by EA Poorman
Mark Hutchins used to make the rounds as one of the premier Fort Wayne songwriters. He started making a name for himself in the band Vandolah, which to my recollection recorded one of the best local albums to grace the cd racks at Wooden Nickel Music called Please. Hutchins also made a little album called Sleepy Furnace, the first album he put out under his own name. Another stellar local album that stands up among the best. But in 2006, Hutchins followed the muse to the way of 4-track cassette recording. New Pale Swimmers was a GBV-inspired 4-track project where Mark would hit record on a little Tascam cassette recorder and just let ideas fly. It was a short-lived project, but one that if you ever had a chance to hear the music you never forgot it.
Recently Hutchins was asked about New Pale Swimmers, which got him thinking about the old tunes. He figured why not digitize the songs and put ’em up on Bandcamp for all to enjoy, which he did. Along with some brand new music he recorded over the last year, Mark has put up all the full-lengths and EPs he recorded as New Pale Swimmers. I sat down and talked with Mark about the New Pale Swimmers, the digital releases, and being a 21st century artist.
EA Poorman: So it’s been quite a few years since New Pale Swimmers have made a sound. You’ve recently put together a Bandcamp page that’s collected most of the albums and EPs from your side project to a convenient place to binge them. What made you decide to unearth these tunes now?
Mark Hutchins: A few people had asked about it, so I put the two full-lengths and an EP up on Bandcamp. Then I got the itch to go full-on 4-track cassette recorder and combined freshly recorded stuff with a few tunes I’d done last year. Now folkscan FINALLY experience the entire NPS catalog. And pay what they want. Or just listen for free. It’s okay; I’m a 21st-century artist. I live under a bridge.
EA Poorman: For those not in the know, can you give me a little background on New Pale Swimmers? How did the project come about? Who was involved? What was the inspiration for the NPS sound and aesthetic? How long did it last?
Mark Hutchins: I decided at some point to challenge myself by coming up with an album title and all the track names in sequence… then write and record all the songs in a week or two. It’s always just been me. I can’t tell you exactly what triggered this, but I’ve always been a fan of DIY, unfettered and unfiltered music. I’ve done plenty of projects that were second guessed, fussed over, refined and tweaked to death. This isn’t necessarily a reaction to it as much as it is a vacation from it–it’s the closest feeling to being a kid again, musically. Hit “record” and go nuts. Tape hiss is comfort food.
EA Poorman: So how many full lengths did you record under the NPS moniker? How many EPs? What was the typical recording process like for a NPS joint? Were you the sole songwriter?
Mark Hutchins: I did two full lengths, self titled and then Buzz Cat. A few years later, I did an EP called World Beater Takes Five. Then there are three more EPs I pulled together this year. The first NPS projects were a mixture of 4-track cassette and computer-based recording program. Some songs even morph from one to the other.
EA Poorman: With this being such a personal project, how often did you take NPS out into the Fort Wayne night life? The mid-2000s were a pretty happening time in the Fort Wayne original music scene.
Mark Hutchins: Except for maybe a gig or two, I never took this stuff to the street. But when NPS started in 2006, Fort Wayne was humming. There were so many original bands at the time… I’d venture to guess that Fort Wayne rivaled Bloomington and Indy at the time. It was really inspiring.
EA Poorman: So besides the old school stuff, you recorded some new NPS material and included it on the Bandcamp page?
Mark Hutchins: I did! Three of the EPs are almost all brand-new music. It’s like having a fit… I recorded a bunch of tunes that I titled first, then back in the closet goes the 4-track, for who knows how long. Don’t ask me how I managed to get a closet under a bridge.
EA Poorman: Probably the same way I did, which we’ll keep a secret. So besides the unearthing of New Pale Swimmers, you’ll also be playing a songwriter’s showcase on March 24th at Deer Park Irish Pub. Can you tell me a little about this show? Deer Park is one of your old haunts, isn’t it?
Mark Hutchins: Oh yeah. I love the place. It’s very cozy. I really hadn’t planned on booking any live stuff but Adam Baker (who is a really good musician and runs these showcases) invited me to play. So I’m going to do an acoustic set with my friend Lee Andrews on mandolin and possibly a special guest from Toledo. I hope to remember the words.
EA Poorman: So if someone strolls along on the web and comes across the New Pale Swimmers BC page and their interest is peaked, what would you recommend they start out with? Where should the NPS journey begin?
Mark Hutchins: A pint of hard liquor with a chaser, headphones, and the first one, The New Pale Swimmers. As you move through the catalog, I’d suggest you add opioids. By the time you hit the latest EPs, you’ll “get it.” I’m not condoning drug abuse here, but being in the proper frame of mind is key.
Head on over to https://newpaleswimmers.bandcamp.com/ and check out the entire New Pale Swimmers catalog newly minted in digital form for you to enjoy. Don’t wait too long, though. It won’t be there forever. And make sure to head out to Deer Park Pub on March 24th for Songwriter’s Showcase and check out Mark and friends break out some tunes.