Swimmers may be Miles Francis’s debut, but it’s clear there’s something in the water. Miles Francis is not your typical debut artist, and Swimmers is not your typical debut.
Swimmers arrives both as a 5-song EP and a 25-minute companion short film. Replete with meticulous and supremely catchy songs, paired with stunningly serene visual imagery, Swimmers is clear proof that Miles knows what he’s doing. In the songs, nothing is looped and there’s no computer magic filling in missing lines. Swimmers is pop music with an edge. In “Take It,” for example, a bouncing syncopated synth bass powers through lyrics about false hope. Swimmers is introspective, but it’s not sad: “Complex” sets a graceful, melancholy chorus over an off-kilter static-laden beat. It’s indie rock with an R&B vocabulary, like in “You’re a Star,” which juxtaposes a dancey drum pattern with a grungy bass line and hushed vocals.
Miles collaborated with filmmaker Charles Billot to create an eerily abstract yet intensely real visual world for the songs to live in. Swimmers [film] is an honest exhibition of the emotions found in the music, while leaving the door open for the viewers’ own interpretations - like water, Swimmers takes the shape of its holder.
Miles has learned from the best, and it shows. Since he started playing – first the drums at 6, then guitar, bass, keyboards, other percussion, anything he could get his hands on – he’s been an eager and diligent student. He spent countless hours in his childhood basement dissecting Prince’s guitar parts, learning David Byrne’s vocal phrasing, recreating Dilla beats, meditating on Fela Kuti basslines, and studying Bowie’s chord progressions. As a working musician, Miles has collaborated and performed with The Roots, tUnEyArDs, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Action Bronson, Allen Toussaint, Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and many others; toured the world with Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Antibalas and EMEFE; and appeared on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with David Letterman. All before the age of 26, too.
But Swimmers is also honest and genuine, the capturing of a particular period in a young person’s life. The EP was written in the back of a tour van and various hotel rooms and recorded by Miles alone in his basement studio. “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. You hear this particularly in the quiet but cathartic “Overthink”, the song that convinced Miles that Swimmers should leave the basement and live in the world. “‘Overthink’ is about telling yourself to relax, adapt to change, and not worry so much that it ruins the moment,” he explains.
Swimmers has plenty of hooks, but sometimes they’re in unexpected places. It’s smart, but not cocky. It’s confident but not brash. It pushes against the edge, but it doesn’t puncture. These are songs from someone who knows what he wants to say, how to say it, and perhaps most importantly, how to keep you listening. And you’ll definitely want to keep listening.
C O N T A C T
Marisa Brown @ Brilliant Corners – firstname.lastname@example.org