By Paul Iiams
PHOTO COURTESY OF FAT WRECK CHORDS
The Swingin' Utters began in the late ╬80s, playing covers of songs from bands like Sham 69, the Buzzcocks and the Clash.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 17, 2003
The one thing the Swingin' Utters want people who are not familiar with them to know is that, despite popular belief, they are not just a punk band.
"We mix it up a lot," Darius Koski, guitarist, accordionist and violinist for the band said. "We play different styles of music. Not just straight up punk."
"But wait," you might say, "who the hell are the Swingin' Utters?" They may very well be the best band you have never heard of. And that may change soon, too. The Utters are on their way to Tucson to play at Skrappy's on April 21.
The Utters started in 1988 in Santa Cruz, Calif. The band's sound has been described as being influenced by the British punk invasion of the '70s with a twist all their own.
Citing influences as varied as The Clash and Johnny Cash, the Utters started as a cover band with current lead singer Johnny Bomel and current drummer Greg McEatee. They evolved into Johnny Peabucks and the Swingin' Utters. After working on numerous compilation albums, they dropped the Johnny Peabucks and became simply The Swingin' Utters.
They then made the move to indie label and home to numerous punk acts, Fat Wreck Chords. They also moved from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. From there, they rapidly became known as San Francisco's best punk band, a label that Koski doesn't think matters that much.
"There is no pressure to live up to it because we never think about it," he said of the label. "We do what we do and not worry about it."
After releasing a number of albums in the span of 12 years, the Utters decided to take some time to put together its current album, Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones. While the band was partway through the recording of the album, the Utters had to regroup after their longtime guitarist, Max Huber, suddenly left to return home to New York. That and other circumstances delayed the finish of the album.
"Max left halfway though the recording," Koski said. "I don't know, it kind of left us in limbo. Plus, we were really busy with our families. Between both Johnny and I working, plus touring and sporadic recording, this record took a long fucking time."
When Huber left, not only were the Utters missing a guitarist that played a vital role in their sound, they also lost about half the album ¸ all the songs that Huber had written. They quickly found a replacement for Huber, however.
Chuck Worthy, a guitarist with the band The Lust Killers, joined the Utters as they were working on Dead Flowers. The transition from Huber to Worthy was easier than expected.
"We clicked pretty immediately," Koski said. "It was weird not having Max but it was good to get a different sound."
With the record complete, the Utters once again began to do what they do best: They began to tour. Their current tour began in Phoenix in late March and will end in Tucson. They will then take three weeks off and start a West Coast tour in Reno. The band travels in a van from city to city and the tedium of driving can wear on them.
"It's boring," Koski said. "There is lots of driving and waiting. The only thing that is fun is the actual performing."
Being on the road so much, stories about embarrassing situations ¸ think: forgetting what city you are in ¸ are bound to occur. But, life on the road has seemed fairly tame for the band.
"Except for some embarrassing drunken episodes and the van breaking down in Indiana, nothing really strange has happened," Koski said. "Come to think of it, anything that happens in Indiana is pretty strange."
With the current proliferation of punk bands in the world, a veteran of the scene like Koski was bound to have opinions about certain musicians and the channels that play them.
Green Day: "I like them," he said. "They are good pop punk."
The Clash: "The Beatles."
Blink 182: "Not my cup of tea."
Avril Lavigne: "She is incredibly annoying. She is a boring watered-down pop singer."
MTV: "It's boring. I don't really watch it. They don't even play music anymore."
Despite being compared to seminal punk bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, Koski is adamant that the Utters are unique in their sound.
"We try to use all influences in our music," he said. "But we don't aspire to sound like anyone."
That is so punk.
Swingin' Utters will perform at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. on Monday at 8 p.m. For more information go to www.skrappys.com