This Psych-Pop Duo Wants To Change The Way You See Porn

Photo by Alex Nelson

Stream SWIMM’s “Bedrooms” here

When SWIMM takes the stage at NYC’s Mercury Lounge, the audience appears to be both entranced and curious. Seasoned fans of the psych-pop duo line the front of the stage, while those unfamiliar with the group are piqued with interest, waiting to see what will come from the men who undoubtedly fit the part of L.A.-based indie rockers—or at least look like it. As lead singer, Chris Hess, flips his shaggy blonde hair with each passing track, those in the front can be found dedicatedly singing along, and audience newcomers become instant converts. Soon, all I'm able to see is a sea of heads bobbing to the steady beat.

If that show gave me reason to believe that the men of SWIMM—Hess, Adam Winn, Hany Zayan, and Marton Bisits—have the star talent to make it big; their latest single, “Bedrooms,” premiering here on NYLON, just confirmed it. The new track is off of their forthcoming record, Sentimental Porno, and, they later tell me, was the hardest song they’ve ever written. Following themes of success, love, and infidelity, “Bedrooms” took SWIMM nearly a year to finalize, as they found themselves reworking it to perfection over and over again. 

“I demoed it and then sent it to our manager at the time, and he was like, ‘This is the one that we need to workshop and go through,’ and I was like, ‘God dammit’. So we ended up doing it,” Hess says of the song's lengthy process. “We would work on it for a few days and just be like, ‘Ugh, f--- this song. I hate it.’ It was one that just needed to be frickin’ wrenched out. Now, it’s probably one of my favorites because it means so much and it was worked hard on to get there.”

Stream “Bedrooms,” below, and scroll on to get to know Hess and Winn.

Your upcoming album is titled Sentimental Porno. How did that name come about?
Chris Hess: A lot of the songs, especially “Speak Politely,” have a bit of an undercurrent of sexuality, and a lot of the album is based on heartbreak. But it never felt like any of the writing was trying to have a shock factor; it didn’t feel gratuitous or raunchy. It felt very sentimental. I also just liked the idea of a porno that would be really loving and show the spooning after [laughs].

Out of all the songs you’ve written, how did you select the ones that would make it onto your debut album? 
Adam Winn: We have a batch of around 30 songs, and we’ve released some here and there. The ones we selected for the album are mostly from the past year and a half. They’re kind of like our babies. We just try to go with something that feels right all together as a whole. Even though the other songs are great, and maybe they’ll come out on something different later on, they’re just a bit of a different direction.

What was the concept for the Sentimental Porno album artwork?

AW: I think what I love most about the artwork is that it makes you question how much importance we, as a society, put on beauty. Chris actually did a whole write-up about the meaning behind the artwork that describes it best.
CH: The excerpt reads: 

Within the hour of releasing the first single from our album, we had (somewhat expected) negative feedback about the single artwork. Comments on Facebook complained that the cover art was crude, terrible, gross and offensive. As I read these I noticed (a somewhat unexpected) reaction in myself. It was as if a small wave of satisfaction washed over me. I realized I was pleased that people were simply having "a reaction"…We wanted to create something that mirrored the "not so pretty side" of love and romance and sex and all that shit. We wanted a twist to the typical porn aesthetic, that being that the typically lewd mood would be replaced with delicate and loving exchanges, thus putting the ‘Sentimental’ in the ‘Porno.’ The other motive to go with a more challenging concept was to raise questions. Why is it so unlikely that a beautiful girl would find love in a man that doesn’t fit our expected superficial standards? How trained are we to judge love at face value? What kind of feelings does the obvious age gap stir up in us? The girl in the photos, Bailee, is 26 years old. The older man, Tony, is in his 40s and is one of the sweetest guys we know. Both Bailee and Tony agreed to go out on a limb with this shoot and knew full well what we were trying to capture, and I commend them for that. If you are one of the people that was offended by us having quote unquote ‘gross’ imagery to represent the work that we push out into a generally unprofitable business paradigm, then I ask you: why aren’t you also publicly questioning the accepted standards in porn? Something that attracts far more customers than music and grosses billions of dollars a year. Or are you wholly unaware of all that? Since you, of course, don’t watch porn.

Your first release from this album was “First Time.” What inspired that song?
CH: The first half is about a thing that I had that was really short-lived but sort of flash-in-a-pan, a romantic thing as summers can bring about—sorry I’m such a fucking dweeb. The second verse is totally about my best friend Devin’s excruciating breakup, which I’ve done before with him because he’s been my best friend since we were 13, so I love taking his life and rolling with it.

The song “Belly” from your Beverly Hells EP is your most played song on SoundCloud by hundreds of thousands of plays. How is that song special to you both?
AW: That was another song that was like “Bedrooms,” in that it took us so long to figure out a version. We reworked that one so many times and finally got it done, and it ended up being one of our most popular songs. The lyrics are cool with that one because it’s also about one of his best friends.
CH: Yeah, each part is about a different person in my life who has let their outstanding potential in whatever they could do get ruined by a vice or an addiction to something. The first verse is about my uncle, and he’s an amazing poet with really great taste, but he has always drunk too much, and his own talent got diluted with that. The second verse is about the same friend from the second line of “First Time,” and it was another one of his breakups. Then the third line is about my other best bud from Florida; he’s been like my brother since we were in first grade. He was in a car accident when we were 18 or 19, and one of our good friends passed away. It kind of triggered anxiety and a path down a really rocky, dark road for him for a long time, and he still struggles with it. Before we actually had released that song, we played it at our hometown show, and he was at that one. I didn’t see him when we were playing, but during that song, he just kind of appeared toward the front row, as I was singing that verse about him, to him, among throngs of drunk-ass people. But we were intensely looking at each other, and that was a pretty amazing moment. It even was like as if he was trying to sing the words, but there’s no way he could have known them. There was some kind of weird connection happening there.

Do your friends know when you’re writing a song about them, or do they get surprised when they hear it?
CH: I don’t know if they usually would know even after unless I told them, but he could tell. He kind of was like, “Is that part about me?” But he was really excited that it was. I usually just tell someone. I don’t have it in me to keep it in.

You’ve been touring across the country. Do any specific shows or cities stand out to you as favorites?
AW: We definitely love playing New York. Other than that, Utah is always a fun time. There’s a town called Provo, and they have all-age venues with drive-ins—no alcohol—and they’ll get packed to the brim. Everyone goes apeshit. It’s like, how is this possible? There’s no booze, they just genuinely love music. It’s really cool to see.
CH: L.A. is great, too. [After living there four years now,] it feels like a hometown show when you see tons of people you know. And we’ve done enough shows in the warehouse that we live in [The Cube], that it’s like its own breed of show now. When we play there, we hang sheets of Mylar and turn it into a space bubble basically. It always has a good vibe because I think people notice the work we put in to transform the space, and it’s positive and loving.
AW: Our hometown in Florida is another one that will always be special, because every time we come back, it’s like a family and friend reunion. Florida’s been really supportive of us. It’s cool to see these people come out and be like, ‘I’m so happy to see you, we follow you guys all the time.’ It’s a beautiful experience. The place we play in our hometown is a cool bar...
CH: [laughs] People just get so drunk in Florida, but it is beautiful because they’re so happy.
AW: It’s not like drunken fighting; it’s drunk smiles and laughing.
CH: We have this group of friends, and it became their routine to tear each other’s shirts off during the show. Two songs in, it would be mayhem, and they would be ripping each other’s shirts off. But, like, in a beautiful way.

You created and headlined a one-day festival in L.A. this past April. How did that idea come about, and what was the experience like?
AW: We wanted to do something different than just a headlined show in L.A. We wanted to curate something special and make it our own. We got a photo booth, decorated the whole place, got a ton of sponsors, booked all the bands ourselves, and got the flyer made. It was just kind of our night, and it was so cool. We actually just booked the second one, Love You Down 2.

What are your favorite songs or albums of the summer?
CH: “Dre” by Warpaint.
AW: There’s also a song by them called “Whiteout” on the same album. That’s one of my favorite songs right now. I was kind of late to the game on it, but DAMN., the Kendrick album. There are some songs on there that are so amazing. I think my favorite is “PRIDE.” SZA’s album is also really good. “Drew Barrymore” is probably my favorite song off that one.
CH: Last summer, Anti, Rihanna’s album—the best thing that’s ever been made, ever—was my everything. I just think I’m not ready to let it go. I still go back to that one. Last weekend, I wrote on Instagram, “Tonight I just want to be in a cuddle puddle with all my friends, smiling and crying to ‘Kiss It Better.’” A few hours later, we were all at the house, and that song came on, and I actually grabbed my friends and was like, “Everybody get on the ground.” We were just smiling and cuddle-puddling to “Kiss It Better,” and I was like, this is still it. Two summers in a row. We’ll see if we can make it three.

What are you guys doing when you’re not making music?
AW: We surf some—he surfs more than I do. L.A.’s great for hiking and camping, so we do a good amount of that.
CH: I write a lot. I try to keep a pretty routine update on our blog, and usually, it has nothing to do with making music. It’s essays and stuff like that, non-fiction and anything across the board. 

What would you be doing career-wise if you hadn’t pursued music?
AW: I was doing marketing for Nike for a few years, and I actually really enjoyed it. I felt like I was always getting to create something fun. I probably would have kept pursuing that world I think. Music started getting too busy, so I left that.
CH: He’s a real go-getter. He gets shit done. I was putting on art shows in Florida before music started to take over everything.
AW: And making smoothies.
CH: Yeah, I also worked at Smoothie King. So probably realistically, I would have given up events and just franchised a Smoothie King on the beach. Smoothie Prince.
AW: Probably have more of a tan.
CH: Might have a dreadlock or two. Might’ve had money.

Upcoming SWIMM tour dates: 
8/17 Echo Park Rising (Taix Champaign Room) - Los Angeles, CA

9/12 TBA - Miami, FL

9/13 TBA - Tampa, FL

9/14 The Social - Orlando FL ***

9/15 Monkey Bar - Indialantic, FL

9/16 Jack Rabbits - Jacksonville, FL ***

***w/ Warpaint 

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes