This interview previously aired on idobi Radio and is for everyone who was too lazy to tune in. Enjoy!
If you’re a fan of current pop-punk and emo, there’s a pretty good chance you’re familiar with the infectious upstart New Jersey outfit Can’t Swim. Born from the life-changing events of drummer-turned-singer/songwriter Chris LoPorto, Can’t Swim has quickly become of one the more consistent and relatable acts in the quote-unquote Warped Tour scene.
With three sensational releases to his name, LoPorto – despite being new to songwriting and playing guitar – is as dependable as they come churning out impassioned and honest tracks such as 2016′s “Your Clothes,” 2017′s “Stranger” and, most recently, “My Queen.”
Talking with LoPorto about Can’t Swim’s driving new LP This Too Won’t Pass, the chilled out 29-year-old opened up about the writing and recording process saying:
“I think it really comes down to just finding out what we like about the band and finding a great balance between what people like about our band. You know, I’m not going to write “stranger, stranger” and change it to “danger, danger.” I’m not going to write the same song over and over again. But I definitely take that into consideration in writing and a lot of what we can pull off live – because a band like ours is so dependent on live shows, it’s not just like a radio hit and then you don’t have to play them.”
LoPorto went on to add, “We were very adamant about what can we do [live] and what can we pull off. So I definitely think it does make the writing easier. When you have a song or if you have a certain idea it can go 100,000 million different ways – you can do it at different time signatures, you can make it an acoustic guitar – but I think we know what elements we should use for our band and it makes it a little bit easier. It borders what you can do or what you should do and that’s why I think this record was a little bit easier. Like, if a song sounded a little too poppy or whatever, we go, ‘What can we do to change it to make it sound more like Can’t Swim?’”
To read more about Can’t Swim’s killer new album as well LoPorto’s time spent behind the drum kit of a well-known hardcore band, be sure to read our in-depth interview below. Afterward, make sure to not only grab a copy of This Too Won’t Pass but also pick up tickets to see Can’t Swim out on their first full US headliner here.
The recent Seaway and Trophy Eyes tour saw you guys touring with Microwave again after just playing in the UK with him. What’s it like getting to play shows with them? Especially now since you’re all close friends?
Chris LoPorto: I was a big fan of Microwave before I even met the dudes in the band. I love their records. I think they’re a great band. So it’s weird to have such a high opinion of a guy now that he’s a friend of mine. But it’s great. They set the bar really high. Whenever we play before them or after them, it’s always like you gotta bring your A-game because Microwave’s in town.
Being that you’ve done so many tours with them, is there anything that you’ve gotten to know about Microwave that people might not know?
That’s a hard question. Let’s see, we got Tito who seems to be very into health and fitness. You can see him do a good amount of push-ups throughout the day. A little bit of yoga too.
He also loves metal music.
He does. I think they all have an affinity for heavier tunes. Um, Nate is very tall. They’re all actually pretty tall. They’re all tall guys. There’s a set of brothers in the band…
This is all good stuff that should definitely go in their bio.
Yeah! They record their records themselves. They um…
It’s okay, if you think of anything else, let us know. But speaking of heavy music, your new album This Too Won’t Pass has some heavier dynamics at times. Did you know that’s how it was going to be going into the recording process?
I think we’ve always had elements of that on our previous records and it’s kind of what’s most comfortable for us, especially in a live setting – songs like “Your Clothes” and “Stranger” seem to be, not only our most popular songs, but the ones that we gravitate to towards the most and enjoy the most. So yeah, I think when the songs were in their demo state, we looked at them and said how can we make this sound more like Can’t Swim. And our definition of what Can’t Swim sounds like is kind of like a heavier – where Fail You Again had, you know, some softer songs and some less aggressive songs, this next record I feel like is more fitting for our band. And that’s why we wrote the songs that way.
You grew up playing in some heavier bands. Do you feel a similar energy playing these new songs live?
Certainly. Actually, I don’t play guitar on stage anymore. So it’s a very different dynamic. So yeah, I think these songs have a lot higher range for me vocally. So it feels very aggressive. It’s been a blast.
Why did you choose not to play guitar on stage anymore?
With This Too Won’t Pass, a lot of the parts were very two-guitar-able. In the writing process, we realized that half the time I was doing the same thing as Chez [guitarist, Mike Sanchez] and it really wasn’t necessary. And yeah, the songs are quite a pain to sing because they’re pretty high throughout the whole thing. So just to focus more on singing and not to be redundant. Who needs three guitars? You just need two. [laughs]
This project is your first time singing and even playing guitar. Now that you’re just strictly singing on stage, does it feel weird not to have that, for lack of a better word, “crutch” on stage to help out?
It’s certainly like that part in Anchorman where he’s like, “I don’t know what to do” [laughs]. That just rings in my head. But I don’t really like to look to into it. Like, you might think I’m lying, but I wasn’t practicing in the mirror before this tour. I’ve never tried to put too much of a face on or have it in any type of structure or pre-planned thing. You know, whatever comes naturally. I know the songs, I wrote the songs. So just go up there and sing them into the microphone. That’s all you gotta do!
It’s interesting that when you started this project, it was your first time learning guitar and your first time singing. Now that you’re three releases in, how do you view your songwriting from when you started compared to now?
You know, sometimes I think about it and it’s like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe it’s been three years.” It feels like it was a week ago we started. And then sometimes when we’re playing in Phoenix, Arizona for the fifth time and it’s like, “Okay, you know, we have been doing this for a good amount of time.” And I also think with songwriting and any art in general, I don’t know, I never look at it as a muscle or a football skill. I don’t think just because you’ve been doing it longer necessarily means you’re going to get better at it. I think Can’t Swim is just my experiences through my life and songs that are events that have happened to me. So if some of those events relate to people, more so than others, then that’s great. I definitely think we’re more comfortable together as a band and I think we have a little more self-awareness and an identity. I don’t think we’re going to come out and write a full country album. We know what this is and what people look for from our band but other than that, it’s still like shooting arrows into the dark sometimes. You just go up [on stage] or you go into the studio and you just hope for the best [laughs].
For This Too Won’t Pass, was the writing done individually or are you guys starting to do things more collectively?
So usually the demo I have, it’s all the parts like drums, bass, guitar and a melody and lyrics. But with this last record, some of those demos completely changed form and vibe with Danny [Rico, guitarist] producing the whole record. But even with Chez and Greg [McDevitt, bassist], and when Andrea [Morgan, drummer] was in the band, it was very collaborative and some things that I thought were my strongest going into it actually didn’t make the cut and things that I thought were throwaways Danny flipped it around and changed the key. “My Queen” was the first single, that song was completely different. I didn’t think it was that great. It was very happy, major sounding. And then Danny did his “magician-ship” to it and it became one of the favorites. So yeah, this one was definitely more of a team effort than I think any of the other ones.
With Can’t Swim doing everything in-house and producing your own records, do you take it more personally when songs get switched up? Because maybe if you were working with a “big time” producer you might just take their word for it based on their track record?
No actually, to be fair, I would actually almost think I’d react to it the opposite because X producer, though I see his clientele and his track record, who the hell knows? I don’t know that guy from a hole in the wall. But these dudes, you know, I see what they’re capable of and I know how close we are with what we like and I think they’re all incredible musicians. So when they suggest something, I’m like, “Oh shit, that’s probably right” [laughs]. So it’s a very good dynamic we have. I never for a second think it’s coming from any other place than let’s do the best thing for Can’t Swim. So yeah, writing is very easy for our band. It comes quite naturally, to be honest.
Do you think that’s why you guys have been able to put out releases so frequently?
Yeah, I mean, I write a bunch of demos throughout the year and while we’re touring and stuff, but when it comes down to actually getting it done, it’s really not that much of a pulling teeth kind of thing. It’s quite fluid, especially with this last record. It was actually fun. Usually, when I think about doing something like that it’s like, “Oh my god, it’s gonna be the most stressful thing ever.” But yeah, it was actually fun. It was a blast.
Was there any talk about spacing this record out at all since you just dropped an LP last year?
You know, that’s something that I kind of keep my nose out of. I’m not very involved in that world, especially before Can’t Swim I had no idea about it. That was mostly Pure Noise, our record label. They said “Hey, let’s get in the studio on here. Let’s plan for this release. Are you guys ready?” And you know, we were more than ready so I think we love writing and putting new content out so I don’t think we’ll ever be that type of band where we keep [fans] waiting. You know if you got it, let the story continue. Who knows how long kids are willing to listen. You only [have their attention] for a short amount of time. So if kids are interested in what we have, then let’s put out more albums and put out more songs.
Going from Death Deserves A Name to Fail You Again, you’ve spoken in the past about the pressure, especially considering Death Deserves A Name was your first time as a songwriter. Fast-forward and you’re already on your third release. Do you feel more comfortable with things now?
Yeah, I think it really comes down to just finding out what we like about the band and finding a great balance between what people like about our band. You know, I’m not going to write “stranger, stranger” and change it to “danger, danger.” I’m not going to write the same song over and over again. But I definitely take that into consideration in writing and a lot of what we can pull off live – because a band like ours is so dependent on live shows, it’s not just like a radio hit and then you don’t have to play them. We were very adamant about what can we do [live] and what can we pull off. So I definitely think it does make the writing easier. When you have a song or if you have a certain idea it can go 100,000 million different ways – you can do it at different time signatures, you can make it an acoustic guitar – but I think we know what elements we should use for our band and it makes it a little bit easier. It borders what you can do or what you should do and that’s why I think this record was a little bit easier. Like, if a song sounded a little too poppy or whatever, we go “What can we do to change it to make it sound more like Can’t Swim?” Like, I’ve heard that from Danny 10 times during the writing and recording and he was like, “If we were up on stage, is that what it would sound like?” And it was like, “I guess, kind of not.” So yeah, I definitely think it was actually an easier process than it ever was.
When it comes to your musical preferences, do you find that you listen to music similar to Can’t Swim?
Yeah, growing up in the time that I grew up in, I feel very lucky to be with the internet so accessible. Like, back in the day if I had 10 bucks to buy a record I wouldn’t take a chance on an album that I thought looked stupid or looked silly from the cover. But that was when I was in high school so I’d just download it. Now, you can listen to 30 million records a month if you want to. I listened to so many things growing up from more like aggressive stuff to hip-hop to country stuff. I think I’ve always gravitated towards honesty. I never really got into the super-mundane, generic lyrical content of bands, like in pop music or in dance music – all that is incredibly catchy and fun to listen to but the ones that hit home have some sort of unique storytelling. Other than the vibe of Can’t Swim, I would like to think that we are an honest band and I’m just writing songs about things that have happened to me. So I definitely think it’s in the same vein as my interests going up. Music was a big part of my life when I was a kid so I kind of say that this is like my payback to kids that are 10 years younger than me – I grew up going to shows just like this and it was great. I had no idea what the hell I was doing in high school either. So yeah, if Can’t Swim can be that for a young kid, that’s pretty much always been the goal, honestly – to write things that I enjoy and then if a kid is going through something and you can relate to it, that’s so sick.
It’s interesting you mention your age a little. Has being somewhat “older” than some of the bands in this scene affected your outlook on Can’t Swim at all?
Kind of. I mean, I say it all the time, I could never imagine being a songwriter in my teenage years because what the hell do you have to write about? You know, everything was great when I was in high school [laughs]. It would be pretty boring songs [back then]. But no, I was a nervous fellow when I was young and I don’t think I would have been able to do it. You know, somehow it happened for a reason that it came later in my life because as a young kid, I don’t think I ever would have been able to do it. But dude, certainly, it is a very big difference starting a band at 16 than 26 – Can’t Swim, I guess, the [first] record came out when I was 26 turning 27 and I’m 29 now. So yeah, man, sleeping on the floor, sleeping in the van – but because I enjoy the music so much and the guys in the band are like my family members now it never really feels like I’m “past my prime.” Because so many kids enjoy it, it’s not like we’re traveling around the world playing in front of, you know, nobody. It’s tough but I certainly look at it as a blessing still, because I know – this is my first time being a songwriter but certainly not my first time being in a band – so I know how tough it is to get to this point. So yeah, other than your back hurts all the time, it’s pretty great.
That’s good to hear especially since we’re not getting younger anymore either…
Yeah, man. I mean, age is just a number. That’s what I’ve been told [laughs].
So, last question. We hope you can clear up a rumor for us. But first, are there any rumors about Can’t Swim that are just floating around the internet?
Nobody really knows Greg’s real name. Some people think it’s Craig. Some people think it’s, who knows? Yeah, he’s a man of mystery.
Interesting. Is there a question you get asked a lot about the band?
“Can you swim?” I get that a lot. Yeah, there’s not much creativity going on in the rumor [mill]. I don’t think Can’t Swim invokes the drama.
Not yet, at least.
Not yet. Hopefully it’s coming [laughs].
Okay, so did you used to play in Trash Talk back in the day?
That is true! That is not a rumor. Yeah, right before Can’t Swim started – actually, I was writing the demos when I was playing drums for Trash Talk.
Wow. What was that experience like?
It was cool. I knew them through friends of friends almost 10 years ago. I’m a New Jersey guy, they’re a California band but they would always come to my neck of the woods and play shows and my old band – you know, we were all just friends playing hardcore shows. I always thought highly of them, I thought their band was really cool and then super last minute their drummer fell through for a European tour and they called me up to see if I was available and then right after that we did a few things in the States and then it was all around the same time I was writing songs so it was pretty short lived. I was probably playing with them for like a year and a half on and off. So yeah, that is not a rumor. Trash Talk, playing the drums.
How do those shows compare to Can’t Swim shows? And do you miss them at all?
I love those guys and they are like a speeding bullet to catch up with sometimes – other than their music being at a fast tempo, their lifestyle is at a fast tempo and they’re always turned on. Can’t Swim I would almost say is like a “librarian level” in comparison. We’re a bunch of old men that just like to get to the venue early and eat a salad. But no, they’re the best band. I was very fortunate to spend my time with them. They have a – it’s weird talking about my friends in this way – but like an iconic, timeless [sound]. I think they could be like the Cro-Mags and Bad Brains of the 2000s. No one does it like Lee and I love the songs and I can’t say enough good things about them. But very different dynamic [between] Trash Talk and Can’t Swim. Polar opposites [laughs].
It’d be cool if you could get Can’t Swim on a Trash Talk show.
That’d be cool! Or I get one of my girly singings on one of their [songs]. That’d be good.