Originally published with Smile Politely on March 13, 2015.
It’s been some time since Swearing at Motorists released a new album. Eight years to be exact. According to the two-man band’s Facebook page, that lengthy time period also included three different studios and two different engineers. In a lot of ways, then, their new LP While Laughing, the Joker Tells the Truth has been a long time coming. Part of that eight year hiatus involved more personal than professional developments. After relocating to Germany (first Berlin and later Hamburg) in 2005, guitarist and vocalist Dave Doughman became a father, taking time to strike a balance between his son and his songwriting.
The second man in this two-man band has rather famously undergone numerous transitions since Swearing at Motorists’ debut in 1995. (In fact, the band’s website winks at those changes with a Roll Call of past members.) Martin Boeters now accompanies Doughman on drums, and the two are taking to the road for a series of spring shows across the U.S. Saturday finds them at Mike ‘n Molly’s. Doughman took some time via email to talk about the tour, the new album and life’s changes over the years.
Smile Politely: What has Hamburg (and Germany in general) contributed to your overall sound?
Dave Doughman: Well, originally we recorded the album with all the lyrics sung in German, but then decided not to alienate the old fans, and recorded the English version that was released.
SP: Are you an ex-pat for good, or do you think you’ll move back to the States one day?
Doughman: That’s hard to say. I love living in Hamburg, and a European lifestyle fits me best, but I wouldn’t rule out a return to the States.
SP: Who are you listening to over in Germany?
SP: From what I read it took you some time to go about writing music after your son was born. How have you blended being a father and a musician?
Doughman: I view myself as a father who is lucky to be able to record and perform music as well. My music-making schedule revolves around my life as a single father.
SP: The second man in this two-man band has famously undergone several changes. What do you appreciate about playing with Martin? What’s the creative-collaborative process been like together?
Doughman: Martin is a very solid player that knows sometimes it’s more important what you don’t play. I think he is still getting used to my weird dynamic and tempo changes and not many choruses.
SP: I especially dig the title of your 2014 LP. It feeds into the idea that behind every joke lies some truth, which works really well with the band’s joker-like origins. I’m thinking here of the fake band poster that preceded the music. What truth have you discovered since the last album?
Doughman: The album title is the Americanized version of a Belgian proverb that our former tour manager Greet would use to describe my monologues. It references my need to make light of serious situations as a defensive mechanism.
SP: Eight years off is a good deal of time. What led you back to the studio? In other words, why now?
Doughman: Now or never. Now that my son is in elementary school, he is able to understand why I need to leave for a weeks at a time, a few times a year. That is the hardest part of touring these days, being away from him.
SP: I read that you were getting tired of touring, or getting tired of touring songs in the face of mounting apathy. How does hitting the road seem now that you’ve had such a substantial break?
Doughman: I never got tired of touring, it’s my greatest love. But being a father is more important, and I needed to scale back to be present. I’m so excited to be out again for a proper U.S. tour after so many years away.
SP: If you could travel back to the band’s beginning and offer yourself any advice about what’s to come, what would you tell yourself?
Doughman: “She’s cheating on you, don’t be so heartbroken you idiot!”