Editor's Note: This story first appeared in its original format in the new issue of Variance. Click here for the full version.
Photos by Jeremy Cowart
Ahead of their long-awaited debut full-length, Diamonds, husband-wife duo Johnnyswim made their seventh trek to SXSW this year.
Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez—daughter of the late Donna Summer and producer Bruce Sudano—have been making music together since meeting in Nashville eight years ago. And their history with the Austin-based festival runs nearly as long.
“We used to work as production assistants for Fader Fort,” recalls Ramirez. “And we watched it grow. We watched the festival grow really.” His wife interjects: “Then there was the one year [in 2008], we were working in the artist suite and a band canceled. And we hear on the radio, ‘Get to the stage, we need you to play.’ So that ended up being our first performance at SXSW.”
“I was taking off my walkie-talkie as I’m getting onstage,” says Ramirez. “We had so little time to prepare that I had been eating a blue popsicle before that to cool off from the heat. And I ended up performing with blue all over my mouth. I blue myself,” he quips with a grin as Sudano-Ramirez shakes her head beside him, just smiling.
Despite a general love for SXSW, the couple acknowledges that they may not make it back in 2015, with Sudano-Ramirez recounting that they had only one show this year that didn’t feel “like an industry, very corporate showcase or where you can hear 17 other bands playing in your ear” as they tried playing an acoustic set.
While most duos face various challenges, from band politics to business decisions, Johnnyswim is in the rare sector of music acts who share a bedroom on and off the road.
“Luckily for us, we haven’t had any issue with keeping things fresh,” says Sudano-Ramirez. “But people, or fans, don’t always understand the things some musicians give up being on the road all the time. I think if you look at some other duos, like even The Civil Wars, it’s hard being away from your family. So I feel for them. You’re on the road for weeks or months at a time. The thing about our situation is that we’re traveling together, so if we have a night off, we make it a date night. Whatever city we’re in, we can make it special. And there’s no feeling of being away from home, because home for me is where he is, and vice versa. Wherever we are, as long as we’re together, that’s home.”
Coincidentally, “Home” is the name of Johnnyswim’s single which will appear on the new album, Diamonds, set to arrive April 29 on Big Picnic.