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Swingin' Utters: True, Blue-Collar Punks

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Darius Koski, guitarist, vocalist and accordion player for punk band Swingin' Utters, can't stand his band's name.

"It's a terrible name," he said. "It bummed me out for a long time, but it's been so long that you don't even think about it anymore."

The name—which Koski is quick to point out is misspelled—was linked to one of the original band members' cats, which had been nursing and looked like it had udders. It's not the worst name in the world, but the band has been around since 1987 (with Koski joining in 1989), and its often-changing members probably didn't realize that they would be stuck with the moniker for more than three decades.

Swingin' Utters will play at The Shredder in Boise on Friday, May 31, promoting its latest album, Peace and Love (Fat Wreck Chords, 2018). Dirt Cheap, Gallows Bound and Groggy Bikini will open. Koski described Peace and Love, the band's ninth studio album, as "our absolutely most political record we've ever done." He admitted the band doesn't often write pointedly political songs, but this time around it crafted very targeted criticism on the song "Yes I Hope He Dies."

"We're super bummed out and pissed off, and it just kind of came out naturally," Koski said.

"I agree, it is our most political record," said singer Johnny "Peebucks" Bonnel. "When sexism, racism and nationalism is the agenda, it's time to speak up."

The album was produced by Chris Dugan (Green Day, Iggy Pop) and recorded at Nu-Tone Studios in Pittsburg, California. While most bands grow and evolve from record to record, Swingin' Utters' latest took on a distinctly different sound thanks to two new members: bassist Tony Teixeira and drummer Luke Ray.

"The drummer and bass player are new, and that was huge," said Koski. "It made a bigger difference than I was expecting it to make, but it was totally stress-free."

Adapting to new band members has become commonplace for Swingin' Utters, which has had seven members join and leave over the years. The current lineup includes Koski, Bonnel (the only original member), Ray, Teixeira and Jack Dalrymple, the latter on guitar and vocals. Despite constant change-ups and a band hiatus from 2003-2010, Swingin' Utters has stayed true to its punk sound.

"It's never been difficult," Koski said. "Our sound was established so early in the process. I wrote a lot of the songs in the beginning, and me and Johnny are pretty much responsible for most of the material we've done over the years."

That ease is unusual considering that the punk scene has changed so much since the band was formed in the late '80s, with some arguing it has disappeared entirely. When Swingin' Utters got its start, shows like the Vans Warped Tour were wildly popular, and bands like its Fat Wreck Chords labelmates NOFX and Against Me! were helping to define the sound of the time.

"It's obviously nothing like it was in the '90s, it's kind of a shadow of that," Koski said of the current punk music scene. "That was a crazy explosion that was the best time for all of us; people were buying records back then, the shows were bigger for sure."

The band members credit their ability to not take themselves too seriously or get wrapped up in the ever-changing "scene" in part to being "blue-collar punks."

"We're a working-class band," Koski said. "We all have jobs and we always have. I'm a plumbing contractor."

That laid-back attitude about the band is apparent in a story Koski tells of one of the many shows it played in Boise. After performing, the band members were walking back to the hotel with Steve Nix from The Cute Lepers, another outfit they were touring with. A group of 20-something-year-old kids started tagging along, obviously wanting to experience partying with the band.

"They had a suitcase of beer or something and wanted to hang with us," Koski said. "We were like, shotgunning beers in the parking lot of our hotel with these kids. Which is ridiculous enough, but then I hear a huge smack like someone hitting the side of the car really hard. I turned around and Steve was on the ground and had passed out and slammed his head on the trailer. It was just one of those things—we're grown-*** men and we're shotgunning beers in a parking lot and passing out."

Well, it doesn't get more punk than that.