Speaking with Song: The Sink or Swim

sink or swimby Song River
Staff Writer

Armed with fish references galore, drummer Lou Resnick sat down with me to chat about his new band, The Sink or Swim, and the journey from Ohio to Phoenix and on into the land of creating their own unique rocknroll sound. Holding fast and anchored-tight, The Sink or Swim is keeping it real. The band consists of Nate Zeune (guitar/vocals), Lou Resnick (drums), and Niel Erlich (bass). 

Song River: Take us back to those basement playing days Lou. What music were you and Nate into?

Lou Resnick: Back in 4th grade when we just got our instruments, we were really influenced by bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, Guns N Roses, Black Sabbath, and most of the bands our dads introduced us to. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we knew we wanted to make rock music.

Both of you were really pretty young when you started entertaining this idea of being a band and picking up instruments. Lou, what set of drums did you start on and what has become your drum preference now? 

LR: When I started playing, I used my dad’s vintage Ludwig kit that he saved up for when he was a kid. It still is in perfect condition and sounds great. After my Bar Mitzvah, I used a portion of my money to buy my current Ludwig Accent CS Custom kit. I am a Ludwig guy and I always will be. I have the tattoo to prove it.

Life happened and you and Nate split, tried on different bands, came back together and decided to make the move out West. First of all, what brought you bandmates back together?

LR: After a year or two where we did our own thing, Nate was not interested in continuing in his current band. I was actually in college at Ohio University while he attended Capital University in Ohio as well. I wasn’t playing as much, distracted by school and college life. I left school my sophomore year and realized what I needed to do. Nate and I just started jamming again when he left his band. The timing worked out.

Second, what is the Ohio music scene like?

LR: The Ohio music scene is pretty interesting. There are a lot of bands who put in the work and write good tunes. The best example of hard work would be the rise of Twenty One Pilots. They pushed and pushed and pushed through the haters for years. And look, hard work pays off, they’re the biggest band in the world right now. We are friends with a band called New Hollow who ended up signing to Epic and then to Sony and is hopefully releasing new stuff here soon, really tight trio. Also, check out Shrub if you like reggae. Those guys are innovators and killing it. Liberty Deep Down is another band that definitely deserves recognition for the work they put in; that was also Nate’s old band.

Why did you decide Phoenix, Arizona was to be your new found home?

LR: So we decided Phoenix because, at the time, we just knew we wanted to get away from the same mundane life we had grown too used to. Nate’s brother, Ben, had moved out here with his mom to attend ASU. Knowing we wanted to head West, it was our easy in. We paid Nate’s mom rent for a few months while we worked day jobs, hopping everywhere from Domino’s Pizza, to multiple call centers, to restaurants. We saved up money and got a house with friends we have met here and now can practice whenever we need and it’s a really good situation.

Sliding in across the desert floor or by chance on social media, how did you find your bassist? 

LR: When we moved here I got all over the social media game. I would read articles about up and coming Phoenix bands, look at local venues’ calendars, etc. I started following lots of bands and talking to people and trying to get a feel for the scene. We actually found Niel through Meghan from Doll Skin (who you also need to check out). We got talking and she said she knew a really good bassist who had been trying to get something serious going for a while. We jammed with Niel once and it was a no brainer.

Was there a skepticism to Niel’s stick to it work ethic due to his age at first? As I understand, it was actually Niel who was skeptical of you two. How did Niel show you and Nate that he was the right person at the right time for The Sink or Swim? sink or swim2

LR: Honestly when Niel first came over to jam we were like “Oh no this kid is seventeen. I hope his parents aren’t going to be concerned and I hope he actually is good.” We sat down, Nate told him the chords to our first original we wrote, “On the Run”, and he instantly got it. Not only did he get it but he added his own flare that I had never seen before. We were kind of just like “Okay you’re in, dude. What’s next?” His parents have been fully supportive and extremely cool to us. Niel is just as dedicated to this project as we are. We don’t plan on stopping and this is all of our #1 priority no matter what it takes.

In your bio you’ve use the words “raw, catchy, and shifty”. Sounds a bit like trouble in the making… 

LR: Call it what you want, I don’t even like defining our sound. That’s for the listener to decide. I think if you truly can narrow down your sound to a specific genre, you’re not doing anything that original. It should be kind of up in the air. I say “raw” because we are a 3-piece with no synth, backtracks, or modern technology. We have that 70’s raw rock sound as far as the instruments. “Catchy” because we have hooks in some songs, but, hey, if you don’t think it’s catchy that’s cool too. “Shifty,” as in we try to create cool transitions in our songs. I judge a lot of music by the transitions, or lack thereof. I think the bridge and solo in “Wasted Time” showcases this well. Most songs on the EP have transitions that keep it fresh. And this new stuff… just wait.

Relativity quickly you all decided an EP was in order, Fish Out Of Water. How did the EP come about in such a short time? Where was it recorded/mixed/mastered? 

LR: Well, we had been writing a lot of songs about our current situation: being in a new place far from home (like fish out of water). It also has always been a joke between Nate and I because we are Pisces. We are sort of floppy fish when it comes to making decisions. The songs were ordered conceptually and I think it worked out well. We recorded this EP with HB Abels at Pyramid Studios. He did all the mixing and mastering. We have a lot more material with other topics that didn’t fit this EP and we can’t wait for you all to hear.

Each track seems to come from an experience. I suppose songs could stem from observations, but, for your songwriting purposes, do you feel they have to come from living?

LR: All of our songs definitely come from experience. I don’t think we have written any theoretical songs or political songs yet. I find it more interesting to convey experience and emotion than voice a political opinion right now. I am sure we will write across a broader scope of issues soon. This is Year One for us and we are more focused on getting our lives together and reflect that through our music. In time, we will grow and expand like any band.

The song “Faith” has moments in the guitarwork that have overtures of Pink Floyd.  Where did this song come from? The ‘water over wine’ reference stood out, for me.

LR: That song came from another riff that Nate created and then turned into that. It was a long time coming. And as I said, Pink Floyd has always been a huge influence of ours. Nate plays guitar that is very 70’s influenced and it shined through the instrumental chorus of “Faith.” This song is about sticking to your guns and following your dreams. The water over wine line was kind of referring to embrace what gives you life, and stray away from partying and killing time.

“Wasted Time” immediately grabs you off this EP. It is easily a leading airplay track. A blend of all three of you emerges in this tune and the sounds coming out is reminiscent of early Gin Blossoms and a bit of REM. 

LR: This is probably my favorite off of the EP to play. To be honest, I’ve been told we have a huge influence of Gin Blossoms, and I couldn’t tell you any songs by them except “Hey Jealousy”. I guess we need to listen to them more. And REM was never an influence of mine. I heard the hits, but was always kinda “eh.” I do hear similarities in structure but I think we bring something totally different to the table.

The bass presence is truth coming right of the track, “Revolving Doors.” The line,“…Blinded by the silence…” talk about this song. 

LR: “Revolving Doors” gives Niel a chance to shine. He carries the song with that bass line and, even in the bridge at the end, he kicks in the fuzz pedal and kind of melts your face off. Being a 3-piece we need a bassist who is basically able to take the instrument and turn it into a whole new element, not some dude playing quarter notes with a pick. He does plenty for us [laughed].

So this song is about feeling stuck in a rut and not knowing how to get out of those “revolving doors.” The silence that hides behind your eyelids refers to the monotony in your head when you feel stuck and don’t have a direction. This song progresses and it becomes about breaking out of those doors and setting your mind free.

How often does life feel like a revolving door and how do you personally step out of the circle to regain perspective?

LR: Honestly college was my set of revolving doors. Just kind of blew a lot of money collected debt in student loans and took overpriced classes. I decided I didn’t need it and that I would work and live a simple life while pursuing my craft. I think the trick for anyone to get out of their revolving doors is to take a step back from the pressures of society. Ask yourself “What do I do? Who am I? What makes me who I am?” and just do it. Nothing is stopping you from your dreams. Just do it, it’s simple.

Revolving doors everyone can identify with as it happens in so many aspects of our lives. 

LR: I’m glad to hear that. It definitely came from the heart.

Taking a different turn in structure to show another side comes through on the track, “On the Run.” How do you as a band want to approach future albums? Keeping within a dependable coherence or mixing up styles and genres to keep the fans guessing?

LR: I think “On the Run” captures the poppiest sound we would go to. It’s fun and upbeat but as our sound matures I think people who like rock music will identify with us more. We write different stuff all the time, it’s not really predictable so I guess time will tell.

Your band logo really fits the band’s name. Why The Sink or Swim? Is that really what life is all about? Let’s go deep here on a topic that may haven’t any relevance other than a cool sounding name…[laughed].

LR: Back to the whole Pisces joke and being floppy fish. Basically, it was all or nothing, lose or win, succeed or fail, when Nate and I moved here. And because of that pressure, it kicked us into gear. Keeping the theme, The Sink or Swim fits perfectly. We sink or we swim. And as we’ve progressed I think it fits our sound and I hope it sticks out to people.

Your touring and scheduled events are filling up quick for 2016. Any particular adventure you as a band are looking forward to this year? Further conquests in your sights forward? 

LR: April has been shaping up to be a great month for us. We did the Tempe Relay for Life and Rev’s Up for Autism. In May, we will be playing Rogue Bar every Tuesday so come check us out. So I guess it’s time we drop this little secret… We will be playing at The Newport Music Hall in Columbus Ohio on May 13th. It’s our first legit band adventure and we couldn’t be more excited. We are playing with some other good local acts and we hope to get all of our hometown friends and family out to this show. It’s at my favorite venue and I want it to come sooner. Other than that, let’s just say you haven’t heard anything yet. We have new songs in the works, maybe some recordings… videos… I guess you’ll have to wait and see. Like us on Facebook to #staycurrent.

Additional Links for The Sink or Swim: 





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