The Rise and Fall of SWMRS

Cole Becker had no idea just how accurate the lyrics “...Dear Vladimir Putin, stop fucking up my shit, ‘cuz I know I could fuck it up faster,” from their song Lose Lose Lose would be.  Nearly a year and a half after releasing the album Berkley’s on Fire, which features the prophetic song, Becker’s drummer and longtime friend Joey Armstrong was accused of grooming and sexual misconduct by The Regrettes’ singer Lydia Night. 

On June 19, SWMRS released a statement condemning the behavior of Burger Records artists Mikey Carnevale (The Frights) and Zoe Lambert (No Parents). This came as no surprise to their fans since the band has always been vocal about believing victims and standing up for numerous social causes including Black Lives Matter and women’s right to choose.  However, the next day Night released a statement via Instagram describing her relationship with Armstrong which began when Night was 16* and Armstrong was 22. In May 2017, five months shy of Night’s 17th birthday, Armstrong reached out via DM letting her know SWMRS would be sending The Regrettes an offer to tour together later that year.

While on tour, what started as secret hand-holding became much more sexual. Due to their age difference, Armstrong told Night to keep their relationship a secret although SWMRS, their crew, and their family all knew what was going on. Armstrong claimed that things would change “once [Night] turned 18,” but it became clear that this relationship was always about the power dynamic. Two months before Night’s 18th birthday Armstrong changed his mind saying, “Let’s not pay attention to any timeframe right now.” Night chose to end the relationship but still had another leg of touring to complete. 

This time around, the energy on tour changed dramatically. Night felt like a stranger while Armstrong made “jokes” about how The Regrettes had to follow his rules because he was the one who got them this gig. “...That professional power dynamic had made its way into all aspects of our relationship,” Night said in her statement. Two shows into this tour, Night blew out her voice, and The Regrettes had to leave while she recovered. SWMRS and their fans didn’t take too kindly to that and accused Night of faking on social media. 

Upon learning of this behavior, SWMRS fans were shocked. SWMRS has never been one to shy away from serious topics and encouraged fans to let them know if anyone was misbehaving at their shows. To their fans, SWMRS were the woke feminists that this scene desperately needed. Their concerts felt safe. Go to any SWMRS show, and you’d find 1000 fans screaming their messages of change right back to them, then once the lights went up, you could find Cole Becker casually chatting about intersectional feminism and signing autographs. So naturally, fans expected SWMRS to follow through on their message. The next day, Armstrong made a statement consisting of six sentences saying he “failed [Night] as a partner” and “will work hard to regain the trust [he] lost.” However, Armstrong failed to recognize the inappropriate nature of their relationship or take any responsibility for the harm it caused.   Nearly a month later, no further action has been done, and SWMRS has not posted anything further on social media. 

Despite their public “wokeness” SWMRS had no problem taking advantage of their young female fans. Following Night’s statement, former fans began telling their stories of SWMRS using them for free promo and social media content. N., 19, a Bay Area native, said she had carried their social media presence of her back the final two years of their career.  

During the releases of their singles, music videos, merch, tours, albums, and everything else, their timeline was just quotes and retweets of my original content promoting whatever it was that was going to be released. I’ve received countless messages from people saying how they found out about music videos and all other information through my content.” 

N. had the most contact with Armstrong, thinking his behavior was “well-intentioned” at the time and that he and the other band members wanted to give young women opportunities. However, looking back, she realizes that she was being taken advantage of. While creating promo for the band, Armstrong would mention the possibilities of an internship with their indie label, Uncool Records. 

“It almost felt like I was on a treadmill, and he was at the end holding it with a fishing rod,” she said regarding Armstrong’s promises. 

One of the first interactions N. had with Armstrong was back at Uncool Halloween in 2017, where he wore sugar skull makeup but was receiving backlash for it. N. explained that this could be seen as cultural appropriation, but Armstrong brushed it off saying that his “great-grandma is Mexican.” Following that interaction, Armstrong would frequently text N. about Latino politics and culture as if she was the only Latine he knew. 

“He always talked in such a patronizing and condescending way too,” she said. 

For N and plenty of other fans, it’s hard to say if anything they ever did over the course of their career was honest. 

“All I know is that they put some of the most powerless and vulnerable people in danger,” said N. “Most of their fans are oppressed in some way, and we all turned to SWMRS shows as a place to get away from the dangers of the world and our everyday lives. We unknowingly put ourselves in even more danger by going to these shows run by careless white men.” 

After doing (or having other people do) so much to make their fans believe that SWMRS was a safe space, it took one moment for them to lose (lose lose) all of it. While there is nothing that can be done to change Armstrong’s predatory behavior, it’s their lack of accountability and having no desire to make positive changes that is especially telling. If SWMRS did mean what they said at all their shows, why are they staying silent now? 

*Editor's note: In the state of California the age of consent is 18 years old.