Hailing from Oakland, CA, SWMRS (pronounced “swimmers”) are all in their very early 20’s. But lead singer-guitarist Cole Becker and drummer Joey Armstrong go back jamming nearly a decade together, inspired by the movie School of Rock.
Under different names, they formed bands that released a demo and a string of EP’s from 2008 to 2010. But the band’s first album under the SWMRS moniker was called Drive North and released in February 2016 through their custom imprint, Uncool Records. “As people from northern California, we wanted to address kids that felt like starting a band was not accessible to them,” says Becker on the inspiration behind the album title. “The whole objective of ‘drive north’ is rejecting a single epicenter of music and allowing yourself to move out and do what you want wherever you are located.”
Becker and the other members of SWMRS were an industrious group when it came to self-marketing. They originally sold Drive North CD’s at shows and through digital downloads, hiring publicist Collin Citron for promotion. For a while they were a fairly successful self-contained unit until a simple turn of events prompted them to make a career upgrade. “We weren’t trying to scout labels. We were gonna keep doing Uncool and just let it grow,” explains Becker. “But our manager Chris ran into (Fueled by Ramen GM) Mike Easterlin at SXSW and they talked. Chris presented Mike as a guy that loves music and ran an artist-based label. After meeting with him it was kind of a no-brainer.”
The Atlantic Records subsidiary Fueled by Ramen re-released Drive North with bonus tracks and is currently available in all digital and physical formats everywhere.
“We are doing a lot of touring to support the new album,” says Becker. “We wanna make our music accessible to everyone and (the message is) that they can do it too. It’s part marketing but, more importantly, it’s our philosophy as a band.”