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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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July 2010 - January 2013
Swimming With Dolphins - Deep Sea Inspiration
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Austin Tofte has never lived near an ocean, or owned a dolphin, but he goes by the name Swimming With Dolphins and his synth pop / electro pop sound is starting to make some waves with listeners. I caught up with Tofte to find out more about Swimming With Dolphins, including its original lineup, which included Adam Young, aka Owl City, and what Jacques Cousteau has to do with Tofte’s work. Tofte also told us about the strange videos on his hard drive, what he enjoys that may prevent him from having kids, and how bad timing has led to him never meeting Canadian synth pop goddess Lights.

Adam Bernard: You’re from Minnesota, but isn’t Adam Young, aka Owl City, from Washington. How the heck did you two get together?
Swimming With Dolphins: He’s actually from Minnesota, he just has this infatuation with Seattle and Washington. Everybody would write that (he’s from there) and everyone thought that. He’s a pretty secretive guy, he’s pretty elusive, so it’s not like you really know a lot about where is and what he does and where he’s from, so people would probably gather just from all the music that he’s written that he travels a lot and he’s lived in a lot of different places, but he’s kind of a homebody. He’s just got a crazy cool imagination about it.

AB: So did you two grow up together?
SWD: Yeah, we had some mutual friends when I was probably 12 or 13, some kids that were going to the school that I went to. Their father was a pastor, and they moved down and started working on this church in Owatonna, which is where Adam is from. From there he would come up and visit. We had about a two, two and a half, hour difference between us, but he would come up for weekends and hang out and we’d all just have a bunch of laughs and drink Mountain Dew and eat pizza.

AB: There’s nothing like havin some laughs while reducing the sperm count.
SWD: Yeah, exactly. Right?

AB: That’s such a great urban legend about Mountain Dew. At least I hope it’s an urban legend after what I did during college.
SWD: I hope so, too, cuz I’m in trouble, man. I’m not gonna have kids if that’s the case.

AB: Is Swimming With Dolphins still both of you?
SWD: It was for a while, but it’s not anymore. It hasn’t been for probably two-ish years. It started off as a side project to Owl City. There were songs that I had written and we were gonna make Owl City a two-piece, but we just had more material than we knew what to do with, so we had to make some decisions. He felt like God was really telling him Owl City needs to be a single project, so then we made these other songs and called it Swimming With Dolphins. He co-produced them with me, so that first EP is kind of a collective of him and I, but the songs are still really mine, he just threw a good taste of his creativity with sequencing and programming and stuff.

AB: Was there a violent breakup that involved beer bottles and knives?
SWD: Of course. No, he’s not a violent guy at all, he’s so anti-conflict. I am, too, for the most part. There were a lot of crazy things. Owl City went from zero to 60 really fast and I was on board with that as a member of Owl City touring. Things just got real crazy. Not in the sense of throwing beer bottles and knives, but it was just no one knew what to do with a lot of these things. We had Swimming With Dolphins sitting there and my interest was in that, maybe even more so than I realized, and we just decided mutually that it was better to keep the two projects separate. When we decided that I just decided that I had to take this project on full time.

AB: So you were also touring with Owl City when it was more than just Young. Were you on the tour that was with Lights?
SWD: No, that was the one right after I parted ways. I’m majorly bummed, actually. You brought up a very sore subject.

AB: I have my own depressing Lights story. My interview with her was the only time in ten years I’ve had a recorder malfunction and lose the entire thing, and she’s like the sweetest most gorgeous girl ever.
SWD: That’s what I’ve heard. I’m following this trail of Lights stories. I still haven’t met her personally, but I feel so connected to her by a lot of people. All the guys from Owl City know her really well so they’re all like yeah, she’s so awesome. It’s funny because before that tour me and Adam used to just sit around and talk about how stinkin awesome it would be if we went on tour with her, then it happened and it was right after I had just parted ways, so it’s kind of like that weird thing that I feel like I was a part of, but I wasn’t.

AB: In your bio it states you derive your inspiration from the ocean and fond childhood memories of America's largest lakes. Dolphins aren’t in lakes, though. Where’s the connection?
SWD: Yeah, I know, that’s where it doesn’t really work. The great lakes are like the ocean to us here. Lake Superior is the closest thing a lot of Minnesotans ever get to in terms of being like an ocean, so I think really what it is is this imaginative thing. I never really traveled when I was little, not anywhere to the coasts or anything, so I never spent a lot of time around the ocean, so what you see in movies is what you imagine it to be. When we started touring I saw it for the first time and it was overwhelming. I found these Jacques Cousteau documentaries from the 80s and that first EP I did, I had those playing in the background. I was watching them and writing over the top of them. Obviously Jacques Cousteau is a friend of dolphins. (The name) just seemed like the right thing for what the music was.

AB: Do you want a pet dolphin at some point when you get super famous?
SWD: Maybe. I’m not trying to get in trouble with PETA, or any animal rights kind of thing, but it would be kind of cool, the Free Willy kind of thing where he’s not totally in captivity, but it’s kind of still yours. That would be kind of cool.

AB: So basically you’ll buy an island.
SWD: Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna have to do, so I gotta start saving for sure.

AB: Do you think dolphins are as smart and people say they are?
SWD: I think so. I’ve seen some wacky videos. Kids send me stuff, maybe I don’t even really want to admit that they sent to me, but they’re pretty relational creatures.

AB: I think you need to describe this a little more because all you said was that kids have sent you some videos you don’t want to admit to. I think this requires some more words.
SWD: {laughs} I think so, too, so I don’t get in too much trouble. I have kids send me videos of dolphins. It’s all funny stuff, just like jumping up on people. You know how they kind of, in a way, you would say it looks like they’re humping things, but it’s just the way their body moves. They don’t have appendages really, they just flail around, so there are super funny videos of dolphins jumping up on people and stuff. It’s pretty funny stuff.

AB: You have the funniest hard drive ever because it’s probably just filled with videos of dolphins humping things.
SWD: Oh dude, I had to start deleting them.

AB: I think you should get an external hard drive and fill it up, so when the cops come in one day, just be like sure, take this.
SWD: Oh no, I have enough dolphin memorabilia that’s been sent to me.

AB: You have like pictures, and statues, and Dan Marino?
SWD: All sorts of things. I had a girl knit me a hand sized dolphin. It’s pretty big. That’s probably the best one. I got a Christmas ornament this year. It’s funny because Adam gets it, too, with all the owls. We didn’t really think about that. We should have thought about that before.

AB: At least it’s not the kind of animal where they’ll bring it to you. If you were Swimming With Puppies you’d have a puppy farm.
SWD: You’d have way too many dogs. That’s true. People would get in big trouble if they started brining dolphins.

AB: Yeah, it would be one interesting show, though. Getting back to the music, you released the Ambient Blue EP in 2008. What do you have in the works right now?
SWD: That’s a good question. It seems like that’s a pretty long time for me to not be doing anything, and it is. It’s been a long time. I signed with Tooth and Nail (Records) a little less than a year ago, so we have been working out everything with the new record. We’re pretty much set to release it this summer. It’s going to be called Water Colors. It’ll be ten tracks and some bonus material, I’m sure.

AB: Some videos of dolphins humping?
SWD: Yeah I think we’ll probably have to throw that one in there somewhere, I mean after this conversation.

AB: Thank you. Finally, since you are a synth pop / electro pop artist, what instruments and programs are you currently working with?
SWD: I just can’t kick Reason. I want to experiment with other things, but I really like Reason. Reason 4 is what I’m running right now and what I did most of the new album on. We throw it into Pro-Tools when you get into production. You can add some cool plug ins. We did re-track a lot. We used a lot more organic instruments on this new record. Personally I want to gravitate in that direction a little bit. I think it’s really cool that we can make dance music that can be reproduced in a live setting. I’m a touring artist, so I have to be conscious of that kind of stuff. Aside from Reason I do a little bit in Logic, but I don’t really see a lot of need for going a lot crazier with that. I know there’s some great stuff, but I'm feeling like I need to take a big deep breath of organic instrumentation.

Story originally ran on SubstreamMusicPress.com.

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