Being an indierock band today is harder than ever. Take the case of Swords (or for those still holding on to 2002, the Swords Project), a local band that seems to have everything in line to make that jump from day-job indierocker to successful indierocker. They've toured alongside well-established bands (Stephen Malkmus, the Gloria Record), are on a well-respected record label (Arena Rock), are backed by a publicist and booking agent, and just released Metropolis, their finest album yet. So why have things gotten harder for Swords? Singer/bassist Corey Ficken talks candidly about their hard-luck tale of van woes, low turnouts, and the struggles of being in an indie band today.

Can you explain what happened on this last tour?

Let's start with the van. No, let's start with the fact that we were on a support tour [supporting Dios] making $100-200 a night, with the hope that we would be playing in front of consistently large crowds and subsequently sell a shitload of merchandise, but that never happened. The van started acting up on the first day of the second leg of our trip—at this point we had already been out for a month. Our first show was in San Francisco, but on the way there we had to have the rear end rebuilt. Two nights later in Seattle, we had electrical problems. Two days after that, the transmission was replaced in lovely Spokane WA; We needed the brake drum and fan clutch replaced as well. In all, the van alone cost us around six grand. Even with tour support from Arena Rock [over $3,000 in cash and CDs] we found ourselves in a financial hole we couldn't climb out of. We did the math in New York, and decided to cut our losses. We ended the tour early, and sprinted back to Portland in three days.

Do you think that due to a more crowded field of bands out there, and with significantly higher gas prices, it's more difficult now than ever to be a touring indie band?

Well, the turnouts were shitty at best, plus there was no publicity despite both bands [Dios and Swords] being represented by high-end publicity firms. Yes, the market is crowded, especially in the fall and spring. Every night it seemed that we were up against concerts by Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists. Gas was a killer as well, $2.90 to $3.50 a gallon, so when you have a van that gets 15 miles per gallon, it doesn't take a math wiz to figure out how difficult it can be.

Metropolis is not only your best record, it's also more commercial. Has that been the reaction from most people when hearing it?

To say we released our most commercial record is, I believe, a misnomer. I think that the sort of slow/buildy/melodic/crash/emo/post-rock-with-strings formula would have been the way to go if we were looking for commercial success. That's where people wanted us, but we didn't go there. Because of that hearts were broken.