swim school
Photo: Rory Barnes / Press

swim school — Outside

Edinburgh indie newcomers swim school absorb influences from a wide range of genres. From ’90s grunge to modern indie and dream-pop, the band first showcased their sound in Scotland’s live music scene before the pandemic. But they haven’t fallen into the trap of letting lockdown skew their vision and ambition for their music.

Instead, they’ve used their time wisely to get new material together. Earlier this year, the single “let me inside your head” saw swim school grace the cover of Spotify’s Scotify playlist and the announcement of a live performance for the digital edition of The Great Escape 2021. Now, they’ve just unveiled their second offering of 2021, “Outside.”

“’Outside’ is based on the negative impact that toxic people can have on your mental health,” explained lead vocalist and guitarist Alice Johnson in a statement.

“It’s about the challenge of finding the strength to cut toxic people out of your life and putting yourself, your happiness and your mental state first. It’s also about realizing that toxic people will never change and that is not your responsibility to change them.”

“Outside” is swim school’s most assertive track yet. After two opening drum hits, distorted guitars and riotous cymbals let loose. The lead guitar riff is very indie rock, though the track’s underlying chord changes give off a more alternative leaning.

Dynamics and swim school’s intuitive use of them are the star feature in “Outside.” As soon as Johnson’s proclamations of “going outside” and “freeing your mind” enter the fray, the atmosphere changes to a spacious, reverb-laden soundscape, correlating strongly to leading contemporaries Wolf Alice and Bleach Lab.

There’s a juxtaposition of energy and intensity as the track progresses. The chorus sections tinge with a sense of anger and frustration of “always wanting more” before the outro embarks on a full-on aural assault: “And now theres nothing, left to prove / And now theres nothing, you can do / I see I’m doing better without you.”

Finished off with an abrupt Strokes-esque ending, “Outside” tackles toxicity with fire and flair in equal measure.