WORDS : ETHAN MEGENIS-CLARKE
On their new EP When the Dust Settles, New Jersey five-piece Can’t Swim have reimagined songs from their short but prolific career as haunting acoustic ballads. Recorded in lock-down through Zoom and email collaboration, frontman Chris LoPorto tells us how the current pandemic inspired the EP and what the future holds for Can’t Swim.
Can’t Swim have always defied categorisation: The thunderous basslines and saturated guitars on the 2016 EP Death Deserves a Name drew comparisons to the waning emo revival, while the anthemic choruses across debut album Fail You Again saw the band join pop punk tour line-ups across the globe. The band took another left turn in 2018 with the release of their darker, heavier sophomore album This Too Won’t Pass, before surprising fans with a straight-up hardcore EP in the form of 2019’s Foreign Language.
The whole idea for When the Dust Settles came about because of lock-down
Now, the band are back with When the Dust Settles, a haunting reimagination of four songs from across their career. The eerie pianos and hushed vocals across the record are the perfect soundtrack to the anxious, isolated times frontman Chris LoPorto says inspired it: “It was an idea we always wanted to do. We felt it fitting now more than ever to pull it off.”
“The whole idea for When the Dust Settles came about because of lock-down.” LoPorto elaborates, “that kept me busy for two weeks or so.” While the lyrical content on the EP doesn’t address the political aspects of the current COVID crisis in the same way the songs on Foreign Language tackled themes of power and corruption, the frontman says that the state of society affected the way it was written: “I think anything I’m going through inspires our songs in some degree. It inspired me to do WTDS and I am sure it will sneak into our future releases.”
Can’t Swim’s lyrics have covered darker subject matters since their first EP, but no one could have guessed the new meaning of a track titled ‘Death Deserves a Name’ would take on at the start of the year. It’s also hard to ignore the irony of Strangers opening with the line “Planes and trains took you away” at a time when travel feels like a pipe dream for many. Accompanied by a backdrop of strings, pianos and acoustic guitars, the songs have found a new life on When the Dust Settles.
Whenever I sit down and write a song it’s always a puzzle to me
“I wanted to take it as far as I could in a different direction than the original songs.” LoPorto tells us when describing the inspiration behind the reimagined tracks. Indeed, the strings that close out the revisited version of ‘My Queen’ couldn’t be further from the screams that conclude the original. “We wanted to have a good amount of songs from each previous release,” the singer mentions of the track listing, which was chosen to “cater best to the acoustic vibe.”
While Can’t Swim have covered more musical ground than most bands throughout their career, When the Dust Settles is another radical change of direction for the band. “Whenever I sit down and write a song it’s always a puzzle to me,” says LoPorto, “I never know if I’ll be able to finish it and I never know what it will sound like.” The singer says this was the goal for Can’t Swim from the start: “I try very hard to not write the same song twice.”
I love to have the control to do whatever feels best for us at the time
When the quintet swapped out intricate guitar melodies for huge hardcore riffs on the Foreign Language EP, they could have easily alienated fans they had acquired through years of touring. Instead, it allowed them to hop on a bill featuring metalcore heavyweights A Day to Remember and Beartooth and introduce themselves to an entirely new audience. “I do feel very free of boundaries” LoPorto says of the band’s evolution, “I love to have the control to do whatever feels best for us at the time.”
LoPorto says that the band had “tons of touring” put on hold by the pandemic, but they’re keeping busy by writing new music; “In this time, I think it’s the only thing we can do to give the people who are into our band some entertainment, which is always the goal.” But don’t count on any spoilers for the surprises Can’t Swim have in store on their next musical offering, LoPorto ensures us that the future is “always a mystery” with Can’t Swim’s ever-changing sound.