It sounds scripted: at their darkest hour, husband and wife team Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano sit on their living room floor and write an angry song telling off their naysayers, but a trip to a local hospital turns the song into the uplifting title track of their debut album, “Diamonds.”
For Johnnyswim, the reality was much tougher than the soundbite, but they’re left with a brilliant first album full of anthemic tunes that fit well within the current folk-rock soundscape dominated by bands like The Head and the Heart and Mumford and Sons. They bring their new music to the Triple Door on May 31.
“It represents the last three years of our life,” Ramirez said. “These songs were in us and we’d be sick if we didn’t get them out. I lost my dad, Amanda lost her mom and her grandmother, and it all happened within a two or three month period. It was a really hard time of our lives.”
But Ramirez said those loved ones, who include Sudano’s mother, Donna Summer, had a singular approach to life that helped the couple through the rough time.
“Everything you face in life has the opportunity to make you better, to make you stronger,” Ramirez said. “That through all that pressure, you can turn ashes into diamonds. (Writing the album) was kind of like our pep talk to ourselves. You can hear the voice of my dad and her mom within the themes of the songs. ‘Alright, we’re going to make it. We’re going to be better off for it.'”
The first and title track, which the band calls its thesis, is a piece of defiant folk-pop that doesn’t quite rock but reaches catharsis nonetheless through its careful layers and the joyful, soaring interaction between Sudano and Ramirez as they trade lyrics. It’s damn catchy, but it belies the satisfying variety of approaches Johnnyswim uses, from the reflective, airy pop of “Take The World” to the slow burning “Over.”
There’s enough to like on the album that the band says the reaction on the road has been night and day since it dropped in April. A recent appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” likely helped that exposure.
“We went from some people in the crowd kind of knowing some of the songs to the crowd screaming songs back at us,” Sudano said. “It’s something new for us to see people embrace the record and it’s so magical for us.”
The Triple Door crowd might not end up screaming their songs back at them, but the quiet bustle of dinner service and the venue’s great acoustics seem like the preferable environment to experience Johnnyswim, a band whose music benefits from nuance and whose time seems to be now.
8 p.m. at The Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $20 advance, $22 door (206-838-4333 or thetripledoor.net)
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails