The Bodhisattva Beat
Music and Life

Swimsuit: Swimsuit

Swimsuit: 2011

I am always interested in checking out new bands, especially when they are local. Oddly enough, I didn’t discover Swimsuit by word of mouth or area venues. One day they just happened to be the featured artist on the AMG home page. I saw they were from the area so I was compelled to investigate.

What I found was a bit unexpected. Sure there has been a revival in the alternative sounds of the 80’s, but this group has done something a bit different. The best way to describe it is if Joy Division had decided to play surf music. The production is minimalist and has a definite garage band sound. Amber Fellows has a vocal style that I can best describe as a cross between Debbie harry and Karen O. Fred Thomas doesn’t really sound like anyone in particular when he is at the mic. It is more an amalgam of  ‘80s new wave/punk singers, with lots of echo. The guitars are jangly and sparsely picked. Avery simple drum kit is used, and there is no holding back on the cymbals.

As I mentioned before, Swimsuit definitely takes their cues from Joy Division and early New order. I know what you are thinking, isn’t that Interpol? The difference here is that the music is much more upbeat. That’s where the surf influence comes in. You would never think of anything penned by Ian Curtis to be happy Summer time music, but Swimsuit sounds just right going down the road in a convertible. So the gloom might not be present, but what isn’t missing is the artistic quality. The songs are simple yet intelligently crafted.

Now don’t expect beyond belief virtuosic playing that is present in a lot of the music I review. I will not be making any comparisons to Steve Hackett, Tony Levin, or Bill Bruford. Just like in days of Swimsuit’s predecessors, less is more. What they do, they do very well. Anything else would be overkill. The instrumental tunes are especially handled with measured subtlety. Don’t get that confused with precision. There is just enough sloppiness to keep it raw.

This is an impressive and very accessible debut by a little band from Ypsilanti Michigan. Should they keep it together, I expect even better releases in the future. My only suggestion would be to stick to one vocalist. While Fred isn’t bad, Amber is far more interesting. She is the one that could stand out the voice of Swimsuit. That aside, it’s still a cool album and available at a very affordable price. They have made becoming a Swimsuit fan very easy.

Fred Thomas – guitar, vocals
Dina Bankole – guitar
Amber Fellows – bass, vocals
Shelley Salant – drums

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2 Responses to “Swimsuit: Swimsuit”

  1. Nice HT.

    It’s probably worth noting that although this is Swimsuit’s first long player, these guys have some impressive histories of their own.

    Fred Thomas is the brains and brawn behind “local’ bands, Lovesick, flashpapr and, most notably, the excellent Saturday Looks Good to Me and City Center groups. He also is the founder of the always-excellent Ypsilanti record label and a dear friend of mine. An all-around great guy. Dina is in the very popular Secret Twins and Shelly has worked with Tyvek and Charlie Slick.

    I saw one of their first gigs in a bedroom in Ypsilanti. I was the oldest person there by 20 years!

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the back up Will. It’s always good to have someone in the scene fill in the blanks.

      For anyone who doesn’t know, that is Col. Will Stewart of the Ypsitucky Colonels.


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