Band breakups are tricky. Sometimes it’s the only option as a group implode, sometimes it’s just one of those things, and there’s always that lingering, what if?
When beloved Philly punks Swearin’ disbanded in 2013, they left a nagging itch that just had to be scratched. Now, five years later the band are back, older, wiser and with a renewed sense of purpose.
The Swearin’ that have returned with long-awaited third album ‘Fall Into The Sun’ sees their dynamic transformed. Now a trio and, following songwriters Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride’s breakup, based on opposite sides of the US, they came back together gradually but with new vigour to push themselves creatively.
“The dynamic of this group is something special to me,” begins Kyle. “Making the third album was something I always wanted to do, and I don’t know if we ever necessarily thought we were going to get the chance to do it again.
“There were times when it didn’t feel like such a priority, but there was definitely unfinished business. I’m psyched that we got together to do it.”
For Allison, there was almost a sense of inevitability that something would happen, the question was how and in what form.
“Swearin’ was only inactive for a few years so I always hoped that we would do something again,” she says from her new home in California. “I don’t know that I ever thought that this record would exist in its context and the way that we’ve done it. I’m excited because it feels very specific to this set of circumstances.”
She continues: “After we stopped playing together there was a clear divide in the band. I was doing my own thing, and everyone else was doing their own thing or in tandem with one another. We took a lot of space, both intentionally and circumstantial. I was travelling a lot and thinking about moving.”
The gradual rebuilding of Allison and Kyle’s friendship came to a head as all the members of the band found themselves at the same show and confronted the elephant in the room head-on.
“It took a little time for me and Allison to rebuild, to get our friendship on a good foundation where we could make it work,” says Kyle. “There was one singular event when we were at [Allison’s sister Katie’s band,] Waxahatchee’s record release show in Philly, and we were all hanging out backstage and she was like, what if we played some shows? I was like, no! She was like, well, what if we made that record?
And I said, okay, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t mind starting things up again if we got to make that record.
“The band is an outlet for me that I haven’t tried to recreate in any other way since. It was cool to think about writing songs for it. I loved recording songs for this band.”
Making that third album was the key driver. If Swearin’ were going to get back together, it had to be to make that record. This time though they had a different perspective on the band and what it meant to be Swearin’.
“We had a very hardline view of what our band was supposed to be,” says Allison of the strong DIY aesthetic represented on their first two albums. “If we had stuck to that I don’t think we would ever want to do it ever again. It took us to say, what if we did this band, but we changed how we did it? If we didn’t have these self-implicated rules and did it a different way? How would that feel?”
Allison and Kyle wrote their songs separately.
“It was a little different this time,” says Kyle. “Allison and I used to collaborate quite a bit more heavily on the phone. This time, she was over on the West Coast, and I’m over here in Philly and we both do what we do. We don’t need that kind of input at that stage any longer. I wrote my songs, and she wrote her songs.”
Despite the separation, the themes of both their songs were largely the same.
“We wanted to marry the themes a bit,” expands Allison. “We have very different writing styles and different perspectives. The two big things we tried to incorporate were distance and the idea of leaving home, just uprooting. That’s happened to me throughout my adult life. We were experiencing it while we were making the record with me being in California and the rest of the band on the East Coast.”
It wasn’t just home that Allison and the band were leaving behind; there was a sense that they were moving on to a new phase, and the old ideals were being cast aside. The band were reckoning with where they stood in 2018.
“The main theme is just ageing, especially as a member of a radical, counter-cultural community,” reflects Allison. “Not ageing out of it necessarily but growing up and having a different viewpoint. I’ve moved from being a DIY musician and being involved with DIY communities, and now I’m a professional, touring musician so it wouldn’t be right for me to claim DIY as a label because I’m not. It’s about being on the outside looking into something that was really important to me at a certain time.”
‘Fall Into The Sun’ contains some of the band’s very best songs. From Kyle’s brutally honest ‘Dogpile’ - “It’s for anyone who realises as they pull themselves out of a hole that they’ve been in a hole” - to Allison’s open-hearted love songs.
“There are a lot of really pretty overt love songs that don’t exist in other records of mine,” she says. “I write about love and relationships almost exclusively but not in the way I have on this record.”
One of the main influences in Allison gaining the strength to cut ties with what Swearin’ used to be was the experience making her solo album in 2016, ‘Tourist In This Town’.
“It gave me a lot more confidence and self-assurance as a producer,” she explains. “It was such a big record instrumentally, very different from Swearin’ stuff. It was the first time as an adult that I’d gone into a recording situation without Kyle. That was important for me.
“When Swearin’ were making the first two records, Kyle was recording everything, but also he and I were dating, so it felt different. How I relied on him as a creative collaborator were different because of that.
“It boosted my confidence and made me feel a lot more capable as a producer. I feel like ‘Fall Into The Sun’ is truly co-produced by Kyle and myself whereas the other ones were more produced by Kyle.”
The new Swearin’ is realised in different ways, maybe most overtly in the bright and vivid artwork, a stark contrast to the dark tones of the previous albums.
“The more experience I’ve gained away from Swearin’ makes it easier letting go of the hard opinions about the aesthetics of our band,” explains Allison about this decision. “My favourite record covers are photos of the artist. I wanted it to be a photo of us and not be black and white. I wanted it to be different from the past.”
Now that they’ve finally made that third album it’s not clear where the band go next; Allison though is firm that this is not just a quick fix.
“We cherish the band and want to keep it preserved. This is not a cash grab reunion. I feel like I have purpose again. Playing in Swearin’ just feels like what I’m supposed to do as an artist, it’s the band I’m supposed to be in and the band I’m supposed to be writing for. I’ve never enjoyed playing live the way I do when it’s with Swearin’. It’s such a rush for me.”
Kyle is equally positive: “We’re going to see how it goes but a future is something we believe in.”
Taken from the November 2018 edition of Upset. Order a copy below. Swearin’’s album ‘Fall Into The Sun’ is out now.
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