SWINGIN' INTO CELTIC PUNK by Stew
(SEE Magazine, 7/98, somewhere in Canada)
Time isn't something hard-working punk bands tend to have a lot of. Swingin' Utters is no different--the California five-piece spent what guitarist Max Huber called "the better part of a year and a half" on the road in support of 1996 release A Juvenile Product of the Working Class.
But instead of turning out another record right away and heading back on the road, the band decided to take a little extra time on its brand new release, Five Lessons Learned. Huber and vocalist Johnny Bonnel took the chance to write some tunes for the CD, something they hadn't done very much of in the past in the face of guitarist Darius Koski's songwriting prowess. And all members of the band looked to their love of Irish folk-punkers The Pogues and decided to play around a little in the studio with decidedly non-punk instrumentation like fiddle and mandolin.
"It was something we've always wanted to do and we just haven't had the time," explained Huber.
The resultant CD is still strongly punk rock, but there are snippets of Celtic rhythms here and there. Huber notes touring constraints won't allow the band to incorporate many of those rhythms in a live setting. But the experimentation is, however, indicative of Swingin' Utters' desire to reach out and broaden their audience.
"There's punks, there's skinheads, there's regular kids, there's skater kids," Huber said of the developing Swingin' Utters audience. "It's a good mix and I think it's getting better every time we tour. I think the reason we went out with a lot of the different bands we went out with is because we try to reach as many people as we can and we don't want to just play selectively for anybody."
Those bands include the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Social Distortion, Supersuckers and the Descendents. "They all draw really different crowds," he said.
With the release of Five Lessons Learned, Swingin' Utters will continue to take more time for other things than touring. When he called from the band's home base of San Francisco, he was getting set to leave for five months away from home, but part of that time will be spent away from the band, hanging out in Europe with his girlfriend. He calls that planned downtime "baby time", because other members of the band expect to be expanding the Swingin' Utters family at that time.
The band also plans on striving to get the music from Five Lessons Learned heard on radio, something that isn't often easy for straight-ahead punk bands.
And why not? It's all part of what the band wanted when it formed in Santa Cruz in the early 1990s.
"One of the reasons we even started the band was to get out and play and get on the radio. We definitely don't have any problem with that."