Buzznet Exclusive Interview: Feat. Jonathan Diener Of The Swellers
I got the pleasure of meeting Jon Diener the drummer in The Swellers as well as the rest of the guys when I went to heaven ( to see The Early November) recently. The tour had some great bands on the lineup and one of them happened to be The Swellers. The guys released a new 7″ on SideOneDummy called “Vehicle City Blues” with two songs, “Vehicle City Blues” and “Red Lights.”Recently parting ways with their label Fueled By Ramen, they are now independent, and are planning to release an EP they will start recording once their current tour wraps up! Sooo..
Check out their video, interview and some fun pictures I found!!
BH: Describe yourself using 3 song titles.
JD: “I’m The One”, “Clarity”, “Happy Kid”
BH: What is one memory from a show that stands out to you the most?
JD: For me the craziest moment of my life was when Paramore took us on a bizarre Pacific Rim and we got to play to over 10,000 people in Jakarta, Indonesia. There were security guards everywhere, we had to be escorted and I was playing this extremely old trashy rental drum kit that a high school would probably have in its band room. We walked out on the outside stage in front of this huge statue/monument and just the sound of everyone screaming made me remember this is why I do what I do. All of the crap we’ve gone through the last 10 years seems worth it on days like that. Too bad the people were probably bummed when they realized we weren’t Paramore haha!
BH: What are the last thoughts that run through your head when you step on stage?
JD: I usually think, “Do I have to pee?” and by the time it registers in my head I’m already at my drum kit hitting the first note. I also try to plan a path to get to the drum kit because usually it’s like an Indiana Jones movie with cords set up like booby traps waiting to take me out any second if I take a wrong step.
BH: What’s the best advice you have been given on the music world?
JD: We toured with A Wilhelm Scream and a band called Only Crime (which includes Bill Stevenson of Descendents/Black Flag fame) 4 or 5 years ago. We were in Baltimore and there were only about 50 people in the crowd on a Monday night which isn’t too bad. I walked side stage to wish the AWS guys luck and Bill walked out and told them to pay attention. He said everyone in that crowd could’ve been doing ANYTHING that night. They could be getting dinner with friends, watching a movie, playing video games, doing drugs or sleeping… but they decided to come out and see a punk rock band that made them feel something. They CHOSE to watch A Wilhelm Scream that night. It doesn’t matter how many or how few, it mattered that there were people in a completely different state that gave a shit. When I heard that I thought about touring completely different for the rest of my life. You really do touch people with music and it’s the coolest thing in the world people are excited enough to pay to see a band play their songs. That’s why we do it. When we release our new EP in the fall that will be my mindset to go along with it. This is a therapeutic release to write lyrics, play chords and share it with people. The fact they respond is the best feeling in the world.
BH: What are a few things you cant live without on the road?
JD: My go to devices are my iPhone and iPod. This may sound like an Apple ad, but I’m constantly listening to music to escape or kill time or just enjoy myself. If we’re on one of our many 8 hour drives through the middle of nowhere USA, I can entertain myself by checking Twitter and posting stuff I think is funny. I try to stay productive and do band stuff from my phone or just interact with fans and give them something interesting to do that day.
BH: What’s one of your guilty pleasures and hidden talents?
JD: Guilty pleasures… I think 3/4 of our band over overly obsessed with professional wrestling, specficially the WWE. If anyone on tour has Netflix we sit down and watch a wrestling documentary together. We made our friend Molly’s family watch a DVD about the death of wrestler Owen Hart. Strange fellas we are. As far as hidden talents, I’m bizarrely good at all disc/frisbee related sports. Everyone is obsessed with soccer or baseball but if you put a disc in my hand I will absolutely slay. My friends and I have played Ultimate for the last 6 years over the summer at our high school football field and if I had the chance to join a team, I would. I guess I’ll have to settle for touring the world playing drums for now.
BH: What is something a fan has made for you that you still have?
JD: Most things fans make for us are food, and they disappear into our stomachs in about one day. We are the scavengers of the touring world and if there are cookies or snacks we will demolish them. We literally eat everyday.
BH: If you could tour with any 4 bands from the 80s and 90s who would you choose?
JD: I would love to tour with Weezer, Descendents, Third Eye Blind and The Wallflowers. Get a little bit of punk in there, some 90s radio rock and Weezer who got us into a whole new world of music. Obviously all have changed over time so I’d make them all (other than Descendents) play just my favorite records. Third Eye Blind’s “Out Of The Vein” is an absolute masterpiece of an album.
BH: What was your favorite class in high school?
JD: My favorite class was called American Studies. It intertwined my two favorite subjects, English and Social Studies. I would write obscenely long essays because I always had a lot to say (which I’m sure you can tell from these responses) and learned so much that year. Unfortunately I had neither subject my senior year of high school and it was a complete joke. It’d be great if the public school system let you get the classes you were passionate about so you can excel rather than half-ass something you don’t believe in.
BH: If someone made a movie about your life what would the title be and what would it be about?
JD: “The Wolf Who Cried Boy” and it would be about how I’m pretty sure I was born a wolf inside a man’s body. I’m a loner but do well in groups of people. I howl at the moon. I travel and seek adventure. I also get along well with other dogs and tend to drag people around.
BH: What would your rap name be?
JD: In 6th grade we had to write a rap about a new product we were trying to sell. I stole the theme song from Donkey Kong 64, put my lyrics about bubble gum to it, and named myself DJ JD. I thought it was really cool until immediately after that a kid just said, “Good job DJ JD” and I instantly felt remorse. So logically I’d go with that name. Life is pain.
BH: Tell us about the scariest experience you’ve had on tour!
JD: We were fortunate enough to be asked to play the Bouncing Souls’ annual holiday show in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It’s their hometown and one of our favorite bands so we decided to drive from Michigan about 12 hours straight to get there and play the show in the middle of one of our winter breaks from tour. We were warned about snow but shrugged it off. We picked up our bassist, Anto, in Canada and the second we crossed into Buffalo, NY it slowly became a war zone. Clearly mother nature has a problem with us because the closer we got to New Jersey, the worse the weather got. We heard the other bands were told to stay put and wait for instructions to head all the way… but we were stubborn and kept driving. We actually made it into town and the snow was piled so high it went halfway up people’s front doors. There was NO way a single soul was braving that to make it to the show. We called after we saw 200 cars stuck on the highway and SNOW PLOWS STUCK IN THE SNOW! They understood, we turned around to head home then got our van/trailer stuck on a snow covered on-ramp for 3 hours. $250 later we were on our way back to Michigan. Cold, wet, defeated. We learned to listen to warnings of weather instead of trying to be badasses. In all honesty, we don’t even have to TRY to be badasses, we just are.
BH: What is the worst job you have ever had in the past?
JD: I’ve been fortunate to have rad parents who supported me until I graduated high school then have been touring every since. I had a job over one summer working for an old lady doing landscaping for her garden. I still remember her telling me she wanted me to rake the sea floor on the beach around her dock… I had to walk into the shallow water and rake every single ounce of seaweed and bring it on shore. It sounds easy, but she made me go waist deep and do it and it was a BIG beach. I was constantly bending over to do it and the shirt I was wearing kept lifting up, which lead to a severe lower back sunburn. Try explaining that strip of red on your lower back to friends. It felt worse than a tramp stamp.
BH: Share a random fact about yourself that not many people would expect!
JD: One time I’m pretty sure I had a conversation with my dog. I said something and our golden retriever named Franklin looked at me and made this strange yawn/vocal attempt at me. I tilted my head and repeated the noise back… then he responded. Were they actual words? No. But screw the Dog Whisperer, I’m the dog converser. When I see people walking their dogs I will always only acknowledge their dogs too. The owners are usually confused but I know the dogs are stoked. When I ride my bike imagine that scenario but happening about 50 times in 30 minutes. Our band is going to be huge with the dog crowd!
What is YOUR favorite song from The Swellers?!