Peace, Love, and Punk Rock: Swingin’ Utters on New Album

Swingin’ Utters have a punk rock pedigree that is beyond reproach. Their 1995 debut, The Streets of San Francisco, was produced by Lars Frederiksen and was met with extremely favorable comparisons to The Clash, Sham 69, and Stiff Little Fingers upon its release. That buzz even earned the band a coveted spot on the first-ever Warped Tour—R.I.P.

Since reuniting in 2010 following a seven-year hiatus, the San Francisco streetpunks have been busy, dropping three full-length records and four EPs and adhering to a merciless tour schedule. Now, the band are gearing up to release their fourth LP since reuniting—and ninth overall—Peace and Love, on Aug. 31 via Fat Wreck Chords. That’s an impressive level of output when you take into account how many other projects the members are involved in, from The Re-Volts and toyGuitar to Dead To Me and Nothington to their solo efforts—plus, you know, kids, families, and careers.  

“It’s really hard to schedule tours with all that stuff,” longtime guitarist and sometimes vocalist Darius Koski explains. “That’s the only reason this record took so long, because we have to book tours around the record release. Honestly, if that wasn’t a problem, we’d be putting out a record every year. It’s a lot harder when you get older,” he laughs.

In order to keep things moving, core members Koski and lead vocalist Johnny Bonnel have utilized the talents of several different Bay Area musicians. Guitarist and vocalist Jack Dalrymple of Dead To Me and toyGuitar added new dimension to their sound with his signature vintage style after joining the group in the mid 2000s. Calling them streetpunk at this point would be a gross oversimplification. There are influences of blues, folk, and country woven into the textile of each record.

So, what should fans expect from Peace and Love? “Musically, to me, this is kind of back-to-basics,” Koski shares. “There’s not a ton of instrumentation, there’s no country song or anything—it’s pretty much rock and punk rock all the way through, more than anything we’ve done in a while. Usually, on our records, there’s at least one song that strays into a different genre, but I don’t think this record has one of those songs.”

The first single off the record, “Human Potential,” is a premium cut of San Francisco Bay Area streetpunk: jagged guitar riffs, a driving rhythm section, and some zany-yet-still-catchy chord progressions, all delivered in under two minutes. Bonnel’s vocals remain rooted in his gravelly delivery and rhythmic enunciation, leaving the memorable melodies in the hands of the instrumentation. Basically, it’s a perfect mid-set barnburner, sure to inject energy into a mosh pit.

Perhaps the bigger difference this time around, according to Koski, is the politically-charged subject matter. Put bluntly, this is a sad and angry record. “We’re not a political band, but this is as political as we’re ever going to get, because we’re so disgusted right now,” Koski laments. “I don’t think we would have been able to not be political. It’s a bad time, man. I’m not enjoying it at all.”

A fair point, considering how hard it is to read a newspaper, look at your phone, or turn on the TV without spiking your blood pressure these days. The discourse going on is extremely in-your-face, which is why the band channeled their anxiety and anger into a record with the title Peace and Love—at the end of the day, we could all use some of both. “It seemed to make sense to me,” Koski explains. “Here’s our most angry record, and we’re just super pissed and disgusted, but that’s really what we want: peace and love. It was perfect.”

The title also doubles as nod to Swingin’ Utters’ dear friends in The Pogues. “We do know there’s a Pogues record called Peace and Love,” Koski admits, “but yeah, we’re good friends with Spider [Stacy], so hopefully, he’ll take it well.”

“I don’t think he’ll give a shit either way,” he laughs.

Purchase Peace and Love here.

Top photo by Alan Snodgrass

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