It’s hard to believe that the passion of romance and music don’t overlap in Swearin’, but according to real life couple and bandmates, Alison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride, they don’t. When asked how love, sex, and romance have played into their songwriting, the pair respond unequivocally and in unison: “It doesn’t.”
Back in 2011, after Alison and her twin sister, Katie (of Waxahatchee), decided to end their punk band P.S. Elliot, Swearin’ formed, thanks to the addition of bassist Keith Spencer and drummer Jeff Bolt. On their recently released sophomore LP, Surfing Strange, the Brooklyn quartet keep the sound of the 90s alive—think Pavement, Liz Phair, the Clueless soundtrack—while juxtaposing songs like the melancholic “Loretta’s Flowers” and “Curdled,” with punk-ish tracks such as “Young” and “Dust In The Gold Sack.”
We talked to Crutchfield and Gilbride about their new record, moving to Philly, and why their drummer Jeff getting pelted with beer cans is not an uncommon occurrence.
Noisey: How is Surfing Strange different than your self-titled record that came out last year?
Kyle Gilbride: We were all living together at the time that we were working on it, as opposed to the first record where we were all living in different places. Jeff was in Philly and we were in New York. I think there was a lot more exposure to each other while we were working on the songs and working on the record. It was inevitably more collaborative in that way.
Allison, you were in the band P.S. Eliot with your sister, Katie. How has Swearin’ developed into a different musical project than that?
Alison Crutchfield: It’s just something that’s completely separate. P.S. Eliot was ending; we were doing a tour with a band that Keith from Swearin’ was in. On that tour, Katie and I discussed that we were done with P.S. Eliot and that we both wanted to do different things. It was like when you’re with someone and you know it’s over. There were no hard feelings, but we just wanted to do other things. As that was happening, Kyle and I were talking and we knew that we wanted to do a band together. We were talking about ideas for that while I was on that tour. We asked Keith to play bass. They are completely separate [projects], but one kind of led to another in a certain sense, for me personally.
How was it touring with Waxahatchee? Did people respond well to both of your bands?
Allison: We actually did a full US tour with Waxahatchee before—a year and a half ago. It’s always cool, and it’s funny, because the bands are so different. It always feels so natural for us to go on tour together. Keith actually plays drums in Waxahatchee and is in Swearin’. It’s a way for us to all go on tour together at the same time and we’re all friends. I don’t necessarily think it makes sense musically for our bands to go on tour together a lot of the time. It makes more sense now than when we were playing with Katie touring solo. We always have a good time.
It seems to have worked out. You guys all relocated from Brooklyn to Philly. How has Philly played a role in this record?
Kyle: It was the fact that we were all together. When you live in Philadelphia, there’s more time to do things. You don’t have to work more than 20 hours a week. It’s much more affordable. We had more time to think about what we wanted to do rather than doing whatever came about.
How does the songwriting work on this record? Is each song a separate story?
Alison:There were three songwriters on this record. There isn’t really a common theme.
Kyle: That always feels contrived. It’s just three of us coming to the table with our lyrics and songs. We try and keep it very honest and simple that way. The collaboration happens team-wise. As far as a motif, it’s just whatever is going on in our lives.
Alison: That being said, there oddly are a lot of references to water in this record, which is not something we talked about on this record. All of us have at least one song that references water in some context, which is just weird. It was nothing we planned at all.
Was it the time of year the songs were written in? Summer?
Kyle:Maybe Hurricane Sandy or something.
Alison: Possibly. It’s something that someone else brought to our attention a few weeks ago. I don’t know how that happened.
Which are the most meaningful songs for you on the record?
Kyle:They are all the most important for each of us. I think it all works together. I like all of the songs, and I think what makes our band work is that they’re all so different – the way they play off of each other. It’s something interesting and unpredictable because we’re coming from such different places.
Cool. How do you think you guys have evolved since the start of the band, musically? How have you grown?
Kyle: We weren’t all that good of friends when we started the band. The first time we were all ever in a room together was at our first band practice. I think that at first we were making songs that we thought would fit into what the idea of the band was. We later became better friends, became more comfortable with each other and tried out ideas that we wanted to. There’s a certain amount of self-consciousness that exists when you’re in a band and you’re showing people this personal thing you made that you have some sort of personal attachment and you don’t want them to not like. When you’re more comfortable in any type of relationship, you’re more willing to experiment.
What’s the wildest show you guys played?
Alison:I feel like we can mutually agree, our favorite and wildest show we played was on July 4th this year. It was in Philly with Screaming Females, Radiator Hospital, and Bleeding Rainbow. It was at this house in Philly, and it was amazing. It was with all of our friends and people were all screaming and dancing. It was 100 degrees inside of the house, but it was the most fun show we’ve ever played.
Kyle: Our friends have a tradition where they throw empty beer cans at Jeff when he’s playing drums, so they brought it to the next level and dumped an entire recycling bin of them on him.
How’d he respond?
Kyle: He loved it.
Swearin' Tour Dates
11/19 - Columbus, Ohio - Ace of Cups
11/20 - Grand Rapids, MI - Mulligans Pub
11/21 - Chicago, IL - Township
11/22 - Omaha, NE - Sweatshop
11/23 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
11/24 - Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
11/25 - Boise, ID - Neurolux
11/27 - Seattle, WA - Chop Suey
11/29 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Biltmore Cabaret
11/30 - Portland, OR Holocene
12/02 - San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop
12/05 - Los Angeles, CA - Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
12/07 - San Diego, CA - Che Cafe
12/10 - Austin, TX - Mohawk
12/12 - Russellville, AR - The Thurberdome
12/14 - Richmond, VA - Strange Matter