Wretched Pinups by Swimsuit Addition is one of those albums that I actually gravely fear coming along. Because I generally try not to gush over the music that we review here. That being said and hyperbole aside Wretched Pinups might be one of the best albums that I’ve heard in the last 10 years. It’s rare that you find music so emotionally raw, that is also so elaborately arranged while still within the confines of traditional punk/rock music. So instead of showing my ineptitude in describing such great music, we’re providing a limited time only stream here as well as some words with Jen Dot.
Wretched Pin-Ups is out on cassette from 1980 Records & vinyl from Berserk Records. Buy it!
Even living comparatively next door, Chicago isn’t a town that you hear many bands being from (unless you’re Smashing Pumpkins or Wilco). What was the scene like when you first started Swimsuit Addition?
It’s really a shame because there are a lot of great bands from Chicago. I’m not sure if it’s a PR issue or what, but it’s always weird to me. In order to get “famooose” bands tend to move elsewhere or need to just tour a lot.
For me I never really thought about scenes or anything like that until I started hearing people saying we were part of one. I think scenes are just people who like each others’ music and are generally friends. There are so many DIY houses in Chicago- that live as long as ten years or as short as a few shows, so there are so many “scenes.” Like scenes inside scenes in scenes in scenes; they fit together like little Russian Dolls. For me, scenes only grow the more people you meet and realize the concept of a scene is sort of an illusion. It’s just a network of people trying to energize one another. When we started, we just kept getting asked to play shows here and there with bands who had seen us play or people we talked to. Now we get asked to play by bands from all across the country and even a few from overseas. We are just trying to keep it real and play with people whose work and vibes we dig. That’s all it is.
Is that different from how it is now?
I’m probably the worst person to ask about scenes, honestly. A lot of other people are a lot more involved in them and could give you some opinions on it, I’m guessing. I go to shows I like and try to go out to see people who are good folks.
For me, the real revelation is that scenes are just groups of people. All you’re doing is looking for other people who accept and reciprocate and nurture your energy.
For a band that seems pretty firmly rooted in the the aggression and rawness of punk rock/garage quite a few of your songs that have forays into more progressive elements. Is that an intentional direction or just a natural outgrowth of the process.
I definitely think a lot of things contribute to this. We have a very intense relationship with song structure. We also have a very deep concern with balance. We want songs to be surprising in all the right ways. We also want the moods and tones to shift so that there isn’t too much of just one thing. We’ve never imagined the band maintaining one hue for too long.
In ways I would say it’s both intentional— because we are very conscious song-writers— and a natural outgrowth of the process. As we grow as people, the moods and themes and directions of what we create grows with us.
Quite frankly, I’ve heard some horror stories of playing in Chicago. Have you had any particularly interesting experiences.
Ha! A lot of people say this to me. You have to get the right venue here. There are a lot of really ridiculous promotion company and bars that try to sorta scam bands. Best way to avoid the Chicago Chill is to reach out to bands you like and want to play with. Don’t reach out to venues, unless it’s one that treats bands right, like Cole’s, The Empty Bottle, or the Hideout. Hope I’m not missing any of the other good ones.
I heard that you have a graphic novel coming out, is there anything that you can say about the plot or how the situation came about?
Well… the story is part of a multiverse I’ve been working on for ages. I have been drawing my own comics for a while because I realized I didn’t have any money to pay an artist to do regularly. So I just started forcing myself to do it.
But for this project, an incredible, incredible talent, Brett Manning, is illustrating a story that goes along with our second full-length album, Dumb Dora. Brett has a very very unique style and is helping create the character of Dora.
It’s funny you asked about scenes, because the script is based on a high school student, Dora, who feels like a weirdo but that she doesn’t belong anywhere, even with other weirdos. She feels like an outside observer in every situation. She’s angry and bitter and only sees that emotion reflected in other people and holds other people’s happiness against them, but then something happens. You’ll have to read it I guess if you want to know.