In the first frames of the music video for L.A.-via-Florida indie pop duo SWIMM’s latest release, “Man’s Man,” a definition flashes on the screen. “Crumbing — Verb [Kruh-ming] — when a high sensorial stimulation is received from small food flakes and crumbs being poured upon one’s face, mouth and chest.” The final frames show a group of scantily clad women breaking up croissants and other pastries over singer Chris Hess’ and drummer Adam Winn’s faces.
People are into all sorts of crazy shit, so why not, right? But spoiler alert: Crumbing is not a real thing. Hess made the whole thing up.
“I had been watching these ASMR videos with my roommate Spencer, and we’ve just been cracking up at those videos,” says Hess. “It’s this thing where people do this very light talking and get these special mics where, if they talk into the left side it goes into your left ear, and into the right, it goes to the right. They’ll just talk about the most redundant things. … I don’t know, it’s satiating some weird ear-tickling fetish.”
He explains that the videos, some of which have racked up millions of views, usually feature a pretty girl speaking slowly and gently, saying something like “hello sweetheart” as they role-play a school nurse or Hermione Granger. He finds the whole enterprise, with its borderline but not overtly sexual overtones, to be entirely goofy. “I was just kind of watching that stuff and being like, ‘This is more interesting than anything to me right now,’” he says. “And then the idea came, what if, you know … I love croissants. I really do love croissants.”
And thus the concept behind the “Man’s Man” video — and crumbing — was born.
“The ironic thing is that my dad is so neurotic in the way of cleanliness,” Hess says with a laugh. “If you get a Milano from the bag and you’re about to eat it in the kitchen, he will run to get you a plate for your Milano.”
The video, like everything else SWIMM do, is a reflection of the fact that they don’t like to take themselves too seriously. They throw shows in their Lincoln Heights warehouse home, which they lovingly call “the Cube” and describe as a “psychedelic space bubble.” They make up stories behind songs that involve meeting Nicolas Cage and discussing Jared Leto. They create their own fake fan mail series — “They’re completely fictional characters that I’ll make up and I’ll write a story about them and how SWIMM changed their life,” says Hess. “Sometimes it's real people like Gloria Estefan. That was one that was a real person, even though she didn’t [actually] write us a letter — I wrote a letter from her to us.”
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The duo use satire to point out the absurdity of a lot of things in our modern world — like banal music videos featuring a bunch of hot girls. “I just thought, you know, what if we set this video up to be another cliché band video where it has hot girls, scantily clad, tempting us. But instead of going that way, instead of giving in to that, have it turn into this weird fetish where all we want is for them to break the croissants and the pastries over us and feel the crumbs on our face and chest,” says Hess. “It’s as if we could really care less about the girls in it; we’re just concerned with the table full of accoutrements.”
Luckily, their talent matches their wit, which is impressive for a couple of guys who didn't even pick up instruments until they were in their 20s. Now in their early 30s, Hess and Winn have perfected their own brand of sometimes moody but mostly fun indie pop. An all-around theatrical performer, Hess practices vocal acrobatics on each SWIMM track, diving deep into his range before rising to the top with a rich falsetto. Meanwhile, Winn masterfully jumps from disco drumming to more pensive percussion at the drop of a dime.
Their catalog, which thus far includes two EPs, Feel (2013) and Beverly Hells (2015), in addition to the “Man’s Man”/“Groupie” single released Nov. 15, skips across a landscape of psychedelic rock, electronica, prog rock and even slight tinges of country and acoustic folk. Somehow, their body of work still maintains a completely cohesive feel.
Currently, the two are in the midst of putting together their first full-length album, which they promise sometime next year, most likely in spring. Until then, you can catch Winn and Hess at the Troubadour on Saturday, Dec. 17, with James Supercave. If the music’s not enough to get you there, they’ll probably be rocking mesh shirts, and maybe some lipstick. And if you’re really lucky, Winn might let you touch his glorious, curly mane.