Swearin’, Monday, Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m., $13–$15, Cat’s Cradle Back Room, Carrboro, catscradle.com
“I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really want to be involved in a scene at all, and though I enjoyed pursuing my solo project and going on tour, I still missed Swearin’,” the singer and guitarist Allison Crutchfield says when I reach her on a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, where she moved three years ago to step away from Philadelphia’s DIY rock scene after the band’s breakup. The indie-rock outfit had a following before its 2011 debut. Crutchfield and her twin sister, Katie, first performed together as P.S. Eliot and garnered attention for their feminist pop-punk. After they decided to pursue their own projects—Allison in Swearin’, Katie in Waxahatchee—both gravitated toward a softer sort of storytelling, growing as lyricists without departing from bright hooks and intimate honesty.
But this year, Crutchfield reconvened with bandmates Jeff Bolt and Kyle Gilbride to release their first album in five years, Fall into the Sun, on Merge Records, which brings them to the Cat’s Cradle Back Room with opener Dark Thoughts. An autobiography of their time apart, the songs alternate between the perspectives of Crutchfield and Gilbride—the one who left and the one who stayed. Though the pair did go through a romantic breakup after the band’s, they swear that Fall into the Sun is not a breakup record: “That’s not what this was ever about,” Crutchfield says.
INDY: What’s it like to have another album together after being apart?
ALLISON CRUTCHFIELD: It’s so funny, it’s been a month since Fall into the Sun came out, and I thought the album itself would’ve sufficed for any statement I would’ve wanted to make. I do think it was interpreted as a breakup record. I try to read a lot of what people write about us, because I’m curious about how people swallow what we have to say. I know some musicians don’t read reviews, or at least say they don’t [laughs]. I try to keep up without letting it get to me or change how I work. In the end, we shared what we wanted to, even if it wasn’t interpreted completely how we intended.
I heard it as a sort of short-term time capsule, a way to catch up after time apart.
Yes! Reviews referring to it as a eulogy or a romantic break-up record, I see that as taking a lot of emotional liberties. And that’s the danger of putting your art into the world, you know? Horrible things can happen. Horrible in a creative sense, if it’s not interpreted how you interpret it.
When that happens, it’s almost like it’s not really yours anymore. That can be a bummer when it doesn’t align with how you see your own art. That’s the risk. To be clear: It’s not a eulogy, and it’s not about the breakup of me and Kyle. You heard it here first [laughs].
There’s a lot of cloud imagery in the lyrics in “Growing into a Ghost,” “Stabilize,” and “Future Hell.”
When we were writing lyrics for the record, it became apparent that we had such different viewpoints on that time in our lives, and we had conversations about the ways that we could tie everything together, since we knew that we would be doing the writing completely separately. One of the things we were both thinking about a lot was that we were working from different time zones and climates. Visual climates, but also politically, in the scenes that surrounded us. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that so much about weather and space and time came into the record, but that wasn’t entirely intentional, like a writing device. It’s what we were experiencing, and that shows organically.
What is it like to hear these songs now that Swearin’ is together in a different way?
I don’t want to say I’m impervious to embarrassment, like I don’t want to say I’m immune to that feeling of vulnerability, but I definitely feel very comfortable with Jeff and Kyle. I make it a point to only play with people who are down to be real with me and make me feel like it’s OK to sing about something super personal. Anything that seems like a break-up in what I wrote for the album actually isn’t about Kyle. I reserved all those songs for my solo stuff. The break-up stuff on this one is actually about somebody else. It didn’t really feel uncomfortable. I think that it probably would have been to play stuff about Kyle with Kyle at that time [laughs]. But honestly, it’s been so long ago at this point. Anything I write about the band or about the scene—in Philly, not LA—is a mutual feeling and inspiration among all three of us.
Why did you move to LA?
It was a pretty drastic move in general. I’ve been here a little over a year now and only noticed it raining maybe three times. I’m sitting in my car right now, and it’s pouring rain, which is so insane. The scene is really different here, too. I knew it would be, but it’s something else to experience it. I think part of me leaving Philly was because I wanted the freedom to be a little more—not anonymous, but the social aspects of being in a band were getting a little daunting for me, and being so invested in the Philly music scene made me realize it wasn’t part of what I wanted to be doing anymore. The scene here is really vast, but it’s more that I’m at a place where I’m not directly involved, and I don’t feel the need to be right now. In my experience, the scene is a little less political, just because it’s such a large city with so much music and so many pockets. I’m fortunate enough to have a career, [so I don’t] necessarily need to tie that to the social aspects of music scenes here. And I’m getting older [laughs]. It’s nice to have this change now.
You’re only twenty-nine!
Yeah, but the older I get and the less involved I am in DIY culture—though I still support it—the more it’s allowed me to write less frequently. As a younger person, I was constantly working on things little by little, whereas now I can have breaks and let my writing out in big bursts. When you’re constantly meeting new people and seeing new bands and staying up late, it’s the beautiful and glorifying thing you love as a young punk. It helps you figure out what you want to make. Your writing shifts and you settle and focus, maybe not so much as a result of age directly, but like having had more time to explore. I’m waiting for the urge to write now. I’m learning to be a little more patient. I definitely think there will be more records from Swearin’ and my solo stuff and collaborating with others’ bands. I still love getting to be in the background a bit.