It’s back to the future for Swingin’ Utters

Celt rabblerousers rediscover ‘straight-ahead punk’ roots

A fixture of the So-Cal punk scene the Swingin’ Utters has been swaying audiences with its old school buds-and-suds sensibilities for more than two decades. Unabashedly dedicated to the no-frills sound typifying the harsh anti-everything attitude of its preferred genre the feisty five-piece has been notably absent from the live punk-rock scene for several years. Live in a Dive the successor to the band’s last offering of new material 2003’s Dead Flowers Bottles Bluegrass and Bones was perceived by some to signal the impending retirement of this much-beloved neo-Celtic outfit. Such suspicions were only reinforced by the seemingly last-ditch appearance of the “rescued from the dustbin” delight Hatest Grits: B-Sides and Bullshit in 2008. Allaying any fears of an unofficial breakup Swingin’ Utters has finally awoken from its long slumber and is ready to resume putting its collective gusto on the line.

“I never thought we wouldn’t get back together” says vocalist-guitarist and founding member Darius Koski. “I’ve always been into us as a band and I never thought that we’d lost it. The seven-year gap between albums can be largely attributed to the fact that we’ve all been busy living our lives and taking on new responsibilities like raising families.”

“But [Koski’s new home in] Santa Cruz is so mellow it’s a better location for the kids. I always love being by the water or the ‘Dirty Sea’” he continues referencing a much-beloved Utters track. “I do miss the city though. I’ve always felt that punk rock flourishes best in an industrialized urban setting.”

Confounded by those who refer to Swingin’ Utters as punk revival — they’ve been at it all along — Koski and company have kept busy performing gigs throughout California on a regular basis. In addition to headlining shows in their home state the group’s members which include vocalist Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel vocalist-guitarist Jack Dalrymple (Dead to Me One Man Army) vocalist-bassist Spike Slawson (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) and drummer Greg McEntee (Viva Hate) have been occupying their time with innumerable side projects some tremendous in their own right. Slawson in fact fronts Me First and the Gimme Gimmes — perhaps the world’s greatest cover band — and he also joins Dalyrimple and Koski in grimy pogo-punk act the Re-Volts. Koski admits that sometimes it’s a lot of work for a 39-year-old family man.

“It’s no secret that over-touring was wearing some of us down. That’s what happens when you get a little older” he chuckles. “But I can honestly say that we’ve returned with the same kind of fire that has fuelled us before and we’re going to be touring more than we have in years. We’re just getting better and better regardless of age.”

Koski and the group returned to their former urban stomping ground in San Francisco to record tracks for a forthcoming Swingin’ Utters album expected to be released this fall on their longtime record label Fat Wreck Chords. Tentatively titled Here Under Protest the album remains true to the Utters’ established form channelling all the angst anger and wry amusement we’ve come to expect from the folky Irish-punk quintet.

“We’re really excited to be starting things up in the studio again and doing new material” says Koski. “I’ve been writing loads of punk songs and they’re just flowing out of me. Putting these tracks together wasn’t a struggle in the least and I can’t wait to get them out there. Eventually you get sick of playing the same stuff all the time so it’s refreshing to mix in some things that people haven’t heard before. We’re not breaking any new ground here but I think fans will appreciate the fact that we still sound like we did when they saw us back in the day. Very little has changed. The new album is just straight-ahead punk.”