Every music scene has a city, and every city has its historians. Nick Diener very well could fit that description for Flint, Michigan. My Everest, the first LP released by The Swellers, found Diener crafting a splintering punk hometown anthem, “Vehicle City,” while its Fueled by Ramen follow-up, Ups and Downsizing, had its overtones muted in browns and greys. It seemed slammed by the statewide recession, and The Swellers seemed buried by the boom of the pop-punk scene thereafter. Bands like The Wonder Years and Michigan’s Fireworks could be heard borrowing emotional threads from Diener and Co.’s catalog (even enough to share touring schedules), but instead of graduating from the club circuit, The Swellers quietly left their major-label home, released one more album in 2013, and downsized to other projects. Despite this muted ending, Diener (alongside Swellers drummer and brother, Jonathan) continued to give back to his beloved city, whether through producing the next crop of Michigan talent or letting their project’s last hurrah be the flagship anger fueling a Flint water crisis charity compilation. (Formed after this disaster, Jonathan’s new band, Baggage, heavily features Flint on T-shirts and album artwork, and its debut, Cheaper Than Therapy, had its proceeds help a friend in the area rebuild their house.)
Since founding Oneder Studios in his home, Nick’s logical next step was to form his own band after The Swellers. After joining forces with longtime Swellers producer Mark Michalik and bassist/vocalist Michelle Lukezic, The Apology Tour blasted off with an orange and yellow color scheme, but isn’t without its darkness. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, their debut record, is swampy and vicious — having more in common with Pinkerton than Paramore. “Dog Song,” streaming below, barks its convictions quite nicely — animal lovers convene to lip sync portions of the track while the band’s catastrophic carousel slowly spirals underneath.
“The Apology Tour is super new, so we were surprised to see so many submissions and video clips of our fans and friends hanging out with their animal friends. It was an honor to have people want to be involved and even learn our lyrics for the video. We are huge animal lovers and really do want everyone to do their best when caring about them. Adopting instead of shopping, spaying and neutering, not contributing to the suffering of them by choosing to not eat them or their products. Nobody says you have to be 100% anything, but doing your personal best is a very heroic thing for someone who doesn’t have a voice.”
“I was basically allowed to do anything I wanted with this new band. I tuned the guitars extra low, I finally bought a synthesizer (or three), and wrote a song about how much I miss my dogs when I’m gone for even five minutes,” Diener recalls. “We adopted our dogs Piper and Bo in 2014 and they soon took over our lives in the best way. My wife Taylor cried when she first heard ‘Dog Song’ coming from my studio speakers. Our bassist Michelle cried when she heard the song, too, before she was even in the band. We knew this one was special. The melodies and the subject matter are really melancholy but make us feel good somehow.” (Editor’s note: Nick first sent me this song under the title “A.J.L,” shorthand for “Aimee Jo Louise,” as it borrows its introductory chimes from a song my uncle wrote with that title. Nick produced that track in 2006 and played accordion on it, and YouTube covers of that song enthusiastically find him claiming the song as his favorite in the comments section.)
This song’s premiere was delayed a few days to accommodate another baby’s entry into Nick’s life, albeit one with less fur. “We welcomed our baby boy, Everson Brian, into the world just days ago. My whole perspective and attitude changed overnight, and I hope it stays that way, because I feel like a really good person for once in my life. My wife and I made the mistake of watching the first edit of the ‘Dog Song’ video in the midst of our hyper-emotional state. Just so much love.”
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things will be released on orange vinyl (limited to 200 copies) on September 15th via Save Your Generation Records.
The Apology Tour will be hitting the road with Baggage on the following dates:
October 25th – Mag Bar -Louisville, KY
October 26th – Toast and Jam Studio – Atlanta, GA
October 27th – Handlebar – Pensacola, FL
October 28th – The Fest – Gainesville, FL