SWMRS’ Billie Joe Armstrong connection doesn’t define its sound

Catch SWMRS at Vinyl on March 29.
Photo: Phoebe Fox / Courtesy
Annie Zaleski

Rock-star offspring looking to carve out their own music careers typically must navigate famous familial associations—which is why you’ll rarely read a piece about SWMRS without also learning that drummer Joey Armstrong’s dad is Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. But notable relatives might be the least-interesting thing about the Oakland-based group.

SWMRS’ poised new LP, Berkeley’s on Fire, is light years better than the band’s scrappy, lo-fi-punk-leaning 2016 debut, Drive North. In fact, the dizzying, effervescent 2019 album draws from grime, mod-rock, electro-pop and post-punk—highlighted by the Britpoppy jam “Too Much Coffee,” the bruising rocker “Hellboy” and the Smiths-meets-Head Automatica hybrid “Trashbag Baby.”

SWMRS vocalist/guitarist Cole Becker and Joey Armstrong are longtime friends. They met at the latter’s fourth birthday party but started jamming together at age 9, after seeing the 2004 Jack Black movie School of Rock and realizing they, too, could be in a band. After recruiting Becker’s brother, Max, they performed freewheeling punk-pop as Emily’s Army before adopting their current name in 2014.

Although Billie Joe Armstrong produced Emily’s Army releases, he’s been more hands-off with SWMRS. And the group hasn’t needed career help: The band is signed to Fueled by Ramen—home of Panic! At the Disco, among others—and has gigged with All Time Low and Wavves. In a satisfying twist, SWMRS’ touring lineup also now boasts another Armstrong—Joey’s younger brother, Jakob.

SWMRS with The Regrettes, Beach Goons. March 29, 8 p.m., $18. Vinyl, 702-693-5000.

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