Swell Friends is the fourth band for singer Robby Hartis since the breakup of the Lights, Fluorescent, which was probably my favorite Charlotte band of all time. Other than his stint playing bass in Sugar Glyder before its breakup, Swell Friends is also his first without any of the other Lights. While both Sidewalks and My Captain sounded a lot like Lights, Fluorescent, Swell Friends takes a new approach.
"Dizzy" is full of catchy, fast-paced tracks that land closer to melodic hardcore and punk than indie rock. Daniel Hodges proves a creative guitar player adding to the intensity with frantic, yet colorful playing. As the former sound engineer for Steel Train and Grammy winners fun. who ran a successful Kickstarter for his own work last year, the full-speed-ahead punk is not what I expected. The rhythm section of Ryan Southwell (formerly of Love Colt and David Stein and the Ravens), and Jesse Soper (of A Stained Glass Romance) drive with a propulsive back beat but also keep the barreling vehicle on the road.
"Dizzy" often reminds me of old school bands like Minor Threat, Sick of It All and Agnostic Front, as well as the Suicide Machines second album "Battle Hymns" with shades of screamo and emo. Some of the breakdowns turn mathy. Others are just incredibly catchy.
As a lyricist Hartis revisits territory he's explored in other bands. His father's death, which he touched on more than once with the Lights, gets a heavier, angrier ode this time out,
There's an urgency and a messiness to the tracks that never lets up, but melody isn't sacrificed for speed and noise.
You can check out "Dizzy" here or join Swell Friends tonight at The Milestone where Kang, Black Pope, Del Rio, and Release the Dog also play. Admission is $5-$7 and music starts at 9 p.m.