They celebrated their first anniversary with a gig in a boxing ring, now pugnacious Manchester trio Cold Water Swimmers are celebrating their third with the release of their debut album.
Formed in Prestwich in 2018, the band is fronted by Chris Bridgettof Dub Sex and more recently The G-O-D, which also featured long time Fall drummer Simon Wolstencraft.
Completing the trio is bassist Carrie Lawson and drummer Selina Woolnough, who also plays in The Flamingo Diaries.
An eclectic collection of songs, Holiday At The Secret Lake is essentially a document of the band’s three years together.
There’s dystopian futurist post-punk (Replaced By Robots), melodic folk pop (Be My Sunshine), along with Stooges’ style garage rock (Love Is Insane and Burn Your Idols).
Hardhitting political anthems sit cheek by jowl with lighter, lilting acoustic/psych – highlighting the band’s versatility and instinctive musicianship.
Matt Catchpole caught up with Chris to discuss the new album and found him in typically effusive mood – just don’t expect him to share his Robbie Williams story.
Hey Chris, can you start by explaining the album’s title (great cover by the way)
The secret lake is a real place near my home in Manchester. It nestles in a post-industrial landscape just past the local tip where the parishes of Reddish, Gorton and Levenshulme meet. People discover its whereabouts through word of mouth, it’s certainly not signposted. When you first lay eyes on the lake it’s a surprise; why is it here, how come I didn’t discover it earlier, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s a bit rough around the edges – often strewn with litter and a hapless victim of fly-tippers despite the best efforts of the “friends of the secret lake” community group – but it’s beautiful and it feels like my secret, my place on my doorstep. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Was there an overall theme you had in mind for the album? There seems to be a lot of references to entrapment of various kinds, but also stories of redemption too?
There’s no theme as such, the album has 10 songs. Each one tells a story, an experience, a hard won wisdom shared, a vision, a truth – the songs were recorded over the first three years of us as a band sporadically, so a theme was something we didn’t have the luxury of conceptualising. Three years of songs about 40 years of living.
There’s more of an acoustic psych influence on the record, compared to the straight up power punk of your previous band The G-O-D. What made you decide to get the acoustic out?
The acoustic guitar came out in 2018 just after the band got together and seven out of the 10 songs on Holiday at the Secret Lake were born on the instrument, so the acoustic psych label is fair. Much of the time we’re together as a band, it’s at our drummer Selina’s, playing music in the wee conservatory at the back of her house – it’s low volume, parlour level music. Then we take that into the rehearsal room at rock ‘n’ roll volume. It’s my tool of choice for writing songs.
What happened with the G-O-D? Why did you split? Are you still on good terms with Si Wolstencraft?
Funky Si is my pal, always will be, I wouldn’t let something like a band come between 33 years of friendship. Towards the end of The G-O-D I could sense Si was missing the funk, the pull of the funk was too strong for him and he broke away. It’s all good and how it should be. We split two months after opening for The Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium – which I guess is perfect. The last time we met a one skinner was shared and laughs were had.
Cold Water Swimmers got together on the day Mark E. Smith died. Did you know him and what did you think of him as an artist?
I met him a few times, I know many who have played and worked with him, Carrie was married to Karl Burns the original drummer so is a bit closer to that inner circle – the getting together on his death day is a coincidence, but one I won’t forget. At the end of the rehearsal, which for a first one was incredible, Carrie got a call from one of The Fall insiders that Mark had died. I guess I’ll always remember when I heard the news that Mark E. Smith died in the same way people from my parent’s generation know the same stuff and about Kennedy. As an artist he was unique without peers like all the best ones are.
You’re bringing this album out on your own DIY or DIE label – what prompted you to take that approach?
There isn’t any other way, labels wouldn’t look at us right now or at least the ones we’d want looking at us… for the majors we’re way too old. The industry is ageist. The big independents don’t know of us yet and the small ones, we can do the same as them so why go there? It is DIY or DIE .. what you gonna do?
How have you been handling the pandemic and lockdown?
At first by drinking and writing songs on sunny days in the back yard and by the secret lake and recently with increasing anxiety and impatience for it all to come to a close. I remind myself I’m one of the lucky ones almost daily. Holiday at the Secret Lake wouldn’t exist as it is without the pandemic and lockdown so I guess making this record has been key.
Did it present any problems in making this album – did you have to record your parts separately?
The songs we recorded last year So Young, Breaking Hearts and Be My Sunshine were all done separately. I’d record the song on vocals and acoustic, Carrie and Selina add their parts by playing along – hey presto! The songs we recorded before lockdown needed remixing, so we did that during lockdown breaks last summer and towards the end of last year, beginning of this.
Now that restrictions are beginning to ease do you have plans to tour the album?
We’d love to tour the album, so if any bigger band would like to take us with them on tour please get in touch! The idea of us being able to do a full tour, with no agent, management, tour support, crew, budget etc is a far-fetched one. That’s the reality. I wish upon a star we get the chance to and we’ll play at any GOOD offer we get, but they’re rare. Our next live show is at Night and Day on July 9 in Manchester – who knows after that. A shame isn’t it because we’re brilliant live- the best live band I’ve ever had.
How do you work with Carrie and Selina – do you write the songs and bring them to the other two, or do you work them up together by jamming in the rehearsal studio?
I write the songs and they bring their magic. We each have a role to play and each role plays an important part of the whole. We’re far greater than the sum of our parts.
What do Carrie and Selina bring to the songs? How do they compare to musicians you’ve worked with in the past?
Carrie and Selina were a duo way before I showed up with my songs. I was a bit of a fan of their band Tuareg, so if anything I joined their band. They bring a unique pounding honest flavour to everything we do – they’re the rhythm section. They’re the best band members I have ever had and I’m blessed to work with them, we’re blessed to have each other and this band.
According to your social media you recently took delivery of a Gretsch guitar – what model is it and does it make an appearance on the new record?
Guitars are well known to be the most beautiful things on earth and Gretsch Guitars only just behind Fender in the gorgeousness index of guitars. It’s a White Falcon acoustic; alas it’s not on the record. The acoustic guitar you can hear on this album is my £150 Tanglewood, a wonderful sounding instrument.
You acknowledge The La’s as an influence – why do you think that a band who made just one album is still so revered?
I love the Scouse sound always have, from the moment I first heard The Beatles to when I first heard the Bunnymen right up to The Coral’s latest album. If you sing a melodic song with lyrical hooks accompanied by an acoustic guitar, it’s always going to drip with the waters of the Mersey, isn’t it. Why so revered? That’ll be because it was so good.
Did you ever meet Lee Mavers? Do you wish he’d made more records?
No and I’m grateful for what he did do.
Everything We’ve Ever Had (We’ve had to fight for) is a strident attack on the govenment’s austerity policies, are you surprised that so many people voted for them in the recent elections, Particularly in the North?
Why the working class in ‘red wall’ towns voted Tory is complicated. Ignited by the Brexit narrative of nationalism, popularism and fear, it was inevitable. We’re a long long away from the socialist utopia I dream of.
Lastly, when we last spoke you shared a great anecdote about meeting Nico in The Spinners, but held back on a story about Robbie Williams – are you ready to reveal all now?
No, that’s between Robbie and me.
Oh-kaaaay then, looks like the lake is not the only secret, Cold Water Swimmers are keeping close to their chests.
- Holiday At The Secret Lake is released on 21 June on DIY or DIE Records. Purchase ot pre-order through Bandcamp.
- For more about Cold Water Swimmers visit them on Facebook and @ColdH20Swimmers on Twitter.