A longtime staple of the Portland music scene, Swords (no, not Swords Project, they kicked the "Project" to the curb years ago) have decided to hang up the guitars, and call it a day. Swords' legacy is that of a band who has spent years—both in the studio and on the road—building a close-knit following for their sweeping indierock and majestic live shows. Frontman Corey Ficken talks about the breakup, the hardships of indierock, and going out in style. Swords' final performance is next week, Saturday, September 9 at Doug Fir.
MERCURY: So is the Doug Fir show the final Swords show?
COREY FICKEN: Yes, there will never be another Swords show ever. The band has been around in some form or another for over eight years (some of your readers weren't born when we started), and a good percentage of the players have been friends with or have been in other bands with each other for, like, 15 years. A lot of baggage accumulates in 15 years.
Since you've had members come and go in the past, why not just continue with the new, or a totally different, lineup?
Swords came together as a response to what was happening in music at the time. In the late '90s the indie music scene was in a real sorry state. There was no rock, man! Electronic music was "the new rock 'n' roll," and you had ironic shit like the Champs or mathematical ironic shit like Don Cab or IDM. The Chicago sound was all soft and arty, post-modern light as air, and getting tired fast. We wanted to be a response to that in a way. We wanted to do the thing in earnest, rock the fuck out of it, but throw in the twinkly bits. I could go on forever, but the context has changed so we are no longer necessary.
Any future musical plans?
Yes, I think we all do. I've got a band with my brother Joey called Bauman, Ficken and Sparks. We play guitar music. Two very loud guitars, bass and drums... if it feels good, do it! Evan's [Railton] playing drums in the Kingdom, Ryan's [Stowe] got the New Finesse, Liza's [Rietz] designing articles of clothing, and Jeffy's [Gardner] living it up in LA.
As someone who has been in bands for such a long time, do you feel that despite a few well-known exceptions, it's pretty much impossible to make a living wage as a touring indie musician?
It's all a game of chance. I've seen some very qualified bands fall apart and fade away, and then some boring, derivative posers hit the jackpot. But if you want to be homeless, exhausted, and constantly stressed to the max, you could make it as a touring indie musician.
Final shows can be a huge deal—do you have any big plans for your last show? Are you going to kill yourself like G.G. Allin (said he would) onstage? Pyrotechnics? Break some instruments?
All we're going to do is play our balls off for one hour, like we always have. We're going to play very, very loud and then we will be done. Forever.