Thanksgiving brings family and friends together as much if not more than any other holiday. Charlotte rock band Swim in the Wild — self-styled “adventure alternative,” effectively fusing indie rock and ’90s alternative, folk and funk, country and punk — exemplified this tradition.
The group formed six years ago in the Queen City, but their roots lie in the Triad. The core four members of the band — multi-instrumentalist brothers Michael and Steven Hall, lead guitarist Grant Gautreau and bassist Cameron “Gersh” Godwin — all grew up in Greensboro, and they’ve known each other for many years.
Between the Hall brothers, a chance inversion of sibling rivalry led to them pursuing music together.
“Normally, when it came to older brother/younger brother stuff, it was [Steven] playing whatever sport I was playing,” Michael Hall said in an interview before headlining at the Blind Tiger on Nov. 26. “I took guitar lessons when I was young, and I liked it okay, but I didn’t have anybody to play with. When he started playing, I felt like I was missing out; it made me re-learn how to play guitar, and I finally had someone to play with.”
Steven Hall had met Gautreau in kindergarten and they stayed friends ever since. The Halls and Godwin met through mutual friends.
“Michael and I grew up around the Guilford College area,” Steven Hall said. “Cameron was on the Grimsley [High School] side, and we were on the Western Guilford side.”
They skateboarded together, but didn’t play music.
“There was a young music scene around Greensboro back 10 years ago where people would pass around flyers at school, and people actually went out,” Godwin said. For example, Godwin played with a band named My Name is Distance.
“I was one of the only people not in those bands,” Hall added. “In my mind, I was like, Screw ’em.”
In the mid-2000s, the universe seemed determined to separate the boys. Michael Hall relocated to the Queen City, majoring in electrical engineering at UNC-Charlotte beginning in 2003.
Yet, seemingly preordained, they all eventually wound up in the same place.
In 2006, after his sophomore year at Grimsley, Godwin moved down to Charlotte with his family after his father received a promotion at FedEx. He studied at Central Piedmont Community College, receiving an associate’s degree in arts.
Two years later, Steven Hall followed his brother’s footsteps, also majoring in engineering at UNC-Charlotte — civil engineering, specifically.
The guys reconnected, then began jamming. The jamming slowly became more serious.
“It wasn’t a band yet,” Godwin said.
“But it was always a goal to form a band,” Hall added.
The four began writing songs in 2010 and booking shows the following year.
“We played for this church to help get it started,” Hall recalled. “That was kind of crazy. Three, four-hour services. We were like, ‘What is going on here?’”
Swim in the Wild soon became a full-time commitment. By 2013, the band played in Charlotte every weekend, hit the road for small tours and released a self-titled EP.
Their reputation grew to the point of national attention, playing at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“It was totally random,” Michael Hall said. “Right place, right time. We hooked up with some promoter out there, and at first they told us, ‘It’s not gonna work out this year, sorry,’ but then, with maybe two weeks’ notice, they called us back and said, ‘Oh yeah, how would y’all like to headline Monday night?’”
“Lil Jon was playing right across the street,” Godwin remembered.
The festival has booked the band for 2017.
“Last year, we flew, but this year, we’re gonna drive and play a few gigs between here and Utah,” Steven Hall said.
The past year has seen the biggest jump in the band’s fortunes. Their first full-length album, One if by Land, factored into this great leap forward.
“We didn’t actually have a release show for the EP,” Godwin said. “For this one, we built up suspense for the release, really tried to make an event out of it, not just the fact we had music recorded.”
Following the release of One if by Land, the group added guitarist Jeff Small, keyboardist Josh Thompson and djimbe player Jordan Townsend to the touring lineup.
While Small and Thompson hail from Charlotte, Townsend first met the Hall brothers back when they were tykes — he’s a Greensboro native, too.
Swim in the Wild played their homecoming gig at the Blind Tiger with their beginnings in mind. They’ve had a big year, and they wanted to give thanks to the people who’d supported them since the start.
Godwin paid tribute to one who’s been there for him his entire life, inviting his older brother Zach to play guitar on one song, a cover of Blink-182’s “Stay Together for the Kids.”
Forging ahead, the band has its sights set on branching out.
“Putting the album out in June, I think that kind of locked in with everyone: Okay, we’re done with bars,” Michael Hall said. “We’re gonna push for venues like Blind Tiger and solid, original-music spots.”
“We’re trying to hit all the surrounding states,” Godwin said. “Go down to Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia — all these places we’ve only been to a few times or haven’t been at all.”
“Festivals,” Steven Hall said. “Europe. Russia.”
Wherever Swim in the Wild’s adventure takes them — and they have potential to go far — they’ll never forget their roots.