The Scotsman Sessions #266: Swim School

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Edinburgh quartet Swim School perform Outside – a song about “toxic people in your life, and how that takes a toll on your mental health”

When Alice Johnson from Edinburgh quartet Swim School raises her hand, the Zoom camera reveals she’s wearing a set of colourful festival wristbands – a fresh souvenir from the Latitude Festival in England, where the band have just returned from playing two shows.

“I love them, I don’t want to take them off,” she smiles, reminded of the experience. “I want to pretend I’m still there, I don’t want to let go!” She glances again at her wrist. “Oh, not this one, though – that’s my Covid test result, that can go.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Formed by Johnson, guitarist Lewis Bunting and bassist Matt Mitchell (the former two met at college), Swim School are a band who create spiky, soaring, shoegaze-adjacent indie rock records which deserve to be heard live, now that this is possible again. The addition of drummer Billy McMahon earlier this year coincided with the band’s tastes moving away from pop and towards heavier groups like My Bloody Valentine.

Swim School

“I wouldn’t say writing love songs is cringey, but I like to write about other things that are going on,” says Johnson, the group’s main lyricist. “The five songs on our new EP are about bad things that happened during lockdown… why they happened and what I learned from them.” Their Scotsman Session Outside is about “toxic people in your life, and how that takes a toll on your mental health.”

“I took a lot of crap back at the start of being in the band, but I think now my confidence radiates through the music and our live show,” she says. “We’ve been starved of live performance for 18 months, and we just let go onstage at Latitude. I absolutely loved it.”

“We were talking about what our ambitions are,” says McMahon. “Obviously an album is the dream, but I don’t know if we’re there yet. After the experience of Latitude, though, we just want to play as many shows as we can, because Covid’s taught us to take every opportunity and have fun. And obviously we want to go back and headline Glastonbury one day.”

Swim School’s debut EP Making Sense of It All is released on 13 August. They play Fringe by the Sea, North Berwick, on 8 August and King Tut’s, Glasgow, on 21 August, see www.facebook.com/weareswimschool

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions