When he was only a high school freshman, Stony Brook College graduate Dan McCaffrey, dreamed of becoming a rock star. Years later, his pop-rock band SWIM from Long Island, is alive and kicking. It has the same youthful vigor back as it did when it began, only now with more clarity and new members.
Lead singer McCaffrey is the only original member of the band. Over the years, the group’s membership has changed, but it started with a high school agreement between friends to become musicians.
“I started the band with a few friends of mine when I was in ninth grade before any of us knew how to play instruments at all,” McCaffrey said. “We kind of just made a pact that we were going to figure it out.”
Playing a variety of genres from pop to alternative, the band labels itself as a pop-rock band but is open to all styles. This openness results in a classic sound that any age group can enjoy. Junior economics major and SWIM’s drummer, Brian D’Angio, thinks SWIM’s sound is unique because of the spectrum of genres it draws from.
“Our music is nothing too bubblegum pop or too grunge-y — we are right in the middle,” D’Angio said.
The four-member band has a love for sharing music with the Harrisonburg community at events like Madi-thon, but also in New York, where all the current members are originally from. In addition to local venues in Long Island and Harrisonburg, the band has also performed at notable venues such as the Bitter End and The Stephen Talkhouse in New York City.
The group’s clean slate name, SWIM, was given with a specific purpose. Its ambiguity is what drew the band to making the decision regarding the name, which was no small feat. Hamilton College junior biology major Pat Morelli is the band’s rhythm guitar player. He explains that its ambiguity is its purpose. SWIM’s untainted name was intentional, as it wants its listeners to remember it as its own entity.
“We wanted this short, sweet name that didn’t have any connotation to it,” Morelli said. “Hearing SWIM, you wouldn't know what to expect.”
The band slowly transformed into something that was purely for fun — a simple way to enjoy making music — yet over time it transitioned into something more than a hobby. All of the band’s current members are dedicated musicians who spend time and energy to build their brand and create music. The success SWIM has come into and the strides its made since prove its ability to overcome difficulties while still remaining passionate and hopeful for the band’s future.
One difficulty SWIM has run into is the reality that not all of its band members live in the same state. Three of the four band members reside in Long Island. D’Angio is the sole band member to move away from his home in New York to attend college at JMU.
“It’s a difficult task to manage a band while being at JMU,” D’Angio said. “Rehearsing would be the ideal situation, but I think we are really well connected. We practiced a lot to the point where we can just get into a gig and go for it.”
Despite the distance, the band still connects well on stage and has produced successful music. When its members are seperated, SWIM keeps up with each other by sending voice memos of different melodies or beats they wish to incorporate in the future. Serving not only as SWIM’s guitar player, but also as their manager, Stony Brook College graduate Nick Riviezzo reflects on how the band came to write their most popular song on Spotify, “Heartbeat Connection,” with over 200,000 plays.
“We went on this little retreat to this cabin in Maine,” Riviezzo said. “We would wake up every morning making music from sunrise to sunset. It's all of our stories; it's not necessarily one person’s story.”
In true rockstar-movie fashion, SWIM played in a Battle of the Bands in Long Island and won. The winner of the competition was granted the opportunity to play at a popular music festival in Austin, Texas, called South by Southwest. SWIM packed into a van to make the trip all the way to Austin. The experience was enlightening, as they were able to play with bands that were similar to them — local bands that are hidden gems from their own areas.
“We were at what I think is the coolest music festival at least in the country,” Riviezzo said. “And here we were just walking down the street watching tons of [bands] each day, and being one of them. It was definitely just the coolest experience of my life.”
The future is a spine-tingling topic for SWIM. The band plans to continue to make music despite the distance, including releasing a song titled “The Chase.” The song charts into new territory as it helps establish diversity in the genres the band plays. “The Chase” comes out April 5 and will transition the band from a pop-rock genre to a more indie genre.
SWIM has high hopes for the future, hoping to make it big, tour and continue to play gigs. The band’s intentions are true, never losing sight of its main objective: the passion for making music. Riviezzo knows that SWIM has the potential to make a difference in people’s lives through its songs.
“We do it ’cause we love it. Life feels empty without music,” Riviezzo said. I hope when you listen to SWIM, even if it's for three minutes and 23 seconds, that you feel something and it brightens your day.”
Contact Audrey Nakagawa at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.