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  • 1984 - 1986: The A & M Years (2xCD)
    1984 - 1986: The A & M Years (2xCD)
    by Swimming Pool Q's
  • 1984 - 1986: The A & M Years (3xCD+DVD)
    1984 - 1986: The A & M Years (3xCD+DVD)
    by Swimming Pool Q's
  • System of Love
    System of Love
    Cipher Bureau

    System of Love EP by The Swimming Pool Q's- MP3 Album

Can't Find It?

Paul McCartney's "Queenie Eye," Plus Chatting With The Rubens' Sam Margin, Sam Phillips and The Swimming Pool Q's' Jeff Calder, Plus a Tennis Exclusive

Jeff Calder talks to Mike Ragogna about The Swimming Pool Q's and their Reissue "The A&M Years" for The Huffington Post.


Paul McCartney's "Queenie Eye," Plus Chatting With The Rubens' Sam Margin, Sam Phillips and The Swimming Pool Q's' Jeff Calder, Plus a Tennis Exclusive

A Conversation with Jeff Calder

Mike Ragogna: Hey, Jeff, it's Mike.

Jeff Calder: How've you been, man?

MR: I'm okay, we spoke a while back but what is Jeff doing these days? Catch us up.

JC: You know what? Not much has changed. I still have a band, I'm still actively doing that; there's a new reissue, that took a lot of time to put together; got a bunch of new songs for a new recording that's about two thirds of the way done with The Swimming Pool Q's, and various music projects like that.

MR: All right, let's do this, since this is sort of a celebration of the box set of the reissues of the combo of the two albums, go over a little bit of history.

JC: I was a writer living in Florida, a freelance writer going to school down there at the University of Florida and so forth. In the mid-seventies, that's what I was doing, but I always wanted to be in a band, so I started writing songs through that mid-seventies period and eventually ran into people in Atlanta, who were Glenn Phillips, the guitar player, Bob Elsey, who's a really brilliant lead guitar player, and Anne Boston and I decided to move up here and start the group. That was in early 1978, so I guess we were on the front end of the fusion of new wave and punk and all of that energy into the South, who was having it a little later than New York or London or LA or whatever. It was a very exciting time. So between Atlanta and Athens and all of the other really wild developments that were taking place, over the course of the five years there before A&M records happened, the South was a very exciting place to be if you were into creative pop music.

MR: And I was in Tampa in the late seventies, early eighties and I remember seeing the Swimming Pool Qs.

JC: That's right, you were in a band and we played at the University of South Florida.

MR: You remember that? Holy crap!

JC: Oh yeah!

MR: Yeah, we played The Empty Keg together.

JC: That's right!

MR: I remember that was a time when everybody was getting into The B-52's and basically, a lot of the Athens bands. As you described it, the South was discovering what all that was, but it was putting its own label on it, too.

JC: Well you know, that was '79 and as soon as we could, we started to tour the region to find a place where a band like The Swimming Pool Qs could play. That was quite an adventure because there weren't that many of our contemporaries who were interested in that. You didn't see a whole lot of any of that; pretty much everything was directed towards New York and CBGB's and so forth, so a band that wanted to do it kind of had the region to itself. We landed in Tampa quite a bit and had a really good following there. Everywhere you went in all of these towns in the Carolinas and so forth, a couple hundred people would always come out and see you that were also into the new wave kind of thing. Over the course of four or five years, all of the grass roots activity with Swimming Pool Qs and R.E.M. ultimately really turned into something bigger than that.

MR: Right, and it turned into something bigger than that for you, you ended up on A&M.

JC: That's right, we were a very hardworking group of people and we ended up just hammering away at it until we had a good demo in '82 and finally I figured out in '83 that California might be a good place to go to try and get some major label interest. That's what we did and we ended up signing with A&M.

MR: So those two albums with rarities discs make up this box set. How did you get signed to A&M? Do you remember the story?

JC: I had come to the attention of A&M in New York and they had sent our tape out to California in advance of me going out there, so they were aware of the band. When I got there, I had a friend named Mark Williams who was really young at the time and he worked in the alternative marketing department at A&M. He'd just moved there from Atlanta. Mark was very instrumental in helping get R.E.M. signed. He was just sort of a young, energetic kid. I sent our tape to him and he took it over to the A&R department to David Anderle and David liked it. I think having produced any number of artists in the sixties, Anderle really responded to Anne's voice and he liked my lyrics, so they came in to see us along with some other labels and we ended up going with them. It was really David Anderle who signed the band.

MR: Cool. He also worked with Joan Baez, Rita Coolidge and others on the label.

JC: He worked with so many people. He helped start The Beach Boys' "Brother" label, he was the guy who put that together as a business entity. He signed The Mothers Of Invention to Verve in 1966. Interesting account, he and Richie Unterberger spoke about folk rock, about how David Crosby asked him to come in to help sort out a problem on Joni Mitchell's first record, just a technical problem about which Anderle knew nothing but somehow he solved the problem, so from very early on in the modern pop business, Anderle seemed to be everywhere.

MR: I don't want to make this a "blame the label" story, but I'm curious about what your theory is on why they weren't able to turn the corner on your two albums. Or did they expect you to keep going past two albums but some other event happened?

JC: I think it's a little of both of those things. I don't think that we were the easiest band for a label like A&M to promote and I think that barring some sort of lucky break on radio or MTV or something like that, they were not going to know how to promote a band like The Swimming Pool Qs. So it had a real singular focus, plus we were ultimately a little remote from the label, being in Atlanta. I also think that there were intellectual aspects that made it a little tough for them to understand easily, although A&M were the smartest group of label people I ever met. There were just so many bright people there, but given the taste of the music business, I think it was a little too hard for them to totally get behind the group.

MR: So The Swimming Pool Q's, all these years later, you guys still play out.

JC: That's right, we're still a very active band, and really, the lineup is the same. It's a little odd; the lineup is exactly the same as it was in 1982 except that our bass player now was our original drummer who played on our first album, which is The Deep End, Robert Schmid, who you would know from University Southwater on drums. Then sometimes, we play with J.E. Garnett who was with us when we made the two A&R records and then it's the same as it was during that period of time. It's really kind of remarkable because the band's been together for thirty-five years. It's almost strange, you know?

MR: What do you attribute that to? You all like each other a little or something?

JC: Well, pretty much. I really believe in the band. Also, you have to know when to leave people alone. You're talking about pretty much everybody's adult lives for thirty-five years. Musicians go through all the usual transitions in their personal lives, so you have to know when to leave them alone and not pressure them too hard. I just sort of developed a knack for knowing when to say, "Hey, we're not going to be doing anything for a couple of months" or "Let's get together and work on these new songs" or "Let's record this and that" or "Let's do a reissue." I think that's a combination of me being a driven character and also knowing when to weight off. But also, the band had these "arty" or artistic origins so that's kind of why we started as a band to begin with. I think that helps sustain a group through things like commercial success or commercial failure. That's the reason why R.E.M. stayed together as long as they did or why The B-52s are still doing it. I think it's because they had more purely artistic intentions when they began as opposed to, "Let's get together and be big rock stars and take over the world," which is perfectly acceptable to me as a reason to start a band, it's just that art is where we come from. I think that the reasons why you got together are the reasons why you have stayed together in this case.

MR: Hey, we have a mutual friend, good old Matthew Sweet.

JC: That's right, I saw Matthew about two weeks ago.

MR: Nice.

JC: We're pretty old friends. He was in town playing on a package show with Soul Asylum, The Wailers and Big Head Todd. I went over and we hung out for a while. I really like Matthew a lot. He's quite a character. And you did that great compilation, it was just terrific, what you did over there at Universal. You were involved in a lot of great things over there.

MR: Thank you very much. Yeah that Matthew Sweet early years collection is one of my favorites and of course, that's where I became friendly with him. I really like him a lot, I think he's so talented, I don't understand why he's not a household name.

JC: He did have a little bit of success with Girlfriend and the records after that, but you know, he's super talented. The record you put together had all of that Buzz Of Delight stuff on it and I listened to that just recently. I think that was really kind of classic Athens southern new wave from the period, hyper intelligent, intricate and all of that stuff. Your name has turned up on a lot of things that I didn't even know you were involved in. Your name turns up on the Captain Beefheart Safe As Milk reissue, which is really good. I don't know exactly what you had to do with that.

MR: I produced the reissue, yeah. The archive department unearthed all those bonus tracks and I oversaw the project. That was my job over at BMG when we were trying to reboot or at least exhaust some of the catalog that was in Buddha. It eventually included RCA and Arista titles. Anyway, thanks for remembering that.

JC: Yeah, that was a terrific reissue. You must have also been involved in the Mirror Manreissue because there was some real continuity between those records. From those two reissues, you can really see a whole lost or missing aspect to that artist. That must've been a lot of fun.

MR: That was an interesting period, yeah. Hey, let's go to my traditional question, which is what advice do you have for new artists?

JC: I just think if you get involved in any kind of artistic pursuit, you just have to keep your head down and push ahead and when people say no, you hear yes. That's really it. At some point, if you're really not cut out to be doing this, it'll become clear that you really need to be doing something else.

MR: Were there any times that you felt like, "Hey, I can't really do this"?

JC: You know, there've been plenty of frustrating episodes for me, but I never really questioned whether to keep going doing it or not, you know? The people I work with in the band are just so good and our bonds are really strong and it's just never really occurred to me to not do it.

MR: Very cool that you hung in there. What's the future for The Swimming Pool Qs?

JC: We've got about two-thirds of the new album done, we're going to be a bit stingy. Three of those songs we're going to release initially to our Kickstarter supporters on this project and then we'll just release them generally sometime in the next month maybe. Then I'd like to finish up this new album.

MR: Jeff, this has been great, we need to stay in touch.

JC: I'd love to, man. I've often wondered what you were doing over the last few years.

MR: Me too.

JC: You live in Iowa?

MR: Yeah. But that's another story. Jeff, I'll talk to you soon, you're great.

JC: Thanks.

Tranascribed by Galen Hawthorne



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