Post-punk band Swamp Wife played their first show in June, but you wouldn’t know it.

Drummer Emma Daughters, vocalist/guitarist Abby Wrath, guitarist L. Campbell, and bassist Lola Gil talked over one another and erupted in bouts of laughter as they recalled their formation during a recent phone interview. Their confident passion for their own music is infectious.

Swamp Wife had been a happy accident for them all. 

Daughters and Wrath met on Bumble, never went on a date, but remained Instagram mutuals for years. Gil and Campbell started playing music together during the one month they worked at the same restaurant. They wrote their first song, “The Spit,” the first time they all stepped into a room together last March and just months later, in November, KEXP featured it as a Song of the Day.

For a giddy new band with just one self-titled EP and only seven shows under their belt, Swamp Wife is moving at relative superspeed, especially if you consider this is Wrath’s first-ever band, and the first one that went anywhere for Campbell or Gil. 

Nothing about the five aching songs on Swamp Wife's October EP suggest inexperience. They’ve cut the cool '90s feel of Sonic Youth, the Sundays, the 6ths, and Liz Phair with sleek, modern post-punk like Ought and Life Without Buildings. (They wear these influences on their sleeves, just check out the “swamp wife ep inspo” playlist on Spotify.) What separates Swamp Wife from other bands with big guitars and broken hearts are the hooks you can hear all over the EP—in the chords, the basslines, the drumming, and Wrath’s sarcastic vocals veiling real hurt.

Beneath the cacophony is always the beating heart of a pop song, performed by a band more interested in what they can accomplish together than apart. This world belongs to them all, like the soundtrack to a collaborative zine, or a mixtape from someone who loves you. If you play Swamp Wife aloud, people will ask who you’re listening to.

Like the other songs, the standout track, “Your Turn,” is written from the ruins of a failed relationship, with a narrator who feels cheated and consumed with unfairness. Wrath conveys that jilted feeling with references to Clue, Russian roulette, and other games while pleading for an ex to take their turn—"I thought that it was fun and games / I don't want to play, it’s your turn." 

Wrath, who writes the lyrics, said her songwriting is about finding a single line and arranging a thematic puzzle around it, ultimately finding comfort in unspooling her emotions. She admits a real relationship inspired the lyrics, but they’re supposed to be a bit funny, too. “Because I'm so vulnerable with my lyrics, I need a layer of irony there,” Wrath said.

Every song comes from collaborative effort, whether they spawn from Wrath’s acoustic, singer-songwriter sketches or a full-band jam session.

“Something that I love about our songwriting process is that a lot of them are from concepts that one person comes up with but can't necessarily execute,” Daughters said.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Nawryn Emerson

On the title track, for instance, Campbell recycled the chord progression from an old project, and Daughters suggested slowing the tempo to a Mazzy Star-like swing feel. In the studio with recording engineer Cameron Heck at Walehouse Studio last fall, the other members encouraged Wrath to scream. Campbell said her “horror scream queen” wailing floored him.

Heck was surprised, too. The band nailed the songs instrumentally—without a metronome—in one or two takes, and Wrath’s vocals on the record are mostly first takes. All and all, they spent a total of just eight hours in the studio, bringing only their guitars and the songs. There are no overdubs and no doubling. The band played the room together like it was band practice.

“They’re just good songs, performed with conviction,” Heck said. “A band like that is ready and knows what it wants to do.”

Wrath grew up trying to form bands in Tampa, Florida, and feeling on the outs of the cis male-centric music scene, an isolating experience her bandmates shared. When she moved to Seattle in 2020, the oil painter had taken a step back from music. Campbell recalled the confused group chat on the day of their first show, acting like “Nancy Drew” scrambling to learn what “backline” and “XLR” cable meant. 

Wrath said Seattle music is still dude-dominated and insular, but her friends are on stage to figure it all out alongside her.

“It can take me forever to try to figure out what I'm trying to say,” she said. "But they're patient with me. And they and that space makes it so I'm able to do so much more.”

Swamp Wife play a free show at Cha Cha Lounge with the Bitter on Sunday, January 21 at 7 pm.