Swimsuit Addition is living proof that labels don’t work. The music this Chicago-based, all-female punk band makes has been described as “evil beach music,” “bubblepunk,” “candy thrash,” “dirty surf,” and “cheerleader grunge.” Miles Raymer of the Chicago Reader calls their sound “some apocryphal-Halloween-scare-story bubblegum that’s full of broken glass and will totally fuck your shit up if you’re not careful.”
Look at all those labels.
None of them prepare your for the noisy punky poppy sound of Swimsuit Addition, which has a dedicated following in Chicago and has shared the stage with Big Freedia and Melt-Banana.
The labels also don’t help you when you first lay eyes on Sarah (percussion), Sam (bass/synth/vocals), Becca (guitar/vocals), and Jen (guitar/vocals). You never know what’s going to happen—Jen might rip her shirt off or play the guitar while writhing on the ground in torn lace tights. A mosh pit might start, with beer flying and hundreds of people slamming into one another. Someone will definitely scream “I LOVE YOU SAM!!!”, and a few new crushes might form in the hearts of Chicago lesbi-kind on any one of the band members.
Swimsuit Addition was happy to answer some of our most burning questions.
There are about a hundred different ways to describe your sound. Is there a shortcut description?
Jen: Yeah, so there is this formula. It’s a secret, but I’ll tell you. What you do is to combine two adjectives and/or genres and/or words that either partially describe us or don’t describe us at all, and are themselves unrelated, then put them together (as one word or two). Like “discobaby” or “tatted quatrain.” You try…
Sam: Uhhhh… I wanna try… “Gargoyle Beach Queer Party Pants.”
Becca: Gidget Acid, Carnie Chic, Dreamscape Isopod, Deep Murple.
Sarah: Let’s just say Neil Young on acid riding through the desert on a camel. I’m thinking somewhere in Arizona.
Jen: Sam! TWO WORDS.
Are your songs written by one of you? All of you? Is it a collaborative effort?
Jen: Sam and I were a band for almost a year-and-a-half before Becca and Sarah joined us, so when they came aboard, we had all this material (a released EP and almost a full album’s worth of songs). A lot of times we were like “Ok, we’re playing this and here’s how it goes!” to them– but of course they also had room to make it theirs (and we love their additions). When Sam and I started the band, I had gathered most of our original material from past projects. Sam helped me consolidate and organize. We rearranged some stuff, threw some away, and started from scratch a lot. I generally always liked to write alone and bring finished structures to everyone to piece together, but my songwriting relationship with Sam has changed the process a little. Sometimes she makes suggestions of changes to my songs and also, sometimes she will bring riffs or structures and I help her build around them. Now, we’ve written at least two songs pretty much completely collaboratively. With Becca and Sarah, the dynamic is changing even more and we are growing in sweet ways. Our upcoming album is pretty much already written, but the one after is just a twinkle in our eyes, and I am hoping and imagining that it will be incredibly collaborative.
Sam: Jen carries most of the weight for writing, but we have been collaborating more nowadays. She’ll bring either a full song or partial idea to the table, and the rest of us will fill in the blanks. She is our champ lyric writer though. I’ve been writing more songs in the past year but they would by no means be complete if not for the rest of the ladies working on them. We mostly write our own instrument parts, but sometimes we write others as well. Sometimes Jen writes bass lines, I write guitar parts, Becca writes keyboard parts, and Sarah will write lyrics. It’s very synergistic, which gives our songs a very common sound from song to song.
Becca: Jen and Sam laid some solid foundation for the rest of us to build upon and new ideas are coming fast. It’s a very creative group of gals I’m working with here, always giving me space to veer from the beaten trail of old guitar riff tricks and boring scales to find something gutsy and original.
Sarah: It’s very collaborative. Sam and Jen have created some great riffs or melodies, and somehow I ride along with it. I like to play a song several times different ways before I settle with a specific beat. Lately we’ve been sharing the load of writing lyrics.
What was one of the most fun shows you’ve played?
Jen: Oh geez, we’ve played so many fun ones… I like house parties and loft shows best.
Sam: Probably this most recent show at Fulton Street Collective. We played a fundraiser for Sarah’s dance company and they choreographed a dance to one of our songs. Amazing.
Becca: I agree with Sam – we are STILL eating the raffle prize she won that night.
Sarah: Our show last weekend in Madison. I mean, I threw a stick 4 times, we had to restart a song, and Becca got verbal with a hippie, but it was really necessary for us all to get out of town. The show itself might not have been the best we played, but it was by far the most fun for me. The crowd was sweet Wisconsin kids, and I’m from Wisconsin, so I always get a little fuzzy feeling for my homeland. The show was Free Wheel, an industrial DIY bike shop, and there was so much hospitality from Claire and Hillary, who put the show on. They even opened their home and video collection to us. Can you say Mannequin at 5am?
Sam: Here’s “Ghosted.”
Would you think “Hey, that girl is suave” if someone brought you a drink while you were onstage? What, um, should we bring you, hypothetically?
Jen: Ya, bring me water! (Or a beer.)
Sam: Definitely suave. Beer or Jamison are always welcome.
Becca: That suave girl is my new best friend. All generosity is graciously accepted.
Sarah: Hell yea, suave. I’m thankful for anything you are willing to share.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while you were playing?
Jen: One time a drunk girl pushed her way to the front and flung a bag of steaming hot tamales at my feet and said she brought them for me. That was cool.
Sam: Once I felt the sudden urge to throw my empty beer can at the audience. Sorry to whomever got hit.
Becca: Jan Terri happened twice.
Sarah: Hmmm still working on it.
Do your instruments have names?
Jen: I have a Strat named Rose and a Tele named Jessica Rabbit.
Sam: No, but now I feel like it needs one.
Becca: Sam, can we name your bass “Anferny”? I always loved that name. My Telecaster is named Squirt.
Sarah: My TAMA Rockstar is called Champ, but it’s a pet name I call everything else I own too, so…
Is there an artist or song you’re obsessed with right now? Who gets played on repeat?
Jen: I am back to my root. I have been blasting The Monkees all the time lately.
Sam: Previously it was Screaming Females. Most recently I’ve been really into anything related to Mark E. Smith.
Becca: I’ve been banging my head to Buke and Gase lately. I downloaded their new album General Dome and bought their EP Function Falls on vinyl because the record artwork is hand-printed and I just appreciate everything about that band.
Sarah: Different stuff. At the Drive-In, Moody Blues, The thermals, Billy Idol.
What’s your favorite after-show hangout?
Jen: Late night taqueria.
Sam: Any sort of dive or a house party.
Becca: Anywhere dark, warm, and moist, like a potato.
Sarah: House party, dive. Anywhere cigarettes and more drinking and more music can happen.
All of you – ALL OF YOU – have amazing hair.
1) How is this possible; and
2) can you please point me in the right direction?
Jen: Oh, stop. I’m blushing.
Sam: I don’t wash it.
Becca: Naw! Thanks! Shout out to my stylist Douglas at Zea Salon in Boystown. He never disappoints.
Sarah: I cut my own. And I can cut yours too.
How do you prepare for a big show?
Jen: Destroy my closet then end up wearing the same thing I wore the last show.
Sam: 3 beers and 1 shot.
Becca: I pace around, eat something, drink something, and randomly do a karate kick.
Sarah: I’m a big karate kick fan too, Becca! Hell yeah! My nerves rise for sure, but then again I enjoy that feeling. I like to stretch, have two cocktails, a joint.
What do you do to pay the rent?
Jen: I’m a teacher who dreams of being a bartender.
Sam: Digital marketing. I sometimes do video editing as well.
Becca: I work as an ad developer for a website and do a little painting.
Sarah: I’m that bartender Jen wants to be. Honestly, she sits at the bar every week while I work hehehe. It’s fun, I get to talk about whiskey and beer all day.
How would you feel if someone flashed you onstage?
Jen: Like I should reciprocate.
Sam: It DID happen once. I threw down my guitar and ran out of the room crying.
Becca: I’d be like, “That suave person is my new best friend.”
Sarah: I’d flash back (if I weren’t wearing a dress that is).
Who makes the best tacos in Chicago?
Jen: Your mom.
Sam: Taco Bell.
Becca: Sarah makes a fine taco – kno’-wha’-I’m-sayin’?
Sarah: Wink wink, honk honk, Becca. I enjoy Quesadilla—it’s a vegetarian Mexican place on Western Avenue just south of Fullerton.
Where does your dream Swimsuit Addition band tour go?
Sam: Everywhere and anywhere. But I would really love to tour on the West Coast.
Becca: Route 66 sounds romantic. I’d love to experience what its like to play at a huge festival like Wakarusa or Bonnaroo. Anyone have a RV we can borrow?
Sarah: I would be happy to go anywhere with these gals. But Europe is tops.
Has your mom ever come to a show?
Jen: No thank god! One time my parents visited when we had a show and I ordered them food and movies and made them stay at my apartment. I didn’t want to worry them.
Sam: No. But she wants to!
Becca: Momma lives in Arkansas so she has yet to attend a show. However, if that ever does happen, we all have to wear lipstick and hold our shoulders back, and the lyrics in Tiara might have to be altered to “You’re just so ‘freakin’ pretty, I want to eat your face”… actually, let’s just skip that one this time, guys.
Sarah: Unfortunately no. She lives far away, but she would probably cry. She’s very supportive.