Day 9: But my heart is broken


But My Heart Is Broken is probably Swimmer One’s best known song, thanks to its appearance in a 2009 film called Spread, starring Ashton Kutcher and directed by David Mackenzie (who recently made The Outlaw King). I was very excited about this at the time; I’d really liked David Mackenzie’s previous films, Young Adam and The Last Great Wilderness, and this was his first American movie, with a big star in the lead role, so seemed likely to get a lot of attention. At last, I thought (again), this is our moment!

Except that Spread, sadly, didn’t do very well. The number of different titles it was given in various countries – L.A. Gigolo, Toy Boy, Oh yeah, American Playboy, Jogando com Prazer, Love, Sex and Celebrity and S-Lover, as well as plain old Spread – suggests nobody knew quite what to do with it. In the UK it trickled into cinemas between Christmas and New Year, presumably in search of a niche market desperate to escape anything festive. It’s a bit of an oddity, a film set in LA but soundtracked by various Scottish bands, about a not very likeable person having lots of loveless sex before falling for an equally unlikeable person who leaves him for someone she doesn’t love. The film then ends with Ashton feeding a mouse to an African bullfrog.

It looks beautiful though, and made good use of our song – appropriately, it comes in at the moment that Ashton’s heart gets broken, although it always annoyed me a bit that they faded us out before the chorus. Pleasingly, someone later took it upon themselves to make a video of the whole song with footage from Spread. which was viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube before it got taken down for breaching copyright – the film studio’s, not ours. This alone probably resulted in more Swimmer One sales than any promotional material we put out ourselves, and helped finance our second album, so thank you whoever you are.

David Mackenzie went on to make Perfect Sense, one of my favourite films – partly because I like Max Richter’s soundtrack so much – so I feel like we’re in good company.

If I was to revisit this song, I’d like to take out a lot of the words in the first section. I hadn’t realised this until recently, but I had a tendency in Swimmer One to write too many words for songs where the music was mostly written by Hamish, in an egotistical attempt to make my presence felt more. Hamish was generally quite good at spotting this and gently persuading me to cut things back a bit, but this song feels like a classic example of lyrical over-indulgence on my part. The music in the first section is pretty much exactly as Hamish originally wrote it, only with better drums (also by him), and I put so many words on top of it – with two different voices competing for attention – that you can’t actually make some of them out. The words also distract your attention from a really good guitar riff – which, on some devious level, was possibly my intention. Conspicuously, the bit of music that I mostly wrote (the ‘my heart is broken’ section when the strings come in) has only four words in it. To my embarrassment, it took me years to notice I was doing this. Sorry Hamish.

A footnote: years later, I discovered that a film journalist I know called Siobhan Synnot was going to interview Ashton Kutcher, so I asked her to pass on a copy of Swimmer One’s second album with a note essentially saying ‘thanks for helping to pay for this’. She tells me that she did. What he made of it I have no idea.

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