“To start again, we’re the lucky ones” opens “Shelter,” the first track on The Swimmers’ People Are Soft, and with it rings the sound of the band reinventing itself. On November 3, 2009, MAD Dragon Records (ADA) is proud to release the sophomore album from this Philadelphia quartet—a staggering, vulnerable recording that distinguishes itself as a debut in its own right.
Following the success of 2008’s Fighting Trees—The Swimmers’ first release on MAD Dragon, which garnered rave reviews from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Magnet, The Tripwire and Time Out Chicago—Steve and Krista Yutzy-Burkey, Scott French and Rick Sieber decided to start fresh by building a home studio from the ground up and recording a new album entirely on their own. The hard-won results feature intensely personal songwriting couched in distorted synthesizer hooks, crushing electric guitars and dark reverb swells. “It was a very focused and isolated time in the studio, and much of the grit was in the mixing process. These songs were darker and more intricate than the last record, and they demanded a very affected, refined sound,” says lead singer/songwriter Steve Yutzy-Burkey.
From the opening track “Shelter” to “A Hundred Hearts”— the insatiably catchy gang vocal about the competing pulls of the human heart—to “Drug Party”—a dream sequence of social disconnection propelled by overblown distorted guitars and brash snare hits—to “What This World Is Coming To”— a diffuse, tender verse that collapses into quirky keyboard lines, handclaps and epic choruses—the sounds begin to form the fractured and sentimental cast of characters that make up this record. The apocalyptic electro-pop of “Give Me the Sun,” “Nervous Wreck’s” triumphant chorus (“sing without and hold together”), and the nostalgic spoken lyric of “Try To Settle In” all converge with the rest of the songs to flesh out the full meaning of the album’s title—in their isolation and comfort, allure and fragility, resignation and transcendence: People Are Soft.
Steve met his wife Krista, the Swimmers’ keyboard player, when she was a harp performance major at a small liberal arts college in Indiana. At the same college, Steve played in various groups with bass player Rick Sieber, who was working towards a degree in Library Science. The three graduated and relocated to Philadelphia, where Steve, in response to an intriguing job listing, became a pipe organ tuner. There, he and drummer Scott French began recording music together as they repaired and tuned massive church organs.
Previous to the formation of The Swimmers, Rick and Steve played for several years in the alt-country group One Star Hotel. In 2005, while writing songs inspired by the John Cheever short story “The Swimmer,” Steve presented the idea of a less serious indie-pop recording project to long-time friends Scott, Rick and Krista. Very quickly these initial recordings “Heaven,” “Pocket Full of Gold” and “All the New Sounds” began to get serious attention and The Swimmers were born. Their piano-pounding, vocal harmony-laden debut album was proclaimed by influential WXPN program director Bruce Warren to be “ the best record not released in 2007,” and Fighting Trees was subsequently picked up for release by MAD Dragon Records.
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