Sure there has been a few lineup changes and a several side projects, but Southern, CA’s Swingin’ Utters are still turning out stellar punk rock songs in the vein of The Clash and The Damned. What’s more, despite a few breaks here and there, the band never really considered calling it quits (take that Fallout Boy!)
Having just released Here, Under Protest, their seventh full length, singer Johnny Bonnel spoke recently about the group’s beginnings, the worst advice they ever got and surviving two decades as an indie punk rock band.
Innocent Words: Did you have any idea this band would still be putting out music decades after starting?
Johnny Bonnel: I had no idea we would last this long. We did have different members throughout the years. Greg (McEntee, drums), Darius (Koski, guitar), and me have been the main stays. I was sure it wouldn’t last this long. All my favorite bands lasted decades, so I’m glad it has worked out for us.
IW: How does Here, Under Protest compare to your first few records?
Bonnel: We always wanted to make diverse records since the start. Here, Under Protest has that, but we were aiming for more of a stripped down sound. Compared to the earlier records it has a definitive Utters quality. Can’t escape it, as long as Darius and I are writing this will happen. I think you can tell from the start that this is a Swingin’ Utters record. Some of Darius’ songs were lyrics from years ago. I don’t think it’s a better record than our past, just a different one.
IW: Are you surprised by how influential the band has been? I talk to bands all the time that cite Swingin’ Utters as a musical influence.
Bonnel: We are surprised. You never want to get too big for your britches. We understand that this can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. We’re flattered that anyone gives us the time of day. Say your “thank yous” and keep trying to create new music. No one likes an egotistical asshole. How easy is that?
IW: Has the band ever called it quits or come close to it?
Bonnel: We have never called it quits. Kevin (Wickersham, bass) and Max (Huber, guitar) have quit, but we’re still great friends. Why lose friends over musical differences? I would have very few friends if that were the case. When Darius and I had kids it was real tough to keep it going. I don’t want to lose out on raising these great kids, but want to keep creating. Balancing is the key. No one said it was going to be easy. I’m a lucky father to say the least.
IW: Do you think it’s easier now for kids wanting to make a living as a touring punk band compared to when you first got started?
Bonnel: I don’t know if it is easier, because I never made a living touring. I still do not make a living touring. I wish I could give you an answer on this one, but I just feel that the roads are too congested with touring acts to make a living as a “punk band.” I have a feeling the younger bands want us to step to the side and give them a chance. It’s not us who need to do this. If anything we will help. I root for the underdog at all costs.
IW: What’s the toughest thing about being in a punk band in 2011?
Bonnel: Personally, it’s being away from my wife and two daughters.
Bonnel: What you wear is important on stage. As you can see, I don’t subscribe to that.
IW: Best money saving tips for when you’re on the road?
Bonnel: Clean your plate, drink lots of water (controls hunger). Sleep any place that is offered. Don’t be picky.