Swearin’ defies genre and gender roles with rousing, punk-tinged rock
Allison Crutchfield doesn’t wanna have to describe her music
Published: June 4, 2014
SWEARIN’ with Potty Mouth, Wet Nurse, Jr. Meowzer, Nüd Dood
8 p.m. Monday, June 9 | Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | willspub.org | $10-12
Yes, the music of Philadelphia and N.Y.C.-based quartet Swearin’ represents a perfect distillation of knotty ’90s indie rock and melodic punk. And yes, Allison Crutchfield, one of contemporary music’s most celebrated female rockers, fronts the band. But, in a phone interview with Orlando Weekly last week, these were the last two facts Crutchfield wanted to discuss.
“It can be really marginalizing to try and describe what you’re doing,” the otherwise genial and talkative Crutchfield says of the ’90s revival contextualizations thrown around willy-nilly in regards to Swearin’ and like-minded bands like Speedy Ortiz. “It’s dangerous territory – and it can also be embarrassing. Any time people ask me what kind of music we play, I feel goofy and silly trying to answer. So I just ask somebody else to describe it.”
As for her role as one of the leading ladies of feminist indie rock, which was solidified last week when Crutchfield wrote a response on Impose magazine’s website to a simplistic and objectifying Noisey article titled “How to Survive Being the Only Girl in a Band”? “It’s important to me to just be considered a musician in a rock band,” she asserts. “I don’t know if [women in rock] is necessarily a trend or just a progression of women being encouraged to play more at a younger age. It’s really exciting that that’s happening.”
It’s been happening for Crutchfield and her twin sister, Katie, both of whom grew up in Birmingham, Ala., for over a decade now: The two started in their basement as the Ackleys, progressed to proto-feminist indie rock with their landmark former band P.S. Eliot, and, after moving to Philadelphia and eventually New York, with Katie’s solo project Waxahatchee and Allison’s band Swearin’.
Although Swearin’s two albums, a self-titled 2012 debut and 2013’s follow-up, Surfin’ Strange, have both topped year-end best-of lists on the strength of their abrasive instrumentation and emotionally resonant songwriting, the band remains devoted to the DIY ethics that Crutchfield grew up on: all-ages venues, house parties, black-and-white cover art and a steady relationship with the same tiny record label, Salinas.
Crutchfield also emphasizes the band’s tight-knit bond. She and guitarist Kyle Gilbride were a couple when Swearin’ first started; bassist Keith Spencer was dating Allison’s sister, Katie. And where the first album focused on Crutchfield’s fiercely disenchanted voice and perspective, the second features nearly equal vocal and songwriting contributions from Gilbride and Spencer (along with a significantly stronger percussive foundation from drummer Jeff Bolt).
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