The lights are low in Exchange and the crowd is chattering away. Swim Deep meanders their way towards the stage, as an almost ethereal sound rings around the room. When they reach it, vocalist Austin Williams only has one word for us – ‘hello’. Like seeing an old friend again, the room breaks into laughter, falling back in love with the soundtrack to our teenage years.
the room breaks into laughter, falling back in love with the soundtrack to our teenage years
Swim Deep began the night with Sail Away, Say Goodbye – a song from their newest album Emerald Classics. Even for those who did not know the words, the song was a familiar reintroduction to the band’s 80s indie pop sound. Combining the chiming energy of James Balmont’s electric keyboard with Austin’s soft vocals, it gave a good sense of what they had in store for us.
The audience didn’t bat an eyelid when Swim Deep transitioned to 2012’s Honey. This jump through time was typical of the night, as the band continued to alternate between new and old songs, though it never took away from the energy of the room.
with each note he played his whole body rolled – flicking the bass up into air.
In part, this was helped by the energy of the performance itself. Bass player Cavan McCarthy immediately stood out, with each note he played his whole body rolled – flicking the bass up into air. Austin Williams was as lively, although far less predictable. At one point I felt myself losing focus; reading my mind, Austin let out a scream that may as well of slapped me around the face.
Austin let out a scream that may as well of slapped me around the face
This was just one facet of Austin that the crowd witnessed. Shifting from the higher vocals of Sail Away, Say Goodbye all the way down to the spoken-rather-than-sung lyrics of To Feel Good, Austin showed his ability to remain true to himself in a different musical setting. It was particularly impressive when, during Bruise, Austin added an extra note that doesn’t appear in the recorded track. I could not help but say out loud how nice it sounded.
The night was filled with these memorable moments, such as when Austin asked if he could add Soul Trippin to the setlist – a slower, almost romantic song. Or when, with a Stella in his hand, Cavan danced around the stage, giving the sense that he was enjoying it just as much as we were.
the crowd went for it, with every person in the room singing
The night culminated with the fan favourite King City. Now aware that the gig was coming to an end, the crowd went for it, with every person in the room singing ‘Fuck your romance, I wanna pretend that Jenny Lee Lindberg is my girlfriend’. Epitomising the sound of Swim Deep, this song rounded off a night that had reminded the crowd just how good they are.
Words by Toby Barnes