Cole Becker at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)
Malibu High School

Figuring it out: An interview with Cole Becker of SWMRS

Cole Becker, 20, fronts the Oakland-based band SWMRS, who play self-proclaimed “hawaiiange”- hawaii grunge. The band’s debut album as SWMRS (they were formerly called Emily’s Army), Drive North, will be released on Feb. 12.  They have two other albums under Emily’s Army, Don’t Be A Dick and Lost at Seventeen. The band toured with Warped Tour twice as teenagers. Last year, Becker created Boyzine, a feminist zine for boys. When he is not on tour, Becker attends school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Insider Zoe Detweiler interviewed Becker and his bandmate Seb Mueller, who plays bass, in September 2015 after their set at the Troubadour with Twin Peaks and Wavves in Los Angeles.

Cole Becker at the Troubadour
Cole Becker at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

Beginning with Warped Tour and all when you were still young, your band has already done a lot- what was it like achieving all these things while you were still young?

Becker: It’s been pretty dope– I look back and I’m really lucky to have had all these things happen in a row, all these chance things… to be able to do that, not a lot of people get to do that, so I am super grateful. I love what I do and I love that I get to do what I do, so it’s been super awesome. Really awesome.

Cole Becker at the Troubadour
Cole Becker at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

Absolutely. So, you’re in college, but you’re also in a band. How do you balance being in a band and in college? Do you have any tips for doing that?

Becker: It’s really hard. Honestly, get as much school done as you can before things start picking up with your band, because at a certain point, he and I [gestures to Mueller] are both going to have to stop going to school for a long time.  And it sucks.

Mueller: It really sucks.

Becker: Because school rules, school is actually so dope, especially when you get to college, like high school sucks, but college rules. So do what comes first, like I know my school waits for you, so I can pull out and go follow my dreams that don’t wait you know, like music. So if you’re in a situation where your school is going to wait for you, prioritize music because if you can follow what you want to do, do that first and then fallback on school. School will always be there.

SWMRS play at the Troubadour
SWMRS at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

Of course. Next, Boyzine– what inspired you to create this? Feminism is a particularly prevalent topic right now- thoughts?

Becker: When I started Boyzine, I was out with my friends in New York City. We were with the band Goodbye Honolulu, and we were at this party and there were a bunch of macho dudes there. I just have this vivid memory of us all standing in a corner and giggling about Pokemon and stuff [laughs], and so I was like, I want to document this phenomenon of being a boy, not like a DUDE, with, like,  arms, so that’s what inspired Boyzine. I just wanted to create a place where boys could be immature, but also learn about cool things like feminism. When it comes to feminism, it’s really important for people to understand both on the surface what it is, and underneath, like all these weird undertones. There are a ton of things that people should understand about feminism, it takes five minutes to look up.

Mueller: It’s called Wikipedia!

Becker: Yeah, and look up “intersectionality” if you look up feminism, because it is just as important. Racism and hatred of women go hand in hand, so unbelievably so, that intersectionality is the most important thing that has come out of our generation. Look it up.

Cole Becker at the Troubadour
Cole Becker at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

Being a young band, you may be labelled as a millennial band, how do you associate/do you associate yourself with millennials?

Becker: Yeah, absolutely. I think once our record comes out it’s going to be very clear we have the attention span and the interest span of millennials. I think bands before our generation didn’t have ADHD, and didn’t have Spotify, so they very much created one sound, and ours is all over the place. It incorporates all these different influences because we have access to listening to weird stuff like FKA Twigs and also the Clash. So everywhere in between where our interests range. That’s the weird thing that comes out of being a millennial band.

SWMRS at the Troubadour
SWMRS at the Troubadour. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

Who are some of your peers, other millennials, who you’re most inspired by?

Becker: This band, Twin Peaks, that we’re touring with are so awesome, I love them. They are the nicest dudes. Another who we tour with a bunch are Dog Party, they’re from Sacramento, Northern California punk. I’m really, really into D’Angelo, although he’s not my peer.

Mueller: Shout out to Desert Sharks, love those ladies.

Becker: Goodbye Honolulu, every band who we’ve ever played with have been so rad, Sunflower Bean, No Parents, everyone.

Cole Becker at peace
Cole Becker at peace. (Image courtesy of Zoe Detweiler)

And lastly, future projects? What’s in the works?

Becker: I’ve been trying to write a song with my friend Soko, who does like goth music. She’s a homie, and then we’ve been talking to Julia [Cumming] of Sunflower Bean about doing an alternate version of one of the songs on our record. A bunch of collabs with homies, and we’ve got our album coming out in February. Oh, oh also Creative Native, they’re our friend Taifa’s rap group, they’re a great peer band that I love, I look up to them.

Check out Drive North on iTunes

Check out Boyzine here