Los Angeles is a beast made up of countless creatives trying to make their way; either falling to the wayside or standing out amongst the rest. When the community comes together, however, social climbing and cruelty become trivial, and the beast that is Los Angeles gets a bit weaker. SWIMM, the once Florida-based psych-pop band made up of Chris Hess and Adam Winn, are purveyors of making the Los Angeles art scene more about community.
The duo is fresh off the high of releasing their debut album, Sentimental Porno, and they’re stoked to bring to us their third annual Love You Down fest, their biggest event date to date taking place at the Echo and Echoplex. Love You Down is being put on with the help of Jenny Lee of LA favorites, practically LA royalty really, Warpaint. The festival is two days jam-packed of other Los Angeles gems, tarot card readings, stick and poke tattoos, friends, and of course, love. Oh yeah. Warpaint and SWIMM are headlining both of the exciting nights so if you’re not able to make it one night, don’t sweat about it; you can catch the groups either night. I had the chance to talk to one half of SWIMM, Chris Hess, about the origins of the festival, becoming besties with badass Jenny Lee, and about the beast that is Los Angeles amongst other things.
So you can just tell me a little bit about the origins of the festival because is the third one, correct?
Yes so basically we SWIMM, we had gotten to a point in our career where we just finished up a residency at the Echo and that was about 3 years ago. For us, that was super fun and we moved from Florida and the echo had always been the coolest venue to us so we did that then a few months after that we did our first ticketing headline show… then coming into the next year after that it was kind of the next step. “Well do we plan the next headline show somewhere…?” What we’re thinking about what would be the most justifiable to promote to people and ask for them to come to again and again. I got a little disillusioned with that idea. During that residency, we got to book most of the bands and they were all friends we had made in LA. it really gave us a sense of community which we didn’t really have in Florida… it kind of made us giddy, to be honest. When it came to the idea of the festival we thought we could do a really really mini version of a festival where it’s one night and we ask a bunch of the friends we’ve made. Let’s just play with everyone. Let’s just tie in the idea of community with all of the bands we’ve gotten so close with and that way we felt better promoting it to people.
Did you have any idea that it would continue? Did you figure you’d do every year?
I think we had an inclination to keep it going. We were tossing around names for a couple of months… which is what we had a lot of deliberation with because we wanted to be able to live with it! After the first one, at the Hi-Hat, we thought oh yeah we’re going to do this every year. The next one was at the Echo and it was twice as big, crazier, but so lovely and so much fun. It’s what you expect. you ‘re playing with all your friends and these companies came onboard like Toms last year gave all the bands free sunglasses. Everyone just helped to do it! Every band was excited to be there. It’s so much fun whether you’re on drugs or not.
You said you were trying to figure out a good name for a while. How did you guys settle on Love You Down?
We were definitely toying with the name for a while. Love You Down came from a cover originally from Ready for the World. I was in love with the INOJ version. So we covered that song for our album. That song incited that feeling of you know, that roller rink vibe. In the clerb. It felt fun and kinda kitschy and also the obvious, we’re kind of unabashedly ok with being lovey and stoked and happy that we’re playing with our friends. We don’t pretend we’re too cool or unaffected so we were like “fuck it let’s put love in the title” and not apologize for it. Being that it’s called Love You Down, it can be a bit more ambiguous than just something something fest.
So you’re putting it on with Jenny Lee of Warpaint and it also happens to be their 15th anniversary. How did that come about? Did you just become friends with the girls from Warpaint over the past few years?
Yeah pretty much! At our headline show at the Echo before the first love you down. She came to the show with a friend of mine and we all hit it off. We went back to our warehouse and partied, having a great time and hanging out till 6 in the morning. We bonded then became great friends over the past few years. She’s DJ’d the past two Love You Downs. Last year it was such a fun time and came back to our warehouse and she was like “dude the vibe was so good. I want to be involved I want to get Warpaint involved.” and obviously its 3 am so I was like… are you going to remember this? Because I’ve been a fan for the past like 10 years. So then we just kept talking about it throughout the year and eventually, it got closer and she was super onboard. She talked to the girls and they were super on board and coincidentally it was their 15 years. I remember listening to Warpaint on my couch on Florida. It’s insane.
You said earlier, you guys didn’t really have a sense of community. And maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention to how artists interact with each other but it seems like more and more artists are collaborating and working to support each other. Why do you think this has been heightened?
That’s a really good question because I think there’s a lot of sides to it. WIth Florida, we had friends that]t were in rad bands that we’d play with. But like, we lived in Satellite Beach so the only music going on over we’re like bands playing sublime covers in the local fish joint. You’d have to travel to a different city to see your buds band but here it’s all so focused. One thing I’ve noticed about being in LA, I don’t think it’s natural for people in bands to do that. By nature, it’s a little bit of a self-centered practice. If you actually try to practice those things like concentrating on putting an event on where were legit asking our good friends to be a part of it, it opens up the doors. To speak to what you were saying about the saturation of everything. How the hell do you get attention? A lot of times managers or publicists will say, “Well… you should ask jennylee to be on a track!” it should happen naturally. You find your little pockets of friends and stuff and you go to enough shows where you start meeting people and doing shit together. Why the hell not!
When did you guys move to Los Angeles?
About 5 years ago.
Oh right right, and how has it influenced your sound?
I feel like my writing has… there are certain sonic elements of our music that is intrinsic to us being from Florida. I like things to sound a certain way. I like things to sound like their floating. You know what I mean? I think that definitely comes from growing up in Florida. Going from a small beach town in Florida to moving to a warehouse in Lincoln Heights. It was such a culture in the best way. I mean, I’ve traveled here but to live day to day… it was a different universe. I just loved it so much. I instantly found myself writing to that. Not even the downtown different world aspect, but observing the whole beast of Hollywood. Seeing how it affects people. It’s a pretty wild thing to observe and also be apart of. I can roll my eyes at that shit but then I got to play school night at the Bardot; I was in it. I started writing lyrics first then putting music to it. Which was a change in process. So lyrical content became a way more important thing to me than putting SWIMM’s sonics elements to it.
How has the festival changed in the past few years besides the obvious expansion? I saw you guys are going to have tarot card readers and other things, are these all new additions?
We’ve always tried to incorporate a little bit of extra stuff to appease the festival side of things. Last year we had live art going on and installations by this girl Laurie Shapiro, who’s going to do stuff this year too. She’s insane. She does the craziest full room installations so it almost feels like you’re walking into some cave… so we always try to keep that in mind because our biggest goal is to have people walk in and not get bored of it. We love events where you feel like you’re bouncing from one thing to the next. So now we’ve expanded to the echo and the Echoplex, as well as the lot, we have a ton of space. We’re going to have tarot card readers, stick and poke tattoos… It’s so if people want to take a break for a little and be amused for a while they can go outside and get something that they’ll remember…forever.
Since you’ve been gaining more momentum with the festival, I’m hoping it won’t end anytime soon. What does the future of Love You Down look like to you?
Well, this year was definitely a learning process. It’s been that every year, but having Warpaint involved and the scope of it this year, it’s been cool. There’s just so much that goes into it and compromise and different things. Our goal would be to expand, but not just for the sake of expanding. That’s the main thing I’m wary of is like I’m always saying if you’re not growing you’re dying, but the main point is to keep the vibe of the fest. That’s what always been coolest. The first one was at the Hi-Hat and it was much smaller, but it was tangible and we don’t want to lose that. I’m really want to pay attention this year to having the installations and having things that will cater to people feeling a certain vibe of positivity. When you really want to put something special on for people they can feel that rather than being like we’re gonna get even BIGGER and make EVEN MORE MONEY! Money has never even come into it really. I would really love to do Love You Down in different cities and we’re already planning on bringing it to Florida so we can expand their first and see how it goes. I would love to do it in different places and do maybe even a summer Love You Down. We want to keep tailoring it to the vibe we like and have it feel familial without it getting too out of our hands without it getting too different than what we initially intended.
Finally, I know SWIMM just released their album…
Yes, we just released our debut this year, Sentimental Porno. A lot of songs on there are directly related to us living in Los Angeles and figuring out the wild terrain of relationships while living…. Fucking Los Angeles? You know what I’m saying? The name itself speaks to the idea… it weirdly covers everything. We’ve also come to know such a wonderful group of people. That’s our first album and we’ve been focusing on the festival and recording. Hopefully, we’ll be releasing another album this year and we’re actually going to be releasing a single this Friday, “Windows Up!” It’s been good to write and just work on this.
Love You Down Fest starts tonight at the Echo + Echoplex, for more information head to the festival website.