Exclusive: Miles Garber Talks Swimsuit Issue
Cultivated over the last two years in Brooklyn, the duo behind Swimsuit Issue make quite the unlikely pair. Menswear model Miles Garber, and studio musician David Gagliardi create music that turns their hardcore and punk upbringing totally upside down. There sound is acoustic, driven by Garber’s hazy vocals that echo Jeff Buckley somewhere in the modern folk cannon. Following the release of their first music video for the track titled ‘Break’ as of yesterday, we caught up with the group’s lead singer and talked about his love is love for L.A., keeping his musicianship a secret, and being a total mama’s boy.
When did you first realize you wanted to make music?
I guess when I was 14. I grew up in a hardcore scene in Los Angeles, I’m from Hollywood so I was in a hardcore band and I just did it to hang out with my friends. I thought, “Oh, all of my friends are in bands so fuck it, I’ll play the guitar.” Then I moved to New York when I was 19 and I didn’t really play music for a year or two. One day my cousin asked me if I wanted this acoustic guitar and I said “fuck it” and I just started playing and thought it was different. I didn’t tell anyone anything for two years because all my friends were punks and I thought I’d get beat up.
So you were self-taught?
Yeah, I learned everything on the Internet. There’s a lot of websites for things called tabs that tell you where to place your finger to play a song, so you learn to play “Smoke On The Water,” and Iron Maiden, and Metallica, or Nirvana and then you just kind of go from there.
Hardcore is very different from the music you make now. What prompted the switch?
My mom used to work at Warehouse Music, a big music supplier in California and she used to come home with crates of CD’s. She was also kind of a punk and grew me into liking hardcore because that’s what she’s into, but we still played Pete Yorn and Jeff Buckley, so I grew up with all of these different music styles. I think I always felt ignorant when it came to guitar because I am self-taught, but it was the thing that came most naturally. I don’t think it was really thought about, I just knew I really liked playing the acoustic and that I liked chords. It was never pre-meditated at all.
You moved from L.A. to New York, which of these two really has your heart?
I definitely prefer L.A. and represent California to the fullest, but my mom is here and I was originally born in New York , so I kind of stay because of my mom and all of my work is here.
Definitely. My mom’s a single mom so it’s been the two of us my entire life.
I heard that you guys are really into D’Angelo.
We love D’Angelo. I’ve been obsessing over Drake for the last six months. The new album is so so good. I like to think that since we’re both Jewish and because he was on a TV show when he was younger and I was a model, then I can do it too. He’s inspiring. But we do have so many influences, mine are Tom Waits, and my favorite band is the Minutemen. We sort of pool from everything, but we do love D’Angelo, and would love to be D’Angelo or Drake—not gonna happen but we like to think it would.
Is there anything specific that influences your music? Like a place or mantra, or way of life?
I think for me being the singer and the lyricist, and having such a crazy upbringing, it’s kind of just me writing my autobiography. That’s basically the best way I can put it and it didn’t really fit being a punk band, or a shoegaze band, and it definitely didn’t fit being rap cause I don’t know how to rap. There’s a soul element to it, a folk element, a country element to it, because that’s the only way I knew how to tell the story. Maybe it comes from ignorance as a musician maybe it doesn’t.
When did you first begin to vocalize?
When I was in hardcore bands I always sang, and like I said it was such a secret. I told one person maybe and would record stuff on a tape player. I couldn’t afford to do it on a computer, so I’d go to Rite Aid, buy a tape player for two bucks and record these demos. They were two-minute songs of me wailing and I’d show them to a couple friends who’d say, “yeah dog this is cool.” But yeah, that’s basically it. It was a secret.
You should name one of your tracks ‘Trapped In The Hardcore Closet.’
We thought of naming our next EP You Can’t Kill The Punks. But definitely in the punk scene you’d get killed if you were caught wailing with an acoustic guitar. The scene has definitely opened up a bit. I’ve seen punks at shows with Cat Power pins on. We actually opened for her and she was so rad. She only played hip-hop and punk the whole time we played with her which was cool. That was a huge inspiration too—it’s been a really weird journey for us.
Can you tell us about your EP?
I think this EP, obviously it’s our first one and I think these songs definitely represent what I was going through when I was moving to New York and seeing this people that I had no idea how to interact with, because I grew up with so many rules of how to conduct yourself around people because I grew up with tough guys. And when I moved to New York people were just acting a fool and I had no idea how to interact at all and it’s kind of about that, and freaking out about having a new job and traveling all the time. It’s also about leaving my home, which was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I never thought I’d leave LA ever and I never thought I’d leave my friends and when I had to leave them it was a really big shock to the system. It’s kind of all about that experience.
Do you have a specific spot where you write your music?
I just write at home. I definitely don’t like writing when friends are over which is kind of a big problem for me because I have a huge group of guy friends and we’re always together, so it’s hard to have that alone time. I can write anywhere though. I write on my phone all day, I make weird voice memos to myself when I walk down the street. I feel like you’ve really got to keep that dialogue going with yourself and not get stuck in what you’re doing. Take criticism and let someone tell you that you suck and figure out why it sucks. It always sucks— you’re never going to kill it every time.
I noticed there’s a Tumblr called ‘Fuck Yeah Miles Garber!’
It’s a fan site, I definitely don’t know who does it, if they read this thank you, it’s pretty cool. My best friend called me when I was eating dinner with my mom and said, “Dude you have like a weird fan-Tumblr I saw it on my feed.” That’s so funny that you found that.
Keep an eye out for Swimsuit Issue’s 7’inch set to release in April.
Photography by Dan Regan