When I walked into Saint Vitus in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for a weeknight showcase of local bands I didn’t know I would have the great fortune of happening upon one of the most promising young bands I’ve seen in a long time. After watching the first two acts, a trio named Slothrust took the stage- bassist Kyle Bann, drummer Will Gorin and vocalist/guitarist Leah Wellbaum. The crowd sunk it’s teeth into a set full of meaty low fi guitar riffs infused with a healthy dose of bluesy breakdowns. Making for the perfect compliment were Wellbaum’s raw, gritty vocals that rode the razor thin line between chaotic power and a kind of sweet restraint.
I was hooked. I needed to hear more. So I sat down to chat with Slothrust at Spaceman Studios in Greenpoint where their recently released debut album Slothrust Feels Your Pain was mastered. The friends, who met while studying Jazz and Blues at Sarah Lawrence College were eager to discuss their first full length album on which they worked with producer/engineer Joe Saliba (The Wandas, Before Lazers) at Mad Oak studios (Dresden Dolls, Gang Green) in Allston, Massachusetts.
While some might be tempted to label Slothrust as strictly a grunge band, their range on the album is dynamic and far surpasses that genre. On their debut they’ve pushed their harmonic changes out into the sonic stratosphere while remaining loyal to their Jazz/Blues backgrounds. The album is decidedly dense and layered with tight rhythms fusing powerful guitar with an exploration of sound and pacing. Incorporating Britney Spears quotes with pounding drums to create the completely bad ass track “No Eye Candy” is no small. Other selections like “For Marshall” and “Misnomer” stay true to a blues influence but are stretched with loud power.
ES: So how did Slothrust come together as a band?
Will: Well, Leah is the queen of six degrees of separation and all three of us had lots of mutual friends at Sarah Lawrence.
Leah: And we all played together in a blues band about a year before we officially formed Slothrust.
Kyle: Will and I also lived together in a house off campus and then also with Leah for a time. It was great, we had a basement where we could play shows and throw parties.
ES: How did you guys come up with the band name Slothrust?
Leah: I used to make music under the name Slothbox when I was a freshman in college and I recorded on my Casio. It all started out with me making sort of joke songs like the New College Friends EP. Haha, where I wrote a song for each one of my friends I had made. Then when Will, Kyle and I came together I figured that since time has passed, Slothbox had become rusted so now it’s Slothrust!
Leah: We were a very different band for the first few months of our existence. We also had another guitar player/vocalist too. He and I brought in our songs we each had written and would play them. Eventually he decided to pursue some other opportunities, so I became the lead guitarist/vocalist.
ES: What the process of writing and recording the album like for you guys?
Leah: While I was abroad in Argentina I was contacted by Joe from Mad Oak. He wanted to help us record our album. I had already written a lot of music while I was in Argentina. I knew it would be a huge amount of work but was stoked and definitely wanted to take the opportunity to record. We needed a bass player and I thought of Kyle because he’s the best all around musician we know, hands down. In our blues band I knew he was great at hearing everyone and working collectively, noting how we all interacted with each other. The first time he came in he knew all the songs and we just played a whole set!
A lot of bands record albums that sound just like their live shows, but this is a different beast. Most don’t do studio records for their first and in some ways that’s how I heard those songs in my head, as studio versions. At times it can sound foreign but on the other hand they had to be that way. We wanted them to sound the best they possibly could. And I want every live show to be different. I never play the same solos. Its way more fun to not know what you’re gonna play. I never want to have anything live sound rehearsed. Just be natural and in the moment.
ES: So Tom Tierney of Tidal Arms worked on the mastering with you guys. What was it like working with him?
Leah: Tom and I have similar ears and were able to get to a good place on the songs. This record was a long process. Frankly we started recording it before we had even played that many shows. For example, we did a ton of takes of “Misnomer” but wound up keeping the demo version for the record in the end. So we really got to explore the difference in sound from demo to live to studio versions.
Will: Looking back this was an amazing opportunity for us and totally the right thing to do. And Tom and Joe are both geniuses, they’ve got great technical ears.
Kyle: Yeah, we were really happy overall with the finished product.
Leah: None of us had spent much time in a recording studio. So it was great to really learn about the process.
ES: What are your musical influences?
Leah: I love Nirvana; they’re my favorite band in the world. We’ve played Nirvana covers but they’re not locked in tight enough to play live just yet. We really want them to sound rad and do them justice if we’re going to play them live.
Kyle: I love lots of classic stuff like Van Halen, Earth Wind and Fire, Cat Stevens, Rick James. Ha, ya know some cheesy stuff too.
Will: I’m a huge Weezer fan and I went through a brief period where I freestyle rapped.
Leah: The three of us making music works because we don’t all like the same stuff. We’re able to appreciate one another’s tastes but our nuances of what we like are different.
ES: How do you feel about the current Brooklyn/NYC music scene?
Leah: I think NY is hard there are a lot of bands and everyone is trying to do the same thing. At our age, everyone is trying to tour and get support so they can make their music most easily and most freely. It’s a double edged sword because you get people who relate to what you’re doing and come to your shows and I try to go out and support other friend’s bands and see what’s out there but lots of bands are just trying to promote their own stuff. That makes it tough.
ES: You’re heading out on your first tour soon. You guys pumped?
Leah: Yeah! We booked a cross country tour, heading through the Midwest then out to the West Coast hitting up a bunch of different spots.
Will: We’ll also be playing the Everstock Festival in Colorado on June 30th.
Kyle: We’re going wherever the gigs are!
ES: Your video for “The Couch Incident” comes out on June 9th. I spied some animals and a burning couch. Explain please!!
Will: The whole shoot took about three days. Part of it was shot in Pennsylvania in my girlfriend’s family’s basement. We really trashed it! But we cleaned it up afterwards. Then we shot on a small farm and lastly on a frozen lake in Western Massachusetts.
Leah: We worked with Meerkat Media and tried to find music videos we liked and watched. I knew I wanted to incorporate animals cause who doesn’t love animals in music videos? I thought if I could hang with some animals in the video then it’d be great.
Will: We also thought it’d be interesting to have kids in the video acting as adults. So we had a little version of Leah, ha. We loved working on the video. We got done with the album and were sad that process was over so it was exciting to start the video process to relive our album.
Leah: Originally we were gonna have kids play all three of us destroying things but it came down to budget in the end. I wanted to eat the couch that I sat on in the video, but then it turned into what if the couch ate me? It made more sense that way conceptually.
Kyle: Then they decided they needed to burn the couch on a frozen lake. Ha.
Leah: I felt weird at first at about being mostly in the video on my own without the band. We have a third video planned and we want that to be really stripped down and compliment the music.
So more videos and a summer tour coming up for Slothrust.
Here’s a live video for “In a Sexual Way” shot at Wreckroom Studios.
Slothrust Summer Tour Dates
6/22 – Philadelphia, PA w/ MiniBoone
6/23 –The Banana Hammock, Philadelphia, PA w/ Glocca Morra
6/24 – Pike Street Lounge, Covington, KY
6/25 – Far House, Ann Arbor, MI
6/27 – The Bottleneck, Kansas City, MO
6/28 – Bar Bar, Denver, CO w/ Escotar
6/29 – Bushwackers Tavern, Denver, CO
6/30 – EVERSTOCK, Evergreen, CO
7/2 – The Shredder, Boise, Idaho
7/3 – The Comet, Seattle, ID
7/6 – Tube, Portland, OR w/ Batmen
7/8 – Co-op, Berkley, CA
7/9 – Vitus, Oakland, CA
7/10 – Grant & Green Saloon, San Francisco, CA
7/11 – The Complex, Los Angeles, CA
7/14 – Eleven, San Diego, CA w/ Machines Learning
7/17 – Beale St. Tavern, Austin, TX
7/18 – Sahara Lounge, Austin, TX
7/19 – Lovejoys, Austin, TX
7/21 – Howlin’ Wolf, New Orleans
7/23 – Kuzdu’s, Memphis, TN
7/25 – The Buccaneer, Memphis, TN
7/27 – Greensboro, NC
7/28 – Baltimore, MD