The Empty Page: He’s Very Good At Swimming – video premiere & interview

Thrilled to bring you today the first viewing of Manchester’s The Empty Page’s video for their stunning single ‘He’s Very Good at Swimming’. Chillingly beautiful post-punk with a crashing maelstrom ending, the song is a battle cry for the #metoo generation, tackling the subject of rape and victim-blaming head-on.

This band have been lighting up our radar for several years now, and their new releases show them to be ripe for explosion into the mainstream – they are undoubtedly ones to watch.

Singer-songwriter-bassist Kel, guitarist Giz and drummer Jim had a chat with our Cassie Fox.

  • The video touches on some sensitive subject matter in a powerful way – how important do you feel it is to tackle topics like this head on?

Kel: I think it’s important as a songwriter to write about whatever sparks emotions in you. But it’s not really a preconceived thing, I have always written about things that make me angry or sad because music is massively an emotional outlet to me. I don’t know what I’d do without that vent to let all my hot air out. I’d probably spontaneously combust. With this particular song, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, but I was quite worried about putting into words how I felt about it as it’s such a big issue and not something I have direct experience of. I’m just really fucking angry about it. So I probably rewrote these lyrics more than any I have ever written. I really hope I have done it justice. I am close to tears every time we play it. In terms of the video, it was very important that a woman made it, and there was nobody else I wanted to do it but Debbie [Ellis of asupremeshot] , so I’m very glad she said yes.

Content warning: themes of sexual violence and imagery of the aftermath of rape.

Jim: Purely from a male perspective, very. We need to be made aware that it’s our actions that need to change, not women’s. This ‘boys will be boys’ nonsense – what does that even mean? I can get away with behaving like an arsehole and blame it on genetics? Don’t be daft.

Giz: For me music or art is always most powerful when its got a creative thought process behind it. 

  • How did the song itself come about? What’s the writing process like for TEP?

Kel: Our writing process kind of varies. But generally we come up with bits of musical ideas when messing around in the rehearsal room, and one of us will go, I like that, and then we’ll record it and have a jam around with it until it starts to take shape. Usually it comes from Giz because he’s just an incredible guitar player, but sometimes I spark something while I am messing around with the bass, which is what happened with this track. I always say I am not a bassist, I kind of fell into doing it because I wanted the next band I was in to be a smaller unit. So my ideas are just me messing around really. I started playing this weird bass line and Giz came up with some beautiful guitars that sort of worked and were sort of discordant at times, and it just felt good. I came up with some snippets of vocal melody, it just kind of grew organically. The verse lyrics came later, amid the aforementioned wrangling. The scream leading to the heavy bit at the end just kind of erupted out of it at some point. Songwriting is so weird. For us at least, it’s never linear. It took us a while to finish. It was important to all of us that we got it right.

  • TEP has been playing the DIY scene for a while now – does this work for you, or is there a bigger plan afoot?

Giz: It works because we get to go and play our music, but obviously we’d like to do more if we got the opportunity.

Kel: Erm, yeah it works I guess. The main thing for me is that we just write and play music that we are proud of. I want people to love it too and I am very happy that some people do, but as I said earlier, for me this is something I just have to do. I tried to stop at one point because being in an active DIY band takes a lot of work, sacrifice and commitment. But my life was hollow without it. It really does give life meaning for me, so that’s the crux of it. We had some help with the last single from Punk Fox records who put out the 7” and it was so great to have that support and feel like someone was fighting our corner. I’d love to have that in more of a long term way, but it would have to be for all the right reasons. 

  • What current/new bands/musicians inspire you?

Jim: Fontaines DC, False Advertising, Little Simz… 

Giz: Canadian band No Joy are really good, they’ve been around for probably about ten years so not that new but they make really cool shoegazey music.

Kel: SO MANY! Impossible to list them all but I always feel inspired at gigs of smaller bands, there’s just something magic going on there, I guess it’s what I described above. A searing passion, a desire to make art that means something, an outlet. It’s not always tangible when you’re watching someone who’s been a millionaire for ages play radio hits to a shitload of drunk people in a stadium. Recent bands I’ve watched that have made my arm hairs stand on end have been Big Joanie, Desperate Journalist and Blanchard, but there really are loads. We have this band Spotify playlist that we update about once a month with new and old bands we like. I think it’s well worth a listen.

Catch The Empty Page live:

20/08 Sesh @ Polar Bear HULL

21/08 Fulford Arms YORK

31/08 The Crofter’s Right BRISTOL (with She Makes War)

20/09 The Victoria, Dalston LONDON (SWS 7th birthday, with Pussy Liquor)

28/09 The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, BIRMINGHAM (With Desperate Journalist and more)

16/10 Jimmy’s MANCHESTER (With Saint Agnes)

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