Despite the fact that half the band can’t legally drink, and having only formed 18 months ago, The Sink or Swim prove a musician doesn’t have to be a veteran of the music scene to make a splash there.
Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Nate Zeune, drummer Lou Resnick, bassist Niel Erlich and guitarist/keyboardist Derek Rossman, The Sink or Swim is coming of age during a pivotal time in the Phoenix music scene, and show no signs of stopping.
How long have you guys been playing music as The Sink or Swim?
Erlich: The Sink or Swim has been a band for about a year and a half.
Derek actually joined about a month ago, so he hasn’t been playing with us for that long. Three of us are from Ohio, Nate and Derek and then me, I’m from Arizona. I’ve been here since about 2005.
How would you compare the music scene in Ohio to that in Phoenix?
Resnick: … In Phoenix, we’ve become friends with bands and the people who put shows on … and it just seems a lot more united. People are wondering what’s going on every night of the week, like what kind of shows there are. There’s also a lot more people involved as far as media goes … people trying to be photographers, videographers, writing articles for music; it makes the whole scene kind of connect and get bigger because it’s more exposure over and over. It just seems like people care more than in Ohio…
What about the environment in Phoenix inspires the band musically and creatively?
Resnick: When we were writing our first EP, it was a lot of us reflecting on what had just happened. We left a lot behind and we’re starting something new. The song “On the Run,” we literally wrote sitting in our car on top of a mountain just jamming out in the car to a riff that Nate had been working on and honestly just looking out at the Valley. So literally, directly, the environment here influenced us in the beginning and its just kind of shaped us now…Overall, it’s just started to feel like home because of what we’ve created here.
Name some of your biggest influences.
Resnick: Arctic Monkeys are my favorite band right now. My favorite drummers are Neil Peart and John Bonham and I like a lot of ‘70s music as well.
Erlich: My favorite band is definitely the Red Hot Chili Peppers and my number one influence on bass is Flea. I love Victor Wooten and Jaco Pastorius; those are some of the great bass players of any generation.
Zeune: My biggest influences musically are, Pink Floyd, mostly Roger Waters, The Beatles. Those are the two I go to on a daily basis and listen to and I wouldn’t necessarily say draw things from, but obviously it influences me my writing to an extent.
Rossman: I’d have to say my biggest influences musically would be The Beatles. I grew up listening to The Beatles, since I was two-years-old, probably Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel … one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to songwriting. Electric Light Orchestra would be another one. And my guilty pleasure is definitely The Bee Gees, like I will dance until The Bee Gees are turned off…
You guys seem to vibe really well together. Does it ever feel like work? Or is it always a party?
Rossman: It really depends on our mood, but normally it’s not work, like we’re hanging out playing music; it’s what we want to be doing. Like anyone that gets to be in a touring band and record music and make a living that way, I don’t feel like they think they’re working. We all work so we can come home and play music.
How did you guys get involved with the Mesa Music Festival?
Zeune: We found out about it last year, which was the first year it was happening. We found out about it online, and then we just paid the $30 fee, which I borrowed from my sister and never paid her back. We played at Queens Pizza … We had a great time and it was awesome; we hung out there for the rest of the night. We gave stickers to fans, we talked to some bands that we knew and we met some new bands. This year, we thought, ‘Why not just do it again?’ because we had a blast last time.
Are there any acts that you’re excited to see or hang out with?
In particular, Doll Skin, Sunday at Noon, Westbrook, Vintage Wednesday. We’re friends with all of those bands. We’ve played with them lots of times. It’s nice to see familiar faces and people you know that are supporting you and you’re supporting them and we all stick around for each other’s sets. It’s nice to walk around and see the different stages and the different places in downtown Mesa.
If you could create your dream festival lineup, with any band living or dead, who would be the headliner?
Rossman: The Beatles would be the headlining act.
Resnick: Arctic Monkeys.
Erlich: I guess the first band of the night to open for everyone would be The Eagles. They’d be a good opener.
What if all of those bands jammed together at the end of the night?
Resnick: I would be okay with dying.
Back to your music, people can speculate on what to call your sound —alternative, rock, indie, whatever. How do you guys classify your music?
Zeune: We don’t try and write a particular type of music; it’s just whatever’s on our mind at the time, whether it comes out as something that’s fast-paced, radio-friendly or something that you can sing by yourself and cry. It’s just whatever mood you’re in at the time.
Resnick: I think our influences do stand out. As the drummer, I feel like I am influenced by Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys and I’ve been told that a lot. Derek can basically put any chord structure together and Neil’s basically the best teen bassist in America.
Have you guys ever seen “Almost Famous?”
Resnick: 3 out of 4 of us have. Neil has not seen it.
So you know at the end of the movie, when William Miller sits down with the guy from Stillwater and he’s like “Do you have to be sad to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song?” Do you feel like you have to be in a certain mood or feeling a certain way to write that type of song?
Resnick: I’d say it’s the easiest thing to do in music — to tell when someone writes a song about something that they’re not actually passionate about. If you’re writing about something that’s not set in your mind and you have no idea where to go with it, it’s kind of just a mash-up of words and different ideas, there’s no overarching theme. You have to have something that has to get pulled out of you for it to come out any good.
Rossman: It’s like writing a fiction novel. It’s also good to write about things that aren’t personal to you; it opens up a whole new world of things you can write about. You can either put your emotion into it or you can tell a story about something that hasn’t necessarily been in your own life, or you can do a combination of those.
Do you find that being so young helps you or hinders you in the music scene?
Erlich: Honestly, with being my age and just our band and how many people we’ve met and everything, we’ve met bands that are way younger than us and we’ve met bands that are way older than us and everyone just treats each other the same. We all have mutual respect for each other. I don’t recall any time where I was treated like a kid by someone who’s like 30 or a promoter or manager. I don’t think that really matters to people as long as you’re a cool person and playing good music.
Anything else to add?
Zeune: Check out our “High Tides” EP that was just released. We have a lot of things in the works. Thank you to everyone who’s supported us so far. As for Mesa Music Festival, we’re playing at Milano Music on W. Main Street from 8:30 to 9 p.m.