Amber Fellows talks about “the magic of Swimsuit.” Somehow, the Ypsi quartet always seems to come up with the workings for a good song “as soon as we get together.” This is marvelous, but it’s also beneficial, considering the extent of each member’s busyness with other musical projects.
Guitarist/singer Dina Bankole balances two other bands: a newer experimental pop amalgam called Everybody’s In (who recently wrapped their debut album), as well as continuing to shred and sweetly serenade atop the rough/tumble pop duo Secret Twins. Drummer Shelley Salant recently toured with Detroit-based punk squad Tyvek and has since been developing her own label, Ginkgo Records, as well as hosting the Local Music Show on WCBN (89.3). Bassist Amber Fellows played with Dos Hermanos in the past, recently collaborating with fellow Swimsuit mate Fred Thomas for cassette tape featuring their side project duo, Damned Dogs for release on her new Kuma Tapes label and now helms a music consignment space in Ypsi’s Café Ollie, a source for physical releases of Ypsi artists’ works.
Those familiar with Ypsi’s audio knight Thomas (also City Center, Mighty Clouds and shepherding the Life Like label), knows he’s assuredly occupied. Busyness, though, is no match for the Swimsuit magic; When they align, the songs happen – springing exuberantly from tight, yet tumbling lo-fi jams, fostering fuzzily sunburst rock n roll dashers. It surfs, it slides, it sways and it’s made sublime by their subtle knack for harmonization. “This is by far the most collaborative band I’ve been in,” said Salant, “really, in all aspects. Everyone brings something unique to the table and it absolutely wouldn’t be the same band without any of the people involved.”
They finished recording their proper debut album last month (enhancing some older cuts from the Peace Gull cassette), aided by the adept audio engineering of Ryan Howard (also of City Center). The band formed out of Salant and Thomas’ positing a potential project, not knowing “who would play what or anything,” back in summer 09. A fateful Tyvek/City Center show in Ferndale that season crystallized their motivation. They eventually recruited Fellows and Bankole and “suddenly everything fit together,” in time to debut that winter. In their first year, they’ve played a slew of local shows, released two cassettes and a 7” single and two East Coast tours.
“Our sound wasn’t planned at all,” said Fellows, who, typically a guitarist, had never played bass before Swimsuit. Though, she said, nodding to those who’ve picked out the “surf-rock” sensibility of their tunes, “once we found our name, Swimsuit, it definitely informed the sounds or at least the interpretation of the music to come.”
Thomas expands, though, pointing to a range of influences, from shoegaze to new wave to New Zealand pop. “It’s just easier to hear reverb…and say: ‘surf.’” Thomas commented on the magic: “Everyone has such a big, bright thing to offer, and these things flow easily, seamlessly, and joyously when we get together.”
Meanwhile, Fellows/Thomas’ Damned Dogs played their first shows last month, along with their Kuma Tapes release. Damned Dogs will also release something on Salant’s Ginkgo label later this season. Ginkgo started releasing Turn to Crime tapes and a 7” by Man The Hunter, with a forthcoming release by A2 punk duo Jobys. Everybody’s In, (with Bankole, Secret Twin drummer Timmy Thomas, Awesome Color’s Derek Stanton and T-Bone & the Drones’ Thelonius Bone,) recently wrapped their debut album (recorded with indie-guitar-god J. Mascis), keep your ears/eyes peeled this Spring.