One of NME’s poster boys from 2013, a year that hailed the arrival of Palma Violets and fellow Brummies Peace into the indie big leagues, Swim Deep returned for their first London show for around a year and a half. With a new album set for release in the summer, this gig marked the live premiere of their new sound.
Arriving on stage promptly at 9:30, they dived into a new song with frontman Austin warning “it’s a bit weird”. What followed was a nine minute dark psychedelic number containing the ominous refrain “this is the house of fun, we’re going to run and run”. Next up was first album hit Honey, guaranteed to get the crowd singing. They continued to intermingle old and new material during the rest of the set to an overwhelmingly positive reception.
Their new songs are strong, a bit braver than the tracks from their debut as they seem to be exploring new influences from genres as diverse as acid-house and gospel. Within this they’ve maintained the talent for catchy pop hooks. The older material still holds up well, with the band clearly respecting the fan favourites. She Changes the Weather was introduced as “an out and out love song” and it’s a beautiful one at that, a testament to what you can do with a few broken chords, a gradual build and simple yet effective lyrics. Swim Deep aren’t likely to revolutionise the direction of guitar music, but what they do they do well. Their sunny indie-pop manages to avoid becoming too saccharine. King City, the final song of the main set, was apparently the first song they wrote as a band. Impressive, considering it was also used as their first ever single.
They returned to the stage (“we were gonna wait longer but we couldn’t be bothered” said guitarist Tom Williams) for an encore of To My Brother, the euphoric lead single from the new record. As I left at least thirty kids clamoured at the front for set lists and another 8 or so were fighting over the drummer’s sweat towel, still riding high on the Swim Deep wave. If the reaction to their return is anything to go by, we should be surfing it for a while longer and I’m completely fine with that.