Soft Swells. Sure it’s a band name (in fact, it’s this band’s name), but it is also a surfing term. Tiny, easy to ride waves that beginners keep an eye out for to build their aquatic confidence up.
But what happens when you outgrow those small waves? Do you stop surfing? Or do you step up and try to tackle the biggest waves the ocean has to offer? Tim Williams, the mastermind behind Soft Swells (the band) has been moving towards this moment for years now. Tim started Soft Swells in an effort to reach new heights, and over the course of a full length and an EP, the music has gotten more sophisticated, and the sound of the band has gotten bigger.
So if the band’s previous work could be described as soft swells, than their new album Floodlights is like an enormous tidal wave from an action movie. Absolutely everything about the band has gotten bigger. Where once there was just Tim with the help of producer/keyboardist Dave Lynch and a lot of studio magic, there is now a fully formed band.
In a (successful) experiment to capture the fun and excitement of their live shows on record, Tim brought a motley group of wildly talented musicians together in the studio to lay down all the tracks. Most of the record was tracked by producer Dave Lynch (the other Dave Lynch) at The Electric Zoo in Eastbourne UK, with Soft Swells’ touring bass player and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Pappas at Tim’s side, and a guest appearance by resident UK drummer Phil Wilkinson (Jake Bugg, Brian Eno). As if that wasn’t enough, Misty Boyce (Sara Bareilles), Jonathan Visger (Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr) and Soft Swells’ touring guitarrist Kyle Frederickson all contributed their talents via satellite. Well, via email.
This impressive roster of personnel leaves Soft Swells sounding invigorated, like a whole new band. A big, stadium sized band to be exact. Drums shake, organs swell, guitars rock and vocals soar. This is no longer a band trying to figure out how to replicate the sound of their albums on stage, because they brought the stage to the studio. With Modern Outsider Records driving the release, the future of Floodlights looks long and bright. But Tim’s new air of confidence isn’t just due to the stellar lineup, but also because of his recent marriage to the love of his life, Sabrina, who is a constant encouragement to Tim to take chances, and to do what she knows he is capable of.
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth has said “once the music leaves your head it’s already compromised.” That’s fine if you feel like music is an entirely personal endeavor for the artist. Tim certainly doesn’t feel that way. “I don’t think a song or recording is completed until it hits someone’s ears… The experience is only complete when a listener gives their input – a smile, a foot tapping, a head nodding or whatever reaction a person has.”