Sweep Relief

The Sweep’s third album emerges as the band’s most powerful statement yet

Bill Alletzhauser is pathologically busy with The Hiders, his acclaimed Roots Rock band with a trio of well-received releases. It seems natural to wonder why he doubled his band responsibilities and joined fellow Cincinnati band The Sweep.

“Probably something bad that happened in my childhood,” Alletzhauser says as we huddle around the liquor table in the Batcave, his home practice space/studio. “Some familiar neurosis that I gravitated toward. In a way, they’re like a younger version of Ass Ponys, where I get to be the oldest guy in the band instead of the youngest.”

The band — vocalist/guitarist Nic Powers, bassist Glen May, drummer Brian Moeller — cracks up, but Alletzhauser doesn’t require therapy or added band duties to assuage nebulous early devastations (although he’s had a well-documented array). He dual-banded with Ass Ponys and Ruby Vileos, but more importantly, toggling between the swelling Indie Rock of The Sweep and the rootsy Hiders couldn’t be easier for Alletzhauser — Powers sits out and keyboardist Kevin Carlisle tags in for The Hiders (vocalist Beth Harris does double duty as well).

The significant difference is Powers’ role as The Sweep’s creative point person, although he quickly notes that the entire band has contributed to the writing of their three self-released albums: 2008’s It’s Warm Under the Dragon’s Wing, 2009’s New Songs (For Good Kids) and, particularly, the band’s new effort, |||.

“I’d bring in songs and I’d have verse/chorus/verse/chorus,” Powers says. “This time, we just jammed and recorded everything. Occasionally I would sing, and it would be like, ‘That part is kind of cool,’ so we’d save that and go back. Instead of bringing songs from outside in, we did it all (in the Batcave), which worked way better.”

The Sweep saga begins with Powers’ last band, pictureshow, an Indie Rock powerhouse that was active until 2006. With a couple of key defections, pictureshow was down to Powers and May, who brought in the very musical Moeller to drum, sparking something completely different.

“I came in and tried to learn a couple songs, and it went OK,” Moeller recalls. “But the other guitarist left town and we had a rehearsal without him, and we came up with new material, right and left. We decided to make this its own thing.”

“We clicked,” May says. “We had two or three new songs at the first practice.”

Alletzhauser’s connection to The Sweep came when he did artwork for a pictureshow album. After recording two EPs as a trio, and announcing their intention to add a fourth member, the band brought the nearly completed Dragon’s Wing to Alletzhauser to have him record overdubs.

“I was going to mix it, too,” Alletzhauser says. “Once I got it in my grubby little hands, I started adding shit to it.”

With the complicated transfer of The Sweep’s recordings to Alletzhauser’s computer and the long process of digitally correcting little glitches, the trio became a quartet by proxy.

“By the end of that, the band was practicing down here and already working on a new record, I think,” Alletzhauser says.

The Sweep’s latest album is the band’s most visceral and emotionally wrought album yet. Those qualities were sadly influenced by Powers’ personal turmoil.

“I split with my wife, which helped a bunch, lyric-wise,” he says, wryly. “There are definitely some songs about her on there that are pretty hateful. I get along with her pretty well now.”

Powers’ harrowing lyrical emotions are matched by The Sweep’s intense musical accompaniment, a brilliant blend of ’80s dark-wave Pop and contemporary Indie Rock edge that finally finds the band integrating its inspirations into a unified sound.

“I feel like New Songs was our record of influences, emulating things to see what worked, and this one was totally from inside all of us,” Moeller says. “It was us in a room and there was nothing else and we created this thing.”

Most of the album was worked out in the Batcave, yet Powers points out that their intensified songwriting and musical execution were amplified further by Steve Wethington at New Fidelity studio.

“I can’t stress enough how much Steve made a difference,” Powers says. “He’s an absolute genius. I thought I knew everything about extra vocal tracks and he would tell me, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ I respected the way he was doing everything, so I was willing to try anything he knew.”

“But he never imposed himself on us like a producer would,” May adds.

Beyond The Sweep’s itinerary in conjunction with the new album, the band is frenetically scheduled. A new Hiders record is on the verge of completion, Powers has a solo album he’d like to finish and The Sweep has just about enough songs for a fourth album. With third album dates looming, every rehearsal is important, but as a fair amount of the liquor table has been consumed, Alletzhauser makes an astute observation.

“We may be too drunk to practice,” he says.

“Shut up!” exclaims Moeller. “That’s not really an excuse for this band.”

The Sweep cements Moeller’s declaration as the foursome deftly runs through new tracks, as well as the excellent “Pop Trash,” trimmed from the album but hopefully revisited on the next one. As the Batcave reverberates with The Sweep’s swelling psych wave, as the lyrics detail wounds beginning to scab over, as the volume clears everyone’s heads in a tequila-muted heartbeat, it’s obvious that The Sweep possesses the tools to run its aptly titled new album up the industry hill against all opposing odds. The Sweep is who they are, what they’ve done and how they’ll do it.

The Sweep performs a free show Friday at the Northside Tavern with Culture Queer.