Interview: Swingin’ Utters Talk Vinyl Release of More Scared: The House of Faith Years

Twenty-five years after the Swingin’ Utters and SideOneDummy Records first put out More Scared: The House of Faith Years on CD, the collection is finally seeing its vinyl debut.

When it was initially released, the 16-track compilation had the distinction of being the first full-length album released by SideOneDummy. It showcases some of the Swingin’ Utters earliest recorded material, laid down at The House of Faith Studios in Palo Alto, CA (since relocated to Oakland). The set, which includes a brilliant cover of the Stiff Little Fingers’ “Here We Are Nowhere” and The Rezillos “Mommy Mommy” gives hints at what was to come from the band, who over the years would refine their sound and become one of the best punk groups to ever come out of Northern California.

The limited-edition vinyl release comes in two separate variants (black/white quad, black/white color in color), all new gatefold artwork and is fully remastered. It also comes with a commemorative 10×10 anniversary poster.

With the pre-order for the record up now (available here), guitarist and founding member Darius Koski was cool enough to talk to us about the album, the band’s earliest influences, and where they stand now.

How long have you been wanting to get this one out on vinyl? What was the biggest obstacle to making it happen?

Well, I suppose we’ve always wanted this to be released on vinyl. I’m guessing it was a business decision by the label, and that it was expensive to do a vinyl release. It was pretty early in SideOne’s history, and we’re not exactly the biggest-selling band on the planet. All that being said, we’re all very excited it’s finally getting a vinyl release.

One thing that made the band really stand out from the beginning was the disparate influences – Oi’ obviously, but also a mix of Johnny Cash/Waylon Jennings Outlaw country vibe. Was that a conscious decision from the beginning—to mix those influences?

I can definitively say that nothing we ever did was from any sort of particularly conscious decision. We did what came naturally, and our influences were probably pretty obvious way back then. I mean, these are among our earliest recordings, so we were pretty young, and impressionable, as a band. All of us have always listened to music from just about every genre. Between us, we listened to reggae, ska, punk, rock, jazz, big band, folk, country, rap, and hip hop… Did I miss anything? We just like good music. We’re snobs about it, really. Very particular, and overall, very similar in our tastes.

We never mainly considered ourselves an Oi band at all, but we did all definitely bond on the English punk we were all listening to, and I think it kind of went that way stylistically for a few reasons: It’s pretty easy to play, the song structure is similar to traditional country (we’re all big Cash fans, and fans of traditional country in general), and it really set us apart from everything else that was going on at the time. It actually made us unique!

There wasn’t anybody else playing that kind of stuff in our neck of the woods in 1990. We were deep into The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Chelsea, Sham 69, The Jam, Cocksparrer, The Business, etc., but we also listened to the Replacements, Husker Du, X, Black Flag, etc. along with all the usuals from all those other previously mentioned genres. And I played classical violin and piano exclusively from age 5 to 17, so our tastes were always wide open and varied, and it’s always deeply influenced our music. I’ve definitely gleaned more songwriting style from Cash and Dylan, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies, and the Beatles than The Last Resort, you know?

What do you remember about recording a lot of these songs?  Has the process changed much from then to now?

I remember it was really fucking exciting, and a new experience. It absolutely changed our lives when we first stepped into the House of Faith to record for the first time. I think we first went there in ’91, and our first “real” full-length record didn’t come out until ’95. That shit is eye-opening, man. Having your songs professionally recorded is the greatest feeling in the world. It’s still my favorite part of being in a band.

It was also incredibly affordable, especially at House of Faith. It basically got more expensive, and there were more cooks in the kitchen, which can be a great thing and a shitty thing. But it’s still my favorite thing, being in the studio. I’d say the biggest change is there’s not a whole lot of tape splicing! House of Faith was 100% analog, and it still is to this day. Pro-Tools was a game changer for sure—kind of like touring pre-cell phones or the internet.

Listening back to these songs, aside from line-up changes, how did the band change over the years? 

We just got better at songwriting and playing our instruments and started really filling out our sound with all the instrumentation, playing on the road for years and years. We introduced pianos and organs, strings, accordions, and some horns here and there, and we also got heavy into singing harmony, which was a big change and improvement. I think we’re a much better band now than we were then, in every way really.

A lot of groups simply ignore their first few records; are you still proud of how these songs came out? 

For the most part, sure. When you’ve been in a band for over 30 years and have released a bunch of material over all that time, the releases basically become diaries. I remember where I was when I wrote certain songs, what was going on in my life, etc. But I will say that I don’t particularly like some of the stuff we’ve done in the past. There are some songs that just aren’t very good, some production that’s questionable, and some bad choices made in the recording process, but that’s all normal, and it’s all part of the big picture.

We took a big break from major touring and all recording from around 2003 to 2010, and the stuff we’ve done from 2010 on is far superior to anything we’d done previously, as far as I’m concerned. In my eyes, it’s not even close. I know most of our fans don’t feel that way, and that’s fine—I get it. We play all the “hits” from the ’90s that people love and always will. I’m proud of all that shit, sure. I think we left our little mark; we’ve got a pretty decent legacy. We’re gonna continue to grow and record new albums that don’t sound like the previous album—which has always been our goal—and there’s gonna be weird shit on them and there’s also gonna be stuff that sounds like Swingin’ Utters stuff. We’re all over the place, and that’s how we like it!

Any chance the band is working on any new music?

Not formally, or together, or anything. We’ve always got plenty of songs; everybody’s always got something cooking. It’s hard to get everybody together nowadays, as we’re all busy being old-ass grownups. It’s particularly hard when you have a day job, you know? I’m a fucking plumbing contractor, man. That being said, I’m hoping we’ll be back in the studio in the next year or two.

What’s next for you—What are you working on now?

I’m just working a lot. I’m just now dipping my toe back into playing music. We went almost three years without playing a show, and I’ve gone longer than that since I’ve demoed any new music. That’s by far the longest drought of my life, but I’m slowly getting back into the groove, which is great. I’d like to release another solo record in the next year and do some more of that live.

Follow the band here. 

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