It’s been nearly three years since we last heard from Slothrust, and in that time, the alt-rock trio’s undergone quite a bit of change. It moved from New York City to Los Angeles, changed its blues and jazz-inspired rock into a heavier sound, and is currently eyeing its first-ever practice space. It’s a bit of a surprise given all three members—vocalist and guitarist Leah Wellbaum, bassist Kyle Bann, and drummer Will Gorin—appear to have had their shit together ever since they started, but by touring nonstop ever since the release of their debut LP in 2012, Slothrust never got the chance to find proper footing.
“Looking back, I’m glad we toured so much. That space gave us a lot of opportunity to test out new material and see how songs felt in front of audiences,” says Wellbaum. “We became comfortable with the material and got to figure out ways to alter them before putting them down in the studio. You also get to know the people you’re working with better as musicians and people. You have a more productive time in the studio when y’all are on the same page.”
That excessive tour schedule paid off. Slothrust’s third full-length, Everyone Else, gets grittier than the band seemed capable of before. Wellbaum tears through guitar solos with a grunge tint. Gorin crashes cymbals like he plans on breaking them. Bann kicks the Big Muff sound into overdrive. A newfound perspective and clarity about the music industry helped Slothrust become more professional.
Yet unlike their peers, the three haven’t become jaded by industry professionals who sour music. Their recordings strive to be enjoyable art, and they succeeds. But what about the song titles, ones that reference graveyards and pseudo culture? Wellbaum caught up with DigBoston over the phone to answer questions inspired by them.
1) “SURF GOTH”
DIGBOSTON: Did you have a goth phase growing up?
WELLBAUM: Yes, I did. It started around freshman year of high school, but I was always more interested in punk culture. I was a bit of both, though. Not a hardcore goth, none of that face paint or anything, but musically I was on board with the stuff classified as goth music. I went to Hot Topic a bit. I was also really into making my own stuff. I’d put patches on my clothes and touch up my pants. Definitely made some bizarre bracelets [laughs]. It’s an interesting expression of feelings and pain when you’re a teenager.
2) “LIKE A CHILD HIDING BEHIND YOUR TOMBSTONE”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your most rational fear and your most irrational fear?
WELLBAUM: Honestly, the first thing I thought of for rational is maybe my least rational fear, but I’m really afraid of people breaking into my house and murdering my family. Truthfully, in times like these, I don’t know if that’s irrational or not. I guess the murder one could fit in either category.
For irrational, I really hate cold cuts, and that’s not quite a phobia, but it’s something that I really dread being around that comes up on a regular basis. It looks like skin in a way that kind of gets to me.
Actually, I know what my most rational fear is: what’s going to become of the state of American politics. Definitely.
3) “ROTTEN PUMPKIN”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the worst Halloween you ever had and why?
WELLBAUM: About three years ago for Halloween in Brooklyn between tour and a recording session, I was only in town for a few days, and I was really unhappy. I was stuck in my head. I wasn’t living anywhere particular since we were touring all the time. It felt really isolating. I remember thinking, “Oh, I should go get drunk and party like I normally do on Halloween,” but I couldn’t bring myself to. But normally I love Halloween, so that was a standout.
4) “HORSESHOE CRAB”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at the beach?
WELLBAUM: I went to Cape Cod with my next-door neighbor and her family. We spent a lot of time walking along the beach looking for sea glass. I found this big piece of porcelain that looked like it came from a plate. My friend’s mom told me that it was a plate from the Titanic. I don’t think it was [laughs], but I did at the time and loved the idea so much that I kept it. Of course. I feel like it’s probably in my attic somewhere. I can’t imagine giving it away knowing at one point I believed it really was from the Titanic.
5) “PSEUDO CULTURE”
DIGBOSTON: What do you want pop culture to embrace in 2017?
WELLBAUM: Easy: I want them to embrace diversity and continue to give platforms to people whose voices aren’t represented in mainstream media.
6) “THE LAST TIME I SAW MY HORSE”
DIGBOSTON: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate horseback riding?
WELLBAUM: I’ve only ever done it one time, so that experience was about a 7. It was new to me so it took a long time to get a hang of it. We did some pretty difficult trail rides, which was cool and fun, but I didn’t know what I was doing so it hurt my ass, like, a lot. I don’t think people realize how strong you have to be to be good at horseback riding.
DIGBOSTON: When’s the last time you played in the mud?
WELLBAUM: My instinct is to say there was a probably a time more recently that I’m not recalling in this moment, but the one that’s most vivid right now is summer camp when I was in high school, probably 14 or so, there was a really big storm. We went outside and rolled around in the grass like young people do.
8) “TRIAL & ERROR”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you have yet to succeed at despite trying a lot?
WELLBAUM: Being good at directions. I’m awful at following directions, just awful. I’m also really bad at assembling Ikea furniture. It takes me so many tries to get it right.
9) “SLEEP EATER”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite late-night snack?
WELLBAUM: I love ice cream, especially eating it in bed. A great scenario is if I have two flavors going on so you can have options in the bowl. I’ll generally combine cookies and cream or cookie dough with something involving fruit to try to mix it up.
DIGBOSTON: Do you have any messy habits?
WELLBAUM: When I draw, I pour my markers absolutely everywhere. I have a lot of markers. I’m very obsessed with color. Once I get going on a picture and I’m not sure what color I want to use next, I dump my markers all over the bed or table or wherever I am, and it’s so many that it gets crazy. I do clean them up, but when I’m in the zone it looks like something has seriously gone awry.
SLOTHRUST, IAN SWEET, KAL MARKS. WED 3.1. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE., ALLSTON. 7PM/18+/$13. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM