The Real World and Road Rules of Swearin’

Allison Crutchfield, Kyle Gilbride, and Jeff Bolt were just getting started when Swearin’ first called it quits. But then they said fuck all that and made something new.

When Swearin’ broke up in 2015, they left a lot more broken hearts in their wake than just those of their central members (the band’s initial split coincided with the dissolution of a romantic relationship between singer/guitarists Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride). The Philadelphia group’s fuzzy, basement-bred take on pop-punk—situated somewhere between Cub, Pixies, Helium, and The Thermals, with a little Mascis-fried guitar tossed in for good measure—meant quite a bit to many people, and few of them were ready to give it up so fast.

Luckily, neither was the band. After taking some time and space for themselves—which, for Crutchfield, meant a move to Los Angeles, touring as a member of her sister Katie’s similarly beloved band Waxahatchee, and putting out a solo record under her given name; for Gilbride, engineering/producing for acts such as All Dogs and Girlpool—Swearin’ have decided to get the gang back together, reuniting with original drummer Jeff Bolt, and bringing on a new touring bassist, All Dogs’ Amanda Bartley, who is now an official member of the group. Their new record, Fall into the Sun, finds the band more confident than ever, and just the slightest bit tidier, too—though nobody’s going to mistake their rough-hewn, homemade sound for Carly Rae Jepsen just yet (or ever, if they’re true to the ethos outlined on the following pages).

We sat down with Swearin’ between two shows in Portland (both opening for another band that people were stoked to see back together: Jawbreaker) to get up to speed on all their new doings.

FLOOD: Allison, how did going off on your own for a while impact your writing process for Swearin’?

Allison Crutchfield: It gave me a lot more confidence. When Swearin’ stopped doing things, I immediately decided to focus on solo stuff, without giving much thought to how that would be different. When you’re the center of something, though, everyone’s looking to you for answers, everyone’s asking you questions, you’re making the production choices… It was really exciting for me, even though I like collaborating a lot.

But it was also really anxiety-inducing. That made me excited to do Swearin’ again, just for the pure “oh, yes, I don’t have to do everything by myself!” factor. We’re a team that makes decisions together.

I think the distance, for each of us, was also good. In the first iteration of the band, we were touring together all the time, living together, and everything was very intertwined. Not doing that for a while, all of that’s sort of been untangled. Now we’re adults who don’t spend all of our time together, and we actually have new things to share when we see each other.

Jeff Bolt: At the end of the first version [of the band], Kyle and Allison were still dating, and three-fourths of us were living together, so it was a lot to handle.

“The distance, for each of us, was also good. In the first iteration of the band, we were touring together all the time, living together, and everything was very intertwined.”

—Allison Crutchfield

Allison: It went from being a Real World–esque thing, where we were a bunch of young adults dumped into a house together, and things were really wild and dramatic, to being something more familial. Coming together to tour now is like coming together for the holidays: We know each other well, we have a lot to catch up on, and we all know how to navigate each other’s quirks and annoying things.

FLOOD: Right, that gets easier with age. It all kinda fades.

Allison: You just stop giving a shit at a certain point!

FLOOD: Given the personal circumstances, was it difficult to get back into the band dynamic?

Allison: One thing that made it a lot easier was having a new bass player, who’s bringing a new energy to it. Amanda’s made it more positive for the rest of us, but also having her in the band has made us want to be on our best behavior so we don’t scare her away, even though she’s an old friend!

Jeff: Yeah, even though we’ve all traveled together before, we’re hyper-conscious about it.

Allison: But honestly, it hasn’t really required much of that. It was actually surprising how easy it was.

Kyle Gilbride: One of the most encouraging things initially was how organic it felt coming back together. It was really natural.

FLOOD: Is there an overarching theme to the new record, either implicit or explicit?

Allison: I think so. It wasn’t on purpose, but there are things Kyle and I both wrote about. I wrote a lot about moving to the West Coast and getting older…

Kyle: Whether it was intentional or not, we just kind of picked up where we left off, and we were both thinking about the time and space between.

FLOOD: This album sounds the slightest bit crisper than previous efforts. That’s a minor change, but do you ever think about just doing a full 180? A slick synth-pop record, free jazz…

Allison: Or, like, going really hard in a big studio with a “real” producer? Nah, definitely not. We’ve all got outlets to explore other things.

Kyle: I think there’s an ethos to Swearin’ that we hold true to.

“I think there’s an ethos to Swearin’ that we hold true to. No frills, no bullshit. Across the board.” 

—Kyle Gilbride

FLOOD: How would you define that ethos?

Kyle: No frills, no bullshit. Across the board.

Allison: Also, I think we’ll always do self-produced records. This record was actually recorded the exact same way as our other records: at home, with Kyle engineering and coproducing. If anything, I think the difference is just that it’s been five years since we’ve done a record, and Kyle has gotten better at recording.

We never take longer than five days to record an album—I can’t imagine this band ever not operating that way. We tried to work with someone else [once], and when we got home from the tour we were on, we all agreed we couldn’t use it. Kyle didn’t want to be the engineer at first, but as soon as we tried something else, we knew it felt wrong to do it any other way.

This article appears in FLOOD 9. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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