Swimsuit Area finished No. 6 overall in our 2015 Picked to Click tally with 29 points. Click here to read profiles on this year's other 11 winning acts.
When your band name is a euphemism for human pubis, you have to approach your craft with some levity. After a year of fidgety experimentation, Swimsuit Area have finally figured out what they are: a goddamn good time.
As Rebecca Nordling meets with City Pages at Dogwood Coffee Bar in Calhoun Square, she orders the largest coffee the barista can brew and immediately starts slinging dad jokes.
"I'm a Shetland pony," she says in her raspy voice. "I'm a little hoarse."
When the rest of her burgeoning noise-punk band joins us, she reaches into her R2D2 backpack and produces a plastic tiger mask. Violinist/mandolin player Manny Castro tries it on for size, strapping the mask across his blue pompadour, where it stays for the duration of the interview.
Lauded as deconstructionists for their guitar-less, double-bassed lineup, Swimsuit Area spent their early days tweaking their sound. Their 2014 EP, Occupado!, kicked in the door, showcasing trembling, rhythm-forward rockability, while the 2015 follow-up, Busybody, saw the band augment their industrial dissonance with quirky pop sensibilities. But this past year has been less about Swimsuit Area finding their identity and more about discovering what they're capable of.
"As we've evolved, we've realized that we're kind of a party band," Nordling says. "We realized how much we make people smile when we're on stage."
Swimsuit Area specializes in the unusual. Bassists Eric Nordling (Rebecca's husband) and Brandon Dvorak root around in their syncopated plucking like bawdy epicureans hallucinating through the truffle aisle; Castro bends strings into threshold-testing abrasions; and drummer Jon Quist thumps along with surf-punk mania.
"If someone was listening from behind the walls, they'd think 20 different people were making the music," Rebecca says. "It's a rare, beautiful thing to not actually sound like anybody else."
With members coming together from the ruins of Sky Cake, Congo Rats, and Maps of Norway, Swimsuit Area have formed a so-called "no-wave" patchwork that draws equally from Ween and C+C Music Factory. Helming the tangled mass of genres is Rebecca, whose Jello Biafra warble and mannequin head-punting antics give Swimsuit Area an ineffable charisma. You want this band leading the dance floor at your wedding reception.
Like any good party, our interview ends with a party favor, as Rebecca digs back into her droid-shaped bag and produces a Ziploc bag full of candy bars and gummy bears.
"We take music seriously," she says, her perma-smile unwaning, "but not ourselves."