Even as record sales dip to no apparent end, labels are still a significant source of pride, stability, experience and (despite poor sales) money for young bands. The Swellers know a good label’s value intimately, probably because it’s taken them eight years to find one.
Swellers drummer Jonathan Diener recalls taking a walk with the band’s old bass player and lamenting that the group’s many DIY tours and handful of releases had yet to lead them to a substantial label. From the way Diener discusses it, the Flint, Mich., outfit was close to calling it quits. Returning from their excursion, good news had arrived: Fueled by Ramen Records asked The Swellers to sign. As one of the two remaining members of a group that approached the hit-making Pop-Punk label ages earlier, Diener was ecstatic. Did he see the victory as a long time coming?
“Oh yeah,” he says. “That’s putting it lightly.”
Originating as a riff on the Screeching Weasel style of Pop-Punk, The Swellers’ hook-heavy material has gained loads of polish (at times, too much). Diener proudly recalls how he fell into the genre. It began with a compilation that a friend gave him and his brother Nick (whose vocals and guitars lead The Swellers). The mix contained NOFX, Lagwagon, and Millencolin — groups who gained prominence in the late ’90s — and the connection stuck.
“We were those kids in fifth or sixth grade wearing their T-shirts. ‘That’s not a Dallas Cowboys jersey? You’re a weirdo,’ ” Diener says. “We were playing (Pop Punk) for years when no one cared. Punk was dead, especially in Michigan.”
Today, the four-piece is playing to audiences well past their native state.
“I just looked at our schedule and it’s (the current U.S. run with) Motion City Soundtrack, Europe and Warped Tour. That’s all we have until July. We can pick and choose rather than take what we can get,” Diener says. “Some of my friends are like, ‘When are you going to do a smaller tour? I want our band to go with you.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, but that’s a good thing.’ ”