Meet South Africa’s rising alternative rock sensation, Swimmer, poised to take the music scene by storm with the release of his debut album, Sirens & Cathedrals. This talented artist brings a fresh and innovative sound to the genre, blending soulful melodies with gritty guitar riffs and thought-provoking lyrics. With a distinctive voice and a unique perspective, this debut album promises to be a game-changer in the world of alternative rock.
Raised in place that time forgot, Swimmer is a windswept troubadour from the Skeleton Coast whose timeless songs have careened their way across the desert.
“My ancestors were fortune seekers,” says Swimmer. “It was the promise of diamonds that brought the Swimmers out to the west coast of Africa.My Grandfather used to own a place out there in Kolmasnkop, but then things went bust in the 30s and he never did find his fortune.”
As the Swimmer’s Kolmanskop dream faded, the family fell on hard times. “I’ve been out on my own since I was very young,” says Swimmer. “Initially I bounced around from one extended family members to another, but it would never work out.”
In his late teens Swimmer packed his meagre belongings into a rucksack and took to the road, living nomadically up and down the Skeleton Coast, his only companion, a walkman and set of headphones bought with money earned through the odd job and participation in the occasional pharmaceutical trial.
“The only tapes I had were a Readers Digest boxset called Remembering The ‘50s and ‘60s,” says Swimmer. “Man, I played those tapes to death.”
Sirens & Cathedrals is available now on all digital platforms.
Recalling those days up and down the coast, it is evident how much songs like Harry Nilson’s Everybody’s Talkin, The Mamas and The Papas’ Monday Monday, Peggy Lee’s Fever, Mickey & Sylvia’s Love Is Strange and Jim Lowe’s The Green Door meant to a teenage Swimmer.
“There was an unexplainable magic in those songs, they were a portal to another world, especially when I was faced with such bleak surroundings,” he says. “The San people call the Skeleton Coast, the land that God made in anger, and it certainly is a very unforgiving place.”
Swimmer had always loved music, but it wasn’t until a wild encounter led him to a pilgrimage into the desert, that he set his heart on becoming a songwriter.
“I’d been on the road for years, up and down the coast. Eventually I found myself at the Saltyjackel, this surf camp near Swakopmund. It was there that I met Jonny, an old Angolan War vet, turned diamond diver, who had an acoustic guitar which he would pull out at night around the fire.
I would lend Jonny’s guitar, go find a quiet spot on the dunes, and start fiddling around, trying to find my way. One evening, in the early hours of the morning, I found myself alone in the desert, and in the middle of what might be called an induced experience. I didn’t have any sense of time or space in those hours,” says Swimmer, one moment I was there looking at a fire by the seaside, the next thing I was alone in the desert with a shaman figure, or guide.
He pointed to a root in the sand, I tugged at it, and it was as if a world of colours and sounds came bursting from the ground, and the desert was in flood. I haven’t spoken about it for a long time, but that night something opened up and poured into me that I have never been able to close or silence again. I don’t like to say more than that.” As he says the rest is for your imagination because Swimmer refuses to talk about what happened in the desert, besides the fact that he went there to find his future as a songwriter. The rest he says. “Is between me and the shaman.”
Swimmer hit the road many times since, but from then on, he had Jonny’s old guitar as companion, trying to make sense of the inexplicable through his music.