It’s Friday of Culture Collide and Like Swimming are playing their ninth show ever. The crowd is moving, and the trio is right there with them, in the Taix Front Lounge. The night before, they had played their eighth show ever (in case you’re counting, which they are) in the tiny back room of Lot 1 Café. The intimacy of the venue had brought them quite literally face-to-face with their audience, and they had captivated the crowd right from the start. Now, their sound expands jubilantly, reaching towards every corner to fill the newfound space.
Like Swimming is comprised of Ida Hedene, Claes Carlström, and Petter Wesslander, three members of the former five-piece You Say France & I Whistle. By the time they entered the recording studio for the first time as Like Swimming in early 2013, the trio of friends had already been making music together for seven years and had a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do.
Their sound is a juxtaposition of whimsical, up-tempo tunes and somber lyrics delivered cheerily in Ida’s melodic voice. So far, they’ve released three comparably fantastic songs: “Go Buffalo,” “Dance Anyway I Please,” and “God Knows.”
“We are all gonna die in the summer/ our hearts are too cold for this heat and the sun/ and we’re all gonna die in the summer,” goes the joyfully-rendered chorus of “Go Buffalo.”
The night before, their stage had been adorned by a small white plastic square with their name slenderly cut out of it- clean, elegant, simple. Tonight, a twist on the theme: white cutout letters that spell out L-I-K-E-S-W-I-M-M-I-N-G join them instead, spread out wide as if to meet the spatial expectations of the larger room.
As the set nears its crescendo, Ida grabs a second pair of drumsticks and walks across the stage to join Petter at the drums, standing across from him at the front of the drum kit. From there, she starts drumming her own beat alongside his. They had decided that the second drummer was necessary to reintroduce this particular beat into the song, and she was the natural choice. Ida loves the drums, though she’s admittedly still learning; consequently, Petter has a bruised nail at the moment from the other day when she accidentally hit him.
When I caught up with the three after their set at Sweden Happy Hour, they talked about creativity, aesthetics, communication and learning all the coolest American slang. Through their laughter and lighthearted jabs, I quickly got the impression that these are three people who truly love each other and what they do very much.
MIP: You guys were at Culture Collide last in 2011. What’s it like to be back?
Ida: It’s really nice to be back.
Claes: Yeah, it is.
Petter: Today was the day that we got to be like “Yeah, we’re back! ‘Cos this is where we had our first gig last time and that was like a big party; we had a whole room and it was late at night. So to be back in here is really good. Now Culture Collide is really happening!
MIP: What was the goal in creating a new band? You were all together before making music. What is the goal of this particular project as it becomes its own entity?
Claes: Yes, communication. In the previous band, we got stuck. We didn’t talk to each other as much as we really wanted to, so the result was that we kept writing the same song over and over again and in the end we didn’t feel well.
Petter: It’s like, we should sometimes say “let’s not rehearse tonight, let’s just sit down and have dinner and talk to each other.” That’s the most important thing. You can rehearse as much as you can, but still not communicate and you won’t go anywhere. So, the goal is just have fun and communicate and see where this thing can end up.
MIP: Where did the name come from, Like Swimming?
Petter: It’s actually a song.
Claes: …and an album by Morphine.
Ida: …and we like to swim.
Claes: You guys do.
Ida: Yes we do! [Laughs]
Petter: It’s good to have a name that covers everything from really energetic music to really calm, slower songs as well. “Like swimming” could be like, the really hard crawl, splashing everywhere or it can be nice, smooth, dark water. It felt like a good name.
MIP: I like the cutout you had last night of your name, “Like Swimming” on stage. Today, you had something new. Was it made from the letters inside, that were cut out of the other one?
Claes: We like to play around with stuff like that. It helps us. All the creative things you do help you be more creative in music as well. We all do different things in different art forms in dancing [points to Ida], photography and architecture. This guy’s an architect [points to Petter].
Petter: [Shrugs] It’s fun to cut out letters on your spare time at your office [laughs]. No, it’s nice to have a graphic sort of message to the music and build a whole graphic idea of the band. People listen to the music and they see the images and they look at the artwork, so everything together builds up the image of the band. I think we all like to discuss that as well: how do we make this little package called Like Swimming? It can be equally important as the music, the graphics. We’re using these thin letters with broad spacing to write our name, and that gives a light, airy feeling to it rather than a dark feel to it. And it’s influential.
MIP: Your music is such a great contrast between light and dark, in terms of beat and theme and lyrics and the way that everything comes together. Where did this come from? What are you hoping to capture or convey with this contrast?
Claes: I think that—you know, I’m going to sound clichéd now—for me, life is kind of – it’s a cliché, but it’s, you can’t – uhh… basically, we’re all gonna die. And we only got each other to comfort us before we die. I think I come from that very dark perception of life, but with the realization that you need to embrace the positive. The world has a lot of beautiful things and life is beautiful in many ways, but the world is also this really, really dark place and I think we can’t express this without having both. You need to have both, I need to have both to express what I think.
MIP: When you’re on stage in front of an audience, what kind of experience are you hoping to create? What do you want them to walk away with?
Ida: A smile.
Claes: A smile and a feeling of joy, especially life. A feeling that things are gonna be okay.
Petter: I think that we are sincere, that they have seen three people being themselves on stage and hopefully that was something interesting that we gave them; whether it’s a smile or a second thought.
Claes: Also, clear communication.
MIP: It comes back to communication!
MIP: Is L.A. different from other places you’ve played?
Petter: We’ve only been here thanks to Culture Collide and the feeling that they bring, so it’s difficult for us to talk about LA as a whole. But I remember hearing, L.A. is hard because there’s so many bands, but we come from Stockholm which is a small, small place. The fact is Stockholm produces a lot of great music but there aren’t many places to play, so there’ s a huge competition which makes bands compete against each other instead of being friends and helping each other out.
Ida: People are friendly here, and that’s nice.
Petter: People stay after here and talk to you about the show and that’s like “Wow! Feedback, that’s great.” In Stockholm you don’t get that, apart from your friends, who can’t really say what they honestly feel [laughter from Claes and Ida]. No, it’s not that bad! It’s fantastic in Stockholm! But you have to rag on your home turf.
Claes: I think we got a lot of great feedback here in the states. We’ve met already a couple of fans that listened to us here two years ago and are still going. I think part of the feeling is also that people tend to dig it [laughter from Ida and Petter]—did I go back to the 80’s again? With the “dig it”?
Ida: It’s rad.
Petter: They think we’re rad.
Ida: It’s cr—?
Ida: Yeah, cray-cray! We’re learning. [Laughs]
MIP: Why do each of you make music? Why is music your means of expression?
Ida: It’s nice to share happiness and music’s nice to share, I think.
Petter: To express. I’m always thinking about myself, and it kind of scares me, but I might not be making music if it weren’t for these guys. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it feels like that. It’s not that I love playing the drums so much that I can’t not do it, it’s because of these guys, and again it goes back to communication and the feeling that the things that you’ve done so far, you’ve taken this project to somewhere that you want to see it fly away.
Claes: That’s my way of expressing. For me, I can’t breathe without doing this and I think all people need some way of expressing themselves. It’s such a huge comfort. My way’s though music.
Ida: [To Claes] And I always cry when I hear your songs for the first time [laughs].
Claes: Unless it’s a really happy song.
Ida: No! I cry anyway.
Claes: You do?
MIP: Claes, you mostly write the lyrics?
Petter: Claes is like a machine that just—and not in a bad way—he just… I have no idea how it happens, he just comes up with these things and we try to be as close as possible as soon as that comes out, to be there to bounce it back to him so that it doesn’t just come out and disappear. It’s the process of doing. [To Claes] ‘Cos you wouldn’t do it without us, and we couldn’t do it without you. Together, that kind of sums up the band. I mean, it’s amazing to read what he comes up with and then as soon as something’s up on the table we become an equal part in it, in deciding where to take it.
MIP: What’s next?
Claes: We’ll keep releasing songs. We just released a video. We’ll see what happens with that, this is the start of our little tour here. We head to Nashville tomorrow night, we’re playing there and we’ll go to Chicago and then on to New York from there. It’s gonna be amazing. Then we go back home and try to finalize a few more songs and record.
Ida: And chillaxing!
Petter: …and chillaxing.
MIP: You guys are learning all the best words!
Ida: That one’s my favorite!
Claes: Yeah, we’ve all noticed.
Petter: We were told by a guy at Umami Burger that it was cool… in the late 80’s or something.
Claes: Rad, yo.
Claes: I’m trying to blend in!
Petter: You’re doing good.
Like Swimming’s first album is in the works, but “Go Buffalo” is available on Amazon and iTunes and their other songs are available to stream on their website. You can also catch them at SXSW in March 2014.