Harmonica Lewinski song featured in upcoming Universal Pictures film ‘Night Swim’ 

click to enlarge Harmonica Lewinski makes its foray into feature films with the inclusion of its song "Yellow Fever" in the movie "Night Swim." - PHOTO BY VINCENT ALBAN
  • PHOTO BY VINCENT ALBAN
  • Harmonica Lewinski makes its foray into feature films with the inclusion of its song "Yellow Fever" in the movie "Night Swim."
Given Rochester’s dreary, frigid weather in January, the idea of visiting a movie theater to watch a summery escape film about a haunted pool sounds downright refreshing. And now, local movie buffs and music lovers alike have added incentive to see “Night Swim,” which will be released by Universal Pictures on January 5.

Popular Rochester party band Harmonica Lewinski — whose oddball surf rock instrumentals have served as the soundtrack to many a Flower City festivity — has contributed the song “Yellow Fever” to the horror-thriller flick “Night Swim.”

“Harmonica Lewinski is a rock and roll band,” guitarist Joe Bushen said. “But in a way, whenever I've written music, it's always kind of been reaching towards a cinematic sound or finding textures that will evoke images (for) the listener.”

The band — which includes Joe on guitar and bass, drummer Anna Liebel, guitarist-synth player Docks Bushen, Alex Patrick on percussion, and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bushen — first released the song on its 2020 full-length album “Human BBQ.” But Bushen’s connection to “Night Swim” director Bryce McGuire goes back much further.




Bushen and McGuire met years earlier while they were students at Bryan College, a Christian school in Dayton, Tennessee founded in honor of former U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, who later prosecuted the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial.”

McGuire recalls hearing Bushen play the music of Elliott Smith on a piano in a dorm common room, and knowing immediately they’d have a connection. McGuire and Bushen would later become roommates as well as bandmates in a freak-folk outfit called The Little Foxes. The filmmaker and screenwriter said he and Bushen bonded over a mutual desire to push the envelope.

Years later, in separate cities and careers, they've found a way to collaborate again.

“I've been a fan of them for a decade or something,” McGuire said of Harmonica Lewinski. “To get to bring them into movies, it’s a total no brainer for me.”

Bushen sent McGuire about a dozen different songs before the director settled on “Yellow Fever.”

“Going along with the theme of the film — a pool environment where it's like this fun place, but there's a scary element there — it fit in with a lot of our sound in Harmonica Lewinski,” Bushen said.
click to enlarge Harmonica Lewinski is Joe Bushen, Docks Bushen, Anna Liebel, Luke Bushen, and Alex Patrick. - PHOTO BY VINCENT ALBAN
  • PHOTO BY VINCENT ALBAN
  • Harmonica Lewinski is Joe Bushen, Docks Bushen, Anna Liebel, Luke Bushen, and Alex Patrick.
The Harmonica Lewinski song plays as the audience learns an important element of backstory during an unassuming kitchen conversation during what McGuire describes as a “pool party gone wrong" in the film.

“You want that top layer of the bright, popping colors of the flamingo floatie, the people splashing in the pool, and the melting popsicle on the cement,” McGuire explained. “But then beneath the surface, it's clouded and the legs are churning up the bubbles, and you don't know what's rising from the depths.”



This isn’t the first time Bushen and McGuire have worked together professionally, though it's their first Harmonica Lewinski collaboration. Bushen composed the score for the director’s recent short film “Every House Is Haunted,” which premiered at the 2023 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival.

“I want to be working with Joe for a long time,” McGuire said. He is an amazing composer for film, because like I mentioned, that classical background, that compositional background. But also, he has the street smarts and the musical lexicon of all this interesting, offbeat pop music from like the ’0s and ’80s and ’60s. He's such a head. He knows everything.”

Bushen also contributed incidental music to the end of “Night Swim.” The film opens in Rochester-area theaters on Friday, January 5.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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