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Much like families, bands go through it all together.
As a unit, they face life’s ups, downs, highs, lows, trials, tribulations, tragedies, triumphs, and everything in between. They change, learn, and grow as one. However, Los Angeles band JOHNNYSWIM doesn’t just seem like a family; it is a family. At the core, husband-and-wife—Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano— translate the memories, moments, and milestones on their journey into spirited, slick, and soulful anthems steeped in singer-songwriter tradition, yet amplified by alternative experimentation, rock energy, and pop ambition.
Building a fanbase through constant touring, 2013’s Heart Beats EP spawned “Don’t Let It Get You Down,” which clocked 17 million-plus Spotify streams. Their first full-length, Diamonds, arrived in 2014 as its single “Home” famously became the theme to HGTV hit Fixer Upper. The 2016 follow-up Georgica Pond yielded another fan favorite “First Try” as the duo sold out dates around the world. Along the way, they garnered acclaim from Rolling Stone, NPR, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Nylon, Du Jour, and VH1 in addition to performing on The Today Show, CONAN, and more.
In early 2017, JOHNNYSWIM commenced work on ideas for what would become their 2019 third full- length, Moonlight [Britannia Row Recordings/BMG]. Amidst a series of professional changes and Amanda’s pregnancy with their second child, they kick-started the next chapter.
“All of the signs pointed towards brand new beginnings and brand new starts,” Abner admits. “With all of those feelings, there was anticipation in the air for something fresh. I had produced everything up until this point. We wanted to engage a producer who could free us up to experiment. It all began by anticipating something new. In an unforeseen way, that new thing was working with Malay.”
Over the course of the next year, they wrote and recorded with GRAMMY® Award-winning producer and songwriter Malay [Frank Ocean, Sam Smith]. The musicians went from writing in the producer’s Brooklyn apartment (where he cooked them a delicious tomahawk steak during their first session) to his new Britannia Row Recordings studio in Hollywood. “I was pregnant when we started, and Luna was born in the middle of the process—which was a first for us,” recalls Amanda. “It was a really welcoming environment though. We were all so comfortable. Malay made it so we could just focus on the songs, while he handled recording. We’d build the structures, and he’d put this magic around them like our fairy godfather,” she laughs.
That magic carries through all twelve tracks. Opener “Bridges” hinges on echoing guitar and a steady beat as Amanda and Abner belt out the incendiary chant, “Let’s burn the bridges down. Light ‘em up. Don’t turn it around. No escape through the ashes now.”
“I wouldn’t say anything to my eighteen-year-old self, but I’d say something to those around him who disregarded and downplayed this dream,” Abner sighs. “A lot of people are unwilling to take chances. So, they project their fears on you and tell you to stop taking chances. They have to justify the reasons they haven’t pursued their dreams or chased a passion. I’d say, ‘Do what you need to do, but we’re going to be just fine’.”
Then, there’s “The Last Time” [feat. Michael McDonald]. Resounding piano keys, lithe guitar, and handclaps resound as Amanda, Abner, and the legendary Michael McDonald lock into an unshakable call-and-response recorded seaside in Santa Barbara.