Swearin’ are stronger than ever

Photo credit: Ali Donohue

Bands can be like a bone, sometimes a break makes them stronger. For Swearin' a few years away gave Allison Crutchfield time to grow and everyone else time to recover. And by all accounts it helped them all know what they were missing. Now with a newfound excitement and confidence for their band, Crutchfield, Jeff Bolt and Kyle Gilbride found themselves with a much more powerful creative energy. We caught up with Crutchfield ahead of the August 10 Swearin' show at the Dominion Tavern to talk about long-distance writing, evolving as an artist and working in 3D.

Ottawa Life: It seemed like the band was done a couple years back, so with solo work already coming out, what led you back to making music together?

Allison Crutchfield: Superchunk was involved in the sense that I had talked about maybe getting the band together with Mac. Then he was asking me a month later if we could do dates with them. So that gave us a timeframe to make the record by the tour, and release it later in the year. We just all missed making that music and being in that band. We had a complicated ending for several reasons, one was being at odds with a band-mate which took the wind out of us. With the personal things and wanting to do other things, it was time. So Kyle and Jeff and I got together one night to talk about the band, and looked at doing it without this old band-mate. We tried to find a new bass player to tackle the project in a different way. I had songs that didn't feel like good solo songs for me, they were more rock songs, and Kyle had been doing the same. So we had this back-catalogue of songs already that could be a new Swearin' record. We thought, what could we bring to the table and it happened organically from there.

On this note though, there's an evident divide in the writing of the album (Alison's writing  is more up-tempo, while Kyle is a little more of a brooding listen) so what helped this feel like it was still a singular project to you all in the end?

It's so funny. For this record we really changed our methods for making it. I brought completely finished songs and Kyle would bring other things from there. I was bringing Jeff songs with a drum-machine, so he could easily play it. I would bring things to them and they would play the parts, but do it in their own way so it sounded like Swearin'. My fiancé helped too so the demos also sound like him, but on the record it sounds like Jeff and Kyle again. With Kyle's songs it's a little more tricky because I have a specific guitar style, but I don't play lead in the band. We each bring something to the band which is interesting since we're now a long-distance band. It came together easily, which works because we've never been ones to move through things for a really long time, we go quickly. 

How did you find the demo exchange and then jumping into recording without much practice time affected the final product?

I try not to live my life that way being honest. I'm mostly a collaborator, and I've really only made two albums on my own, and those were labored over. When I'm collaborating with other people, I try to rely on those people and see what happens. I don't think it was rushed, any deadline was self-imposed. We all work well with a deadline, a lot of artists don't but we strive thinking "We'll stay up all night on this, get this part done."  It's different now with me in California, while Jeff and Kyle live in Philadelphia. I don't have regrets or feel like it was a rush job, it was just a different emotional dynamic. If anything it made me feel at home working that way.

I was interested to hear how you feel the band's dynamic has changed since your hiatus, and if perhaps putting out your own material helped add some creative balance to the group?

The big thing for me was that out of the three of us, I was the one who did not stop touring during the break. I was touring with Waxahatchie (with sister Katie Crutchfield), I put out my solo record and then toured with that. I came back to Swearin' with a much higher level of confidence and self-assurance. I always had insecurities about being the focal point in the band since I hadn't done music without my sister being there. It felt tricky to navigate. In the studio I had insecurities too. This time I knew what had to be what way. This time I was co-producing with Kyle, where he'd take over a lot more. This time we really collaborated in that way, which is really nice.

On a fun side note you put together two 3D music videos to promote your album, so I was interested to hear how that came about and what challenges came with making it?

That whole concept came from Jake Fogelnest whose a comedy writer, writer whose been around forever, on the peripheries of music. I've known him because he's one of those guys who's been around everywhere. His first idea was basing it on a movie by William Castle, a weird haunted house movie. (This would appear to be "13 Ghosts" based on their video for "Grow Into a Ghost"). He showed me some footage, it was very kitschy and fun. He wanted to do it one day, shoot two videos back-to-back and one would just be very simple. I find I enjoy shooting the videos and photo shoots because I'm more fashion-y than my band-mates and it meant we could wear cool costumes. So the video was basically making fun of William Castle movies and some Twilight Zone nods. Our friend Nate who also does comedy writing for the James Corden Show did the intro.