After an eight-year sabbatical of sorts, former Secretly Canadian mainstay Swearing At Motorists has returned to the musical fray with a new album and live dates. The band has resurfaced in Hamburg, Germany, with a new album titled While Laughing, The Joker Tells The Truth (streaming below), to be released on October 21, 2014 on Anton Newcombe’s label, A Recordings Ltd (home of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dirty Beaches, Magic Castles and more). The album will be available on CD, 180-gram vinyl and digital outlets.
S@M founder Dave Doughman has released the first video for the album, “Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role,” a short clip directed by Mike Postalakis (Guided By Voices). Doughman dresses as a German version of Easy E with an NWA-style jacket and cap as he pays respect to the Ohio hip-hop scene of his youth.
The album was recorded in Germany and co-produced by S@M founder Dave Doughman and Rick McPhail (of the legendary German band Tocotronic) and tells the tales of those “lost” eight years in classic Motorists’ style.
“I think it’s a really good insight of where I was and what I was dealing with the last eight years,” says Doughman. “I was distracted. It may sound a bit cliched, but I had to live this record before I could make it, and it took me six of these eight years to figure out that I really needed to make this album. A couple of the songs were written as far back as 2006, and represent how I felt at the beginning of this cycle. As the years passed, my thoughts and experiences became new songs, a musical reflection of my life. There are some very dark moments, some unpleasant realities, but also a bit of hope as well. The record ends on a positive note but it’s more realistic than optimistic…”
One of the good distractions was the birth of Doughman’s son in 2007. “I chose to take a break from focusing on my music full time, and devote my time and energy to raising this cool little person, so that when the time was right to resume working as a touring musician, he would know how much I loved him, and hopefully understand why I had to go on the road for a few weeks at a time.” But Doughman found himself using his son as an excuse not to write and record.
“I had a great job, living in an amazing flat in Berlin with my wonderful, healthy little boy. But I was extremely depressed, and unhappy unless we were together. When we were apart I was afraid to make music. Subconsciously, I knew that starting an album was the first step to leaving home, which I was terrified of doing,” he says. “While my relationship with my son grew stronger, slowly I lost an important part of myself. It took a long time to realize that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be for my son if I ignored what I was to my self. So I started writing and recording again.”
“Another big wake up for me was when Jason Molina died,” Doughman says. “Songs Ohia was the reason I wanted to sign to Secretly Canadian in the first place, and Jason and I became friends after he invited us to play our first European tour opening for Songs:Ohia. When he passed away, it really shook me up. Here was this amazing person, extremely talented, whose music touched so many peoples lives, actually helped so many folks make it through hard times, yet he could not help himself. I realized ‘man, I’m never going to be happy, I can not help myself unless I can at least partially be who I was before the kid was born. I need to write and perform.’ So as well as working on new songs, I started to actively try and get shows rather than waiting to be asked.”
Eight years, three studios and two engineers later, While Laughing, The Joker Tells The Truth is finished. It was recorded at the Upper Room in Hamburg in four weeks of afternoons, with additional recording at Doughman’s home studio, Cardboard Skyline, in Berlin and Hamburg. The energy and feel of the songs are classic S@M. The album artwork was created by William Schaff, who is perhaps best known for his work with Okkervil River, Songs: Ohia, & Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
“I sent William the rough mixes of the album to listen to, and within a few days he sent me the finished drawing,” Doughman says. “I made the mistake of opening his package and viewing the artwork for the first time in a crowded coffee shop. I was immediately reduced to tears, as William had captured the underlying theme of the album: a man at odds with himself. It was perfect.”