On the rare occasion that I actually did the reading for my Women’s Studies class, I read something interesting about punk. In the context of feminism, punk is more significant than you might think. According to Milestone and Meyer (or to anyone capable of observation), before punk, the only involvement girls had in music was as members of the audience. If women ever did make it in the music industry, they made it in wholesome pop, never provocative rock. Once punk came along, however, gender relations in the music industry completely changed. Punk disrupted all preconceived stereotypes — it inspired youth cultures, it lacked the manufactured nature of the music industry — its origins were underground. As a result of this organic music, according to my Women’s Studies reading, women were able to express anger. Yay.
Now, obviously it’s hard for us, in 2016, to really see the profound effects of punk, but they're there. The problem is the lack of OG punk bands existing today, which led me to wonder if any modern band could really reflect the same sound and eventual change as past music.
The issue I encountered as I pondered is that no band is really pure punk. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has expressed frustration in this dilemma — most modern bands are slapped with the label “pop-punk” which, even if this label isn’t necessarily accurate, constricts bands to a certain image, effectively diluting their potential punk persona.
I’m sure there are bonafide punk bands out there, but there’s really only one new-age punk band that came to mind: SWMRS. Originally known as Emily’s Army, SWMRS is a four-piece garage-rock/punk band from Oakland, CA. I first stumbled upon the band a year ago when I saw Green Day perform at the House of Blues Cleveland — my position pressed against the barricade to the stage enabled me to have an excellent view of Billie Joe’s son, Joey, standing backstage. Now here’s the thing — Joey is quite attractive, so after the show I was like, yeah, let’s google Joey. When I googled Joey, I found his band. The problem was that SWMRS had no music under its current name until now. With an album set to be released on February 12th, Rolling Stone released the single “Drive North” early and it’s fucking incredible.
The entire album is clearly garage-rock, but there are complex and flagrant punk undertones that give SWMRS a unique edge. They aren’t just any old rock band — they’re young, they’re bold and they encapsulate a new sound — a new punk sound. Describing their genre as “Hawaiianage” and showing a Facebook interest in feminism, their album reflects everything they claim to be.
“Uncool,” the same name of their self-run record label, is the epitome of SWMRS. The song is angsty, punk, Californian and accessible, despite being so different from any other music out there. All of these elements shine through on each of the 12 tracks on the record, but in entirely different ways. For example, “Miley” is angsty yet simple to let the lyrics stand-out. An ode to Miley Cyrus, SWMRS sing their praise for the “punk-rock queen.” While songs like “Drive North” and “Harry Dean” are the most traditional punk on the album, “Silver Bullet” and “Hannah” are more mellow, “I’m going to drive from LA to San Francisco in my convertible” tunes. Personally, my favorites are “Miss Yer Kiss” and “Turn Up,” but truthfully that’s not saying much because I love every song on this album. “Miss Yer Kiss” is great, though, because the solid beat and unique rhythm counter most of the fast-paced songs comprising the album — “Turn Up” is just a jam.
I feel as if I could go on for endless paragraphs about how incredible SWMRS and their debut album is, but for your sake and mine, I’ll quit my digression. Essentially, SWMRS is about to blow up. Their massive headlining US tour kicks off on February 12th, they just put on a music festival (“Uncool Fest”) and their record label is still a thing. This, in addition to appearances in magazines like Rolling Stone and Alternative Press, is foretelling of what’s to come, especially considering their debut album hasn’t even been officially released.
My message to you: listen to SWMRS. Love SWMRS or at the very least pretend to love SWMRS, because at the rate they’re going they could very easily be the next Nirvana meets Green Day meets something more tropical and you’re going to want to say you knew them when they were rookies.