Music Boulevard

Emmet Swimming discusses life on Epic


Courtesy Epic Records
The up-and-coming Fairfax, Va., rock 'n' roll band Emmet Swimming sits on a corner, anticipating its next huge break
The group derived its name from a story about a boy named Emmet Till, who was drowned by an angry, incensed mob of white racists

Cavalier Daily Staff Writer

The young band Emmet Swimming has a reason to feel excited: Not only has it begun developing a strong following, but it recently signed with the Epic/Sony label. During an exclusive interview with The Cavalier Daily, the band, from Fairfax, Va., sat down and shot the breeze.

The group consists of guitarist-vocalist Erik Wenberg, vocalist-guitarist and lyricist Todd Watts, bassist Robert Shaw and drummer Tamer Eid. They have been touring the East Coast for the past month to promoting the band's second album "Wake."

Shaw said the band got its name from a famous Civil Rights Movement's story.

"Emmet Till was a 14-year-old black kid from Mississippi who allegedly whistled at a white woman," he said. "He was pulled from his bed, shot and was thrown into a river. ... The killer was found not guilty by 12 white jurors. We wrote a song about this to show" the huge racial injustices present today.

But to describe the band's music, Shaw said it is easier said than done.

"We try not to categorize our music," he said. "On Emmet Swimming's World Wide Web site, the band is described as a mixture of the Connells, Toad the Wet Sprocket, R.E.M. and the Smithereens, but you be the judge."

Shaw added that writing the songs seems easy because "we have been longtime friends. We just hash out ideas and we inspire each other."

With the combination of an odd name and a diverse sound, the band recently signed with Sony/Epic Records.

Shaw said, "We have been a band for about three years and we were signed after a looking-at process that took about eight and a half months by the record company in [Los Angeles]"

The members' musical influences range from the Pixies to classical and jazz music.

Eid, born in Egypt, added, "I was in a jazz band before," and that helps to influence his sound.

The constant touring remains the big difference Wenberg notices about signing to a new record label.

"We sometimes do two shows a day," he said. "We are looking forward to going home tonight to get some rest."

As for life on the road, the band seems to have had some interesting experiences.

Wenberg explained the tamer version of one particular story.

"There was a girl that was really [interested in] Tamer," he said. "She asked for one of Tamer's really sweaty towels and she put her face in the towel and started breathing in the towel as hard she could. She didn't care who saw. We have not let Tamer forget about that incident. We have a special name for him" but not one the band would tell in public.

Reflecting about the competitive music world, Watts said, "Fairfax is a very nurturing environment, and we don't look at other bands as competition. People like certain kinds of music and certain kinds of bands, and there is nothing we can do about it."

He added that, "if we see a band that is really great, we say, 'Wow, I wish I could play as well or sing as well as he can.' We don't have hatred for other bands like some [groups] do. We are glad when good bands get ahead."

Wenberg said making videos, however, falls pretty low on the list of things to do.

"Right now we're focusing on the college circuit and radio play. Making videos are expensive and the cost for them would come out of our pocket. Right now we are mainly an East Coast band, but we're hoping to expand. Eventually, we will probably consider making videos, but not right now."

As for future plans, Wenberg said, "We will tour until December and then start up again on New Year's Eve. We hope to join a big tour of the nation in February and then come back east. After the touring we will work on our third album."

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