Interview: Figuring Zines Out with Cole Becker of SWMRS

Interview & Photos by Samantha Schraub
Cole Becker, frontman of the band SWMRS, is also known for his publication, boyzine. Boyzine started as a way for Cole and contributors to use zines as a creative platform for teaching basic concepts of Feminism to boys while also refining the aggressive role of masculinity. We reached out to Cole to ask him about his advice for teens looking at zines as creative outputs while also balancing a band.
What The Kids Want: For readers who don’t know, Cole, you started your own zine, BOYZINE. What inspired you to start using zines as a platform of spreading awareness as opposed to other means?
Cole Becker: Growing up in the Bay Area, zine-making was an integral part of the subculture and I had a lot of people I looked up to controlling their own publications and spreading political messages. My friends Isabel and Xylia were the first people I knew who made zines (chintz and smudge it, respectively) and seeing how they could streamline their whole world into a publication at age 14, 15, 16 was really inspiring.
WTKW: Boyzine started as your way of teaching feminism to boyz (and girlz). How did you first learn about feminism? Who were some of the activists that encouraged you to become an advocator yourself?
CB: I first learned about big f Feminism (the philosophy with a name) from punk shows, and being around older bands from the East Bay who readily espoused it, but I was already predisposed from all the different forms of little f (unspoken) feminism in my life- my mom is a total badass, and I have an older sister who was always a huge inspiration to me.
WTKW: Do you have any advice for people wanting to start a zine or publication on their own?
CB: Just do it! anything that you think is stopping you is actually an illusion put on you by this complicated world. there is nothing stopping you from drawing up some ideas and hitting the Kinkos and passing out the zine to people at shows or bookstores or even on Tumblr.
WTKW: I was actually curious as to how you collect the visuals you chose for the Drive North play-along zine. How do you select the images you use in the final project? 
CB: I like to go through old magazines (sometimes ones my parents saved and sometimes ones I found at flea markets and thrift stores) and cut out pictures I like, loosely basing each collage off of the concept of the song. When I thought I was missing something, I would do a broad search on google and look through pictures until I found one and I would photoshop it into a scan of the collage.
WTKW: On the same theme of visuals, you directed the “Lose It” music video. Personally, I loved the video for its nostalgic imagery, pastel color palette, and comedic aspects of it. What were some of the artistic choices you made behind the video and how did it come along? Also, what camera did the cinematographer use? It was the perfect choice and reminded me of the recent series of music videos the XX produced. 
CB: I was drawing a lot on nostalgic-type coming of age stories. Instead of my palette being based on a set of videos and visuals I really developed the images based on the types of imagery surrounding me growing up in North Oakland. Its very married to the things you see around here, and the color palette was inspired by that- walls, street art, old signs, and new art like Jeff Cheung and Unity Skateboards. It’s funny you mention the XX because when we were planning the camera rental I looked at a lot of their videos to decide on going with the 16mm camera we used. I can’t recall the name of it, but Boa Simon was the DP (director of photography) who did all of that wizardry.
WTKW: Changing topics, after one of your Florida shows was canceled, you guys played an acoustic set for the fans waiting. Would you ever consider doing an acoustic set again? Maybe some time during the “Drive North” tour?
CB: Definitely. We’re always looking for new ways to connect with fans. Where would you want us to play?
WTKW: What are you looking forward to the most on this final leg of tour? 
CB: I like headlining shows because there’s more freedom and flow of energy between us and the crowd and we can give everyone who came to see us everything we have.
WTKW: Finally, because I just have to know: will boyzine return?
CB: Maybe not as boyzine, but I am working on a new zine that I think people will like.
SWMRS are headed on the final leg of their “Drive North” tour in December. All details can be found here. For more boyzine content check out their Facebook page!

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