I first encountered Seattle’s own 3 Swimmers on the Seattle Syndrome Volume Two compilation, which features their track “Bar 2000” and reminds me very much of the punk/new wave stylings of the Icelandic band Þeyr. As near as I can tell their entire output, outside of comp appearances, consisted of eight songs on two EPs, both of which came out in 1982. So what are the chances that in the last week I ran across both of these records in the wild, and in two different stores? It certainly surprised me.
3 Swimmers emerged from the ashes of the brightly burning but short-lived band The Beakers, a well-known group in the Seattle area who opened for Gang of Four and Captain Beefheart during their relatively brief existence from 1980-81. Like their predecessor, 3 Swimmers wasn’t around for very long either, disbanding in 1983. So many bands in the Seattle scene came and went quickly, and given that this was all in the pre-Grunge days we’re fortunate that any of the music managed to make it onto vinyl.
The three-song The Worker Works To Live opens just as I remembered “Bar 2000” sounding, almost like the bass and guitar have reversed roles with the guitar keeping time and the bass leading the song. That’s not to say the guitar doesn’t break free a bit at times, but “The Worker Works To Live” has a very stilted and deliberate quality about it, like something by the previously mentioned Þeyr or maybe early Talking Heads. On the B side “Take Me Back” is a bit darker and more experimental, while “Behind the Door” has a sort of demented blend of surf and 1960s psych with a certain dreamy quality to the vocals. Three pretty disparate songs in many ways but with an undercurrent of a general early new wave aesthetic.
American Technology opens with a more aggressive feel on “Technology,” the bass propelling the song forward and the vocals full of bitterness. The B side opener “American Technology” is actually a different version of “Technology,” adding a female vocalist and taking the whole thing off in a more synthy direction. This record ends with the live “Nietszche’s Birthday,” a rare opportunity to hear how 3 Swimmers sounded on stage. Turns out they were pretty polished – you can tell it’s live by the acoustics, but the performance captures the overall quality of their studio sound.
If you’re interested in picking up 3 Swimmers on vinyl, hit up the folks over at Seattle’s Georgetown Records – they have some new old stock of both records still originally sealed that they got from one of the original band members. I want to say they were around $13 each (I bought one there, the other at Easy Street earlier in the week). While you can probably find them cheaper on Discogs, I can promise you that these are in pristine condition, so you know you’re getting quality.