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Rocking Class Heroes

"The Two-Man Who" is one way that Swearing at Motorists describes itself. But just as apt might be "The Two-Man Who?" Although associated with tons of bigger names throughout its history -- including founding member Don Thrasher of Guided by Voices, recent tourmate the Hold Steady and enigmatic songwriter Scout Niblett, who snapped the cover of Swearing's new disc, Last Night Becomes This Morning -- the duo has skirted the fringes of indie stardom for ten years.

And the wear-and-tear shows: On Last Night, guitarist Dave Doughman and drummer Joseph Siwinksi evoke the confessional, melancholic resignation of Paul Westerberg or Mark Eitzel without sounding remotely like either of them. Instead, the songs' bare bones are strewn with tattered rock riffs and Doughman's blunt croon -- and although he moved to Berlin last year, his songs still echo like empty Midwest highways and a lifetime of hard work and tough luck lit with the occasional burst of brilliance.

Westword: You've called Last Night Becomes This Morning an 'end of an era' record. What did you mean?

Dave Doughman: That things become clearer after a while. You look back and realize, knowing what you know now, how things happened in the past. And when you realize these things, they might get easier. Maybe.

Have you had to make any big personal sacrifices to play in this band?

Definitely. If anyone listens to the record, it just destroys my personal life. It's a self-perpetuating myth. Relationships, whether they're friendships or business or love, get strained when you're always here and there and schedules aren't always set in stone. I guess I wouldn't call it sacrifice. Negative or positive, that's just how it is. The songs have to come out of me. I can't really rest until then.

Was it weird to make an album that was so self-referential?

I try not to think about it. Sure, there's going to be a handful of people who know my business and exactly who I'm talking about, and they might be embarrassed for me or for themselves or have their feelings hurt or be angry. But it's just there. There are no apologies. I didn't sit down and try to write these lyrics. I'm not trying to make any statement. It's just what I felt when I sat down at my coffee table at four in the morning, or at two in the afternoon when I'm driving down the highway.

On the new record, there seems to be a weariness about the whole idea of touring. Do you have any bitterness about the music industry or having to play for small crowds for such a long time?

No, no bitterness. Bewilderment. But it doesn't matter. The band wasn't started to sell lots of records. I started doing this on a four-track; I made a tape and the tape became a record. Now here we are, ten years later, and I'm living and recording in Berlin instead of Dayton, Ohio. But the whole band was an accident. Joseph and I were just joking that a lot of our friends are always on tour with their side projects. So we were like, "Why don't we get another band? That way we can keep playing. But what could we be? What would the band sound like?" And we just started laughing, because Swearing at Motorists has never tried to be anything.

But if you had to choose, what would your new band sound like?

I don't know. My Bloody Valentine bluegrass, I guess.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller