMM at their album release show June 21st at The Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Get your tickets here.

Swipe Right for the Sacred

Words: Chris Hess

I woke up Monday in the wee morning hours, well before most of my Angeleno peers who needed one more night of socializing and thus did not break for the Sabbath. It was that pivotal hour where morning is deciding exactly what kind of day it will be. Dawn may be a sun-bleached postcard at this point, but all of the afternoon’s possibilities are still hanging in the balance, hands raised and waiting to be called upon. Feeling good about my 9 hours of sleep, I reached for my phone with excitement about where my life compass would point me today. The first thing I read was a text sent late in the night from a dear friend. And, for reasons unclear at first, it sort of broke my heart.

“Just found Courtney Love on Raya.”

So why did this hurt my soul? I know it was meant to be a classic ‘tongue out emoji/JK’ text, suited for a common ‘lol, dead’ reply. But instead I sighed and left the text unanswered. An unthinkable action in these times. I laid back down and pondered why things felt heavy and meaningless all of a sudden. And by ‘pondered,’ I mean I fell back asleep for thirty minutes and dreamt I was making love to Natalie Imbruglia on a brightly lit stage in front of 300 people while still trying to sing new SWIMM songs with brutality and sincerity. I awoke with anxiety about two things.

One: I had not ‘performed’ up to task for Natalie or the audience.  

Two: This text about finding Courtney Love on Raya finally proved to me that nothing in this world is sacred.

Sure, this epiphany comes at least once a week and it usually is social media that inflicts the brutal blow, but reality stung a little deeper this time. Our debut full length album, Sentimental Porno, would be coming out on the next day. This anxiety about ‘swiping right’ to such legendary infamy combined with the natural narcissism of being an ‘artist type’ led me back to my own conundrum…is the idea of an album still sacred to anyone?  

I had a 6-disc CD player in my car during college. For months I would listen to six albums. I would live with them, know them inside and out, start to listen closer to songs that didn’t initially grab me and find hidden gems in the favorites. The albums that I fell in love with would forever define a time and place for me.

Arcade Fire, Funeral – I’m driving through the oak-shaded winding roads of Morristown, New Jersey on a trip with my dad through the neighborhood he grew up in.

Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle  – I’m sneaking into my sisters’ room to listen all afternoon and finding beer in her closet and tattling on her ass.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell  – Sweating my ass off in an old beach shack during the Florida summer after sophomore year. Most importantly, falling in love for the first time (excessive drinking and strip clubs being firsts of that summer as well).

Sonic Youth, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and Star –  Realizing perfection was just as boring as it was unattainable and also that the androgyny I loved in Kim Gordon would shape how I would always want to perform.

Radiohead, In Rainbows –  Having my heart crushed and wondering if the heartbreak of that romanticized first love would ever fully undo itself (will confirm when I know).

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors – Who hasn’t cried and made out to this…at the same time?

Before I construct my closing plea for the sacred, let me provide some quick context for the one SWIMM fan that will surely read this: my mother. Raya is an exclusive, membership-based dating app designed for ‘creative types.’ In short, Tinder for actors, singers, models, etc. A buffet of big city types and even bigger egos with an excess of networking aficionados, large brimmed hats, and famous people that are surely tired of loitering around West Hollywood coffee shops waiting to be approached. I give my pride at least another 6 months before I try to join. And by God, I’m not accepted as a member I will be packing my things, moving back home (and in with you, Mom) and trying to marry the first girl that says she likes my band. Now I do think you know who Courtney Love is, but perhaps it has been a while since you jogged with ‘Live Through This’ blasting in your Walkman. Courtney Love is the singer of the 90’s grunge band Hole and, even more famously, the widow of Kurt Cobain.

The text bothers me because it implies that someone as legendary as Courtney Love, who was married to Kurt Cobain, possibly the most legendary singer of the last thirty years, is now just a couple witty messages away from a date. I know she is a person. I know she has needs. But no! We shouldn’t be able to get so close to such grunge royalty. We shouldn’t be able to see Mick Jagger’s comments on his son’s Instagram. I don’t want the singer of the goddamn Rolling Stones to be a dorky dad to me. 

Luckily, I’m resistant to attrition on my hopeless romanticism. I’ve told you what I don’t want, now here are a few things I hopelessly hope for. I hope that you will get to know Sentimental Porno. I hope that you will listen at least once all the way through while driving somewhere far away in your car. I hope that it will define a time and place for you. I hope that, in the event I tire of loitering outside The Echo waiting to be approached, I do get approved to Raya and that Natalie Imbruglia messages me back. I hope that this album gets to the ears of enough generous people that we will get to make another one. If you are one of those people, thank you for contributing to the ever-waning pact of the sacred. Let it not wither! Don’t let the album fall into the fissures of playlist culture completely (that said, please add any SWIMM songs you can stomach to your top playlists immediately).

It is now the late afternoon and I still haven’t texted my friend back. Frankly, I’m surprised she hasn’t filed a missing person’s report. So farewell for now, and happy listening. And on three… everyone tweet @Courtney a link to this story.

L’Agent Goodies…