It’s been five years since Swearin’ released an album and three years since they formally broke up. For some, the name doesn’t ring a bell. But for most of our readers, they hold the band close to their hearts.
Swearin’ is best known as Allison Crutchfield’s pop-leaning indie punk project alongside Kyle Gilbride, Keith Spencer, and Jeff Bolt. After what felt like a lot of silence, they’re back in the most heartwarming of ways. “Jeff [Bolt] and Kyle [Gilbride] and I have decided to do Swearin’ again,” Crutchfield wrote on Instagram. “They’re both so special to me, and I really can’t wait to begin a new era of this band.” Though it’s been quite a while since they toured behind 2013’s excellent Surfing Strange, their current reunion tour opening for Superchunk has been nothing short of uplifting.
“It’s like a new band playing old songs, in part because we had a lineup change. Playing live was my favorite part of Swearin’ more than making records, so I’ve had a lot of feelings,” she says. “The thing I feel most proud about of Swearin’ though—and this is something that’s come up a lot for me recently, especially the new iteration of the band—is that I feel very proud of the collaboration and democratic attitude we bring to the band. Sometimes it’s a little dysfunctional, and it’s not always the smartest way, but that’s not something a lot of bands do. Reuniting has made me more aware of that.”
To get to know the new version of Swearin’ better, we interviewed Allison Crutchfield for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Surfing Strange as the prompt, her answers reflect the growth and realism that’s always been present in the band — and will be when they play the Sinclair this Friday.
1) “Dust in the Goldsack”
DIGBOSTON: Can you name two things you’re saving up to buy?
CRUTCHFIELD: Yes, I can actually, and they’re both really boring! One of them is a Berkey water bottle. It’s like a $300 water filter. I can’t even explain. I’m staying with my friend right now who has one. A lot of my friends in Philadelphia have ones, too. It’s honestly life changing. They’re basically a large metal thing that holds gallons of water. There’s two different chambers that filter and it makes the water taste great. Anytime I’m in Philly, I drink so much more water because of this system. I live in California now and a lot of the water there is okay, but it’s not great. It’s a ridiculous thing I’d like to own.
The other thing is a vacuum cleaner. [laughs] I don’t own a vacuum, my partner does, but it broke recently. I just got two really nice rugs for our place, too, before we left for tour. So I haven’t had time to replace it. I’m saving up for a new vacuum cleaner. They’re kind of a bummer for how expensive they are and how quickly they die. It’s something I’m really putting off buying, really. Classic capricorn, really level headed with a water filter and a vacuum. But I’m “saving up” while I’m also constantly buying clothes and shit on the side. [laughs]
2) “Watered Down”
DIGBOSTON: If you have to break bad news to someone, how do you phrase it?
CRUTCHFIELD: How bad is the bad news? Am I going to break up with somebody?
DIGBOSTON: Not an intense topic like that. Bad news in the vein of having to bail on plans, you broke a dish by accident, etc.
CRUTCHFIELD: I come in really apologetic but am always upfront, always. That feels good for me. If I broke something of theirs or have to dip out of plans, I’ll either call or text and say “I’m sorry” a lot. I’m not one to avoid a hard conversation. I don’t have a formula I stick to, but I’m not afraid of being confrontational if need be. I appreciate open communication always. I actually did break a glass of my roommate’s recently and texted her this exact way. So yeah, honesty and forthrightness are the best policies.
DIGBOSTON: When’s the last time you watched a movie or TV show with a mermaid in it?
CRUTCHFIELD: When was it? Probably when I was last hanging with my four-year-old niece. It would’ve been when I was home in Birmingham because she loves mermaids like The Little Mermaid and all kinds of mermaid shows.
4) “Parts of Speech”
DIGBOSTON: Which part of speech is better: adjectives or adverbs?
CRUTCHFIELD: Probably adjectives. Although I like them both and I feel like I use both a lot. I’m a big, big fan of a thesaurus. I always use one. Maybe I’m ratting myself out and people will think I’m a poser now, but I have this weird fear of overusing words in songs. There’s a couple I’ve probably used too much. That’s a big thing for me, especially on a record to record basis.
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about being in the sun?
CRUTCHFIELD: My favorite thing is that it gives me energy immediately. I’m one of those people would way prefer to be too hot than too cold. I love being in the sun. I also own a very extensive collection of sunglasses, so those two things are my favorite.
My least favorite is that I’m kind of pale so I do get sunburnt. Although I haven’t really gotten very sunburnt since moving to California. I think it’s different thing? When I was little, I would get sunburnt all the time. So as an adult, I take a lot more precautions than I did as a kid.
6) “Echo Locate”
DIGBOSTON: If you could use echolocation whenever you wanted to but only to find one thing, what would it be?
CRUTCHFIELD: Probably at any given moment in my life depending on the time of day, like if I’m on tour, the nearest coffeeshop. That’s what I would want to use it for: finding coffee shops. I basically use Yelp as echolocation. I’m a big coffee drinker. I tour so much where it feels like a weird routine and compulsion that I need to do. So it’s nice to know where the good coffeeshops are.
7) “Loretta’s Flowers”
DIGBOSTON: Imagine a friend gave you fresh flowers already in bloom. Where would you put them?
CRUTCHFIELD: I love having flowers around my house and will usually keep them in my room on my dresser. I love having them around me. Though sometimes I’ll move them to the dining room. I like having flowers in my space, definitely. I mix up the flowers I like, too. I love roses, but it depends what I see. The grocery store by my house has some good ones. Recently, I’ve gotten into getting hydrangeas. We had a hydrangea bush in our yard growing up and it smells so good. In my yard in LA we have a lavender bush, so I’ll have that around a lot, too. Basically I love fragrant flowers, except for roses. I’m not big on the red ones, though. Maybe this is post-The Room trauma, but it always makes me think of that movie and I get skeeved out. I like the softer white or light pink roses instead.
8) “Glare of the Sun”
DIGBOSTON: Do you have a favorite style of sunglasses?
CRUTCHFIELD: Ooh, that’s tough. I have this one pair that are my favorite which I got a year ago. They’re like a cat eye but bigger. I love anything with a thick plastic frame and accent sunglasses that are brightly colored. You know how people have a favorite classic look? The ones that are my favorite classics are the Ray-Ban Clubmaster, the ones that look horn-rimmed. I really love to mix it up, which is hard on tour because I only let myself bring two pairs. That’s a big part of my outfit choosing process when I’m at home: What sunglasses will I wear today?
Those are what I usually splurge on: sunglasses and coats. Those are my weakness. I don’t buy them on tour too much unless I found a good vintage or thrift store. I thrift a lot on tour because thrifting is so much more expensive in California.
9) “Unwanted Place”
DIGBOSTON: Which city or state was ruined for you because of a bad experience there?
CRUTCHFIELD: Oh wow, I have a list of cities like this. [laughs] Two stick out to me the most. The number one place, and the one that anybody who knows me already knows the story behind, is San Francisco. I have a really rough history with it. Honestly, the last three or four shows I’ve played there have had something go horribly wrong. The main experience there was that my van was broken into. I’ve had a lot of those in the last few years. But the first one to happen was in San Francisco and all of my clothes were stolen — two suitcases full. It sounds not that rough, but I would’ve much rather they took my gear. I literally had the clothing I was wearing and that was it. All of my very favorite clothes were taken. It’s easier to quantify that stuff, where three things were stolen instead of a bunch of t-shirts I’ve been accumulating over the years, or my favorite sweater I’ve had for 10 years, or two jumpsuits I splurged on. It’s a lot of bullshit you collect, but it connects you to your home when you travel, so I felt very displaced on that tour because of it. In some ways, it made me learn that I can deal in a situation like that and disconnect from the materialism of clothing, which was big for me, but at the same time I was very sad to lose it all. On top of it all, there were other things that happened in San Francisco and also Nashville that have made me not look forward to going there.
DIGBOSTON: What are you of your earliest memories from childhood?
CRUTCHFIELD: They pretty much all involve my sister. We lived in a house from ages two to five that I will occasionally get flashbacks to moments in. Like we got bikes with training wheels at Christmas and I remember learning how to ride. One memory that sticks out is when I was three or four. We got locked out of the house and my mom had to climb through the window. She didn’t have to break it, but she had to climb to get to it… and she did it! She got in.
There’s also a good one in 1993, and we were born in 1989, where there was a huge snowstorm in Alabama. It was the biggest we had ever gotten, like three feet of snow. All of the power went out. It was crazy because we were so tiny that the snow was as high as our heads. We were jumping into it and it was a wild experience. Because the power went out, my dad made us scrambled eggs on the grill. I don’t even know how he did it. I loved it.
DIGBOSTON: Over the last five years, what has helped you form thicker skin?
CRUTCHFIELD: I think the sheer amount of change that I’ve experienced in that period. So many things have shifted for me that I wasn’t expecting to. I’m a person who has a lot of anxiety but also really resists change a lot of the time. Yet it’s seemed to find me a lot. I’ve gone through some breakups, band breakups, moving, meeting new people, starting new projects, working with different labels and different people. There’s been a lot. If someone had told me when I was 24 that my life now at age 29 would be what it is, I don’t think I would’ve believed it. The 16-year-old me would believe I am where I am, but the 24-year-old me wouldn’t. It’s been a lot of small but unexpected changes, and I’ve had to learn how to adapt. That’s made me a lot tougher and a lot less afraid.
SUPERCHUNK, SWEARIN’. FRI 4.6. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$25. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM