Glasgow based five-piece “Olympic Swimmers” released their glorious Iain Cook produced debut album “No Flags Will Fly” earlier this year to universal critical acclaim. Lead singer Susie Smillie was recently kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for us ahead of the release of new single “Knots” this month on the bands own “Green, White, Violet” label. You can listen to the track below and it will be available as a free download from the groups Bandcamp page from the 17th of September.
1) You are releasing “Knots” as a single on the 17th of September as a free download and then a physical release on the 8th of October, can you tell us a bit about the song?
Susie Smillie) It’s one of the more upbeat sounding songs on the album and I think it might almost be ‘pop’ or at least as close as we can manage! Maybe in contrast to that, but also maybe suited to the fast pace of it, the song is lyrically about the passage of time and the importance of memory. My mum does this thing where she says out loud when she wants to remember a specific moment she’s in, she calls it ‘banking it’ and that, among other things, influenced where I went with the lyrics of this. I’ve read about how the brain is almost wired with the preference for remembering negative emotions and events more clearly than positive ones so I think it’s not a bad idea to try harder and make a conscious effort to store a joyful memory. I’ve also had a bit of a thing for Iain Crichton Smith’s poetry for a long time and especially those poems on aging and the transience of life so I think there’s also that influence in there. Really cheery stuff!
2) I saw there will also be a Miaoux Miaoux remix of “Where It Snows” on the single, can you tell us a bit more about that? Was it a song that Julian chose himself or was it a collective decision?
SS) We knew that Julian particularly liked that song and so when we asked him if he was up for doing a remix for the B-side it made sense that he went for that one. We also thought it’d be nice to use that one because it was a song that we did a wee video for at the end of last year and was the first song most folk heard from the album so might be better known than other ones. Simon has also done a ‘remixed’ video for it. I really love the remix, it’s a weird feeling to hear something so familiar changed like that. It did make me think how I might have approached the vocals differently if I’d known we were going to do this with it later, and I suppose also made me wonder how something might sound if a collaboration happened from the beginning…might have to start pestering Julian.
3) I believe you self-released “No Flags Will Fly”. Do you feel an even greater sense of achievement down to this fact? Are you happy with how it’s been received?
SS) I don’t know how it would be different because I’ve nothing to compare it to but I know that it has definitely felt like something enormously worthwhile and I’m so glad that we’ve had the opportunity to do it. And yes really happy that people like it! I think the best thing that’s come out of it though is the fact that we have a bit of money now and lots of encouragement to make another one, that’s always been the goal.
4) Being a proud new owner of one of your T-Shirts, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the artwork that appears on the Tshirt and also on the album itself?
SS) The artwork is by an extremely talented artist called Sarah Laing who we are lucky enough to call our friend. (www.sarah-laing.com) She let us use one of her existing works (‘Rascals’) for the album and I think her style fits with the sound of the album but I particularly like the way that you can see lots of different things in the painting without really knowing what it is.
5) There are obviously a lot of family ties within the band (Susie and Graeme are married and Simon is her brother), what influence if any do you think this has on the band?
SS) For me it’s only positive (I can’t speak for them!). I love being in a band with all of them and Jamie and Jonny are two of my closest friends so I don’t feel that far away from being related to them either. I think one place that it probably helps is that Simon and Graeme can get away with telling me things that Jonny and Jamie might find it harder to do. I realize that I can sometimes be a bit difficult to deal with so it’s probably helpful for everyone that they know me best!
6) How does the writing process work in the band, is it very much a collaborative effort? If so, Does the fact that members of the band play/tour in multiple different groups and projects make it hard to find time to get together?
SS) We write pretty much everything as a group with someone bringing very rough ideas to practice, or sending recorded ideas by email and us all figuring out our parts and discussing how they should all fit together. It sounds pretty cold and calculated when you get asked to write it down like that! The fact that everyone has other commitments just means we have to make a bit of an extra effort to set aside time to concentrate just on this band. It’s sometimes difficult to coordinate but I don’t think it’s ever been hard for us to be motivated to do it.
7) I read on your website that you were all going up north to live in a studio for a few days, how did it go? What studio were you recording in? Did any songs come out of the sessions?
SS) We went to a wee cottage north west of glasgow and did about 6 or 7 demos and we’re planning on going back later in the year to do some more. It was definitely worthwhile and because everyone in the band has other commitments it was such a good way for us to set aside time just for writing and thinking about how we want the next album to sound.
8) What’s your current favorite song from the album to play live? Does it tend to change often?
SS) I enjoy playing them all but the one I probably look forward to most in the set is ‘Rung Down The Curtain’. Although it’s a pretty dark song I find it quite therapeutic to sing it. Maybe because it makes me think of some kind of difficult things but help them resolve a bit in my head, or it could be that I just get a bit of a hyperventilation high because I get to belt it out!
9) I saw you playing at Doune The Rabbit Hole recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. How was the experience for you? you obviously got moved stage and time etc, was it a bit of a nightmare of a festival to be an artist at?
SS) It was quite a difficult experience which I think is a shame because small festivals like that are really a wee glimmer of hope in what is a pretty dark time for musicians. I think a lot of the focus perhaps has been on making the festival a really relaxed, fun and laid back experience for the folk attending which is great but from an artist point of view I feel like maybe there’s a need for a bit more structure and formality to make sure that the logistics of things run smoothly, and so that your performers also feel relaxed and able to enjoy playing. That said the folk in the crowd were so positive at the time and since then that it definitely made up for any brain cells I might have fried earlier in the day.
10) What’s the plans for the rest of the year for the band? Can we expect some tour dates in the near future?
SS) We’re playing in Dumfries with Frightened Rabbit in a couple of weeks (24th Sept) and then we aren’t going to be able to play again until November because of other commitments we have. We’re planning some dates in November and hopefully December too but the main plan is to try and get finished writing stuff for another album so that we can set about recording that next year as early as we can.
The last three questions which we here at Up Late At Night Again aim to ask everyone that we interview this year are just a bit of fun, the best answers will also be collated for an end of year piece.
1) If you could have written any song in history what would it have been? and why?
SS) Pixies’ Where is my mind? It does something to me when I hear it and I hope at some point I can figure out what that is and how to do it to other people!
2) If you could share a cheese fondue with anyone living or dead (not including Jesus because he doesn’t exist) who would it be?
SS) I don’t tend to enjoy sharing food, especially not cheese (which I would prefer in its solid form and for my exclusive consumption) and definitely not in a way that encourages the unhygienic practice of double-dipping. I’d quite like to hang about with William Shatner for the day though with or without cheese.
3) If you had to punch one of either Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger in the face who would it be and why?
SS) I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about either of them but if it was punch or be punched I’d probably opt for McCartney based only on the fact that I think he’s less likely to hit back and easier to outrun.
A big thanks again to Susie for taking the time to do the interview, it is much appreciated.
“Apples and Pears” just because it is my favourite.
You can find more information on the band at the following places