Swing Set (publicity photo courtesy of Blackberry Way Records)
It turns out that the Science Museum isn’t the only Minnesota connection to the latest season of Stranger Things. A song from the Minneapolis new wave band Swing Set, “Blackout,” is featured in the second episode of season two, “Trick or Treat, Freak,” and can be heard playing over the car stereo of Charlie Heaton’s character, Jonathan, as he gives his younger brother Will (Noah Schapp) a ride home from school.
The buzz around the latest season of Stranger Things has grown louder than ever, and the soundtrack has already received considerable attention — but due to the obscurity of Swing Set, whose history in the Twin Cities scene is not documented anywhere online, followers of the show have had trouble finding out more about them, and have been gravitating toward a YouTube video from the band that was filmed by TceMedia back in 1986. In the weeks since Stranger Things 2 hit Netflix, it has already received over 2,000 new views.
Swing Set were active from 1983 to 1993, and they had a following at live music venues in the Twin Cities and an impact on college radio stations around the country; their first album, Life Speeds Up, landed in the Top 50 on U.S./Boston Rocks college charts. Singles from their next two albums, 1990’s The Soul Remains and its follow-up, DIG, also received commercial airplay.
The band was led by Mike Nilles, who founded the group and served as a songwriter, guitarist, and singer alongside fellow guitarist and vocalist Dan Prozinski. The late Kevin Foley, who would go on to play in Tommy Stinson’s Bash and Pop, held it down on bass; Dave Nussbaum played piano and synths; and Mick Wirtz played drums.
“Blackout” was originally recorded in 1985 at the historic Blackberry Way Studios, and was released the next year on Life Speeds Up. It was recently digitally remastered by Blackberry Way Records‘ Michael Owens — who has recently placed several Blackberry Way recordings onto popular television shows — and was included on the label’s 2014 compilation, Mini Hits of Minneapolis, Vol. 2. The compilation that contains the song is available on Blackberry Way’s website in addition to iTunes, Amazon and Tidal.
Did you get a chance to see Swing Set back in the day? What do you remember about this recently unearthed Minneapolis band?