If you haven’t heard of Slothrust yet, then you’ve done yourself a great disservice. Since putting out their first record, Feels Your Pain, in 2012, and their second, Of Course You Do, in 2014, the band has been featured in everything from The New Yorker to Oh My Rockness. Boasting a sound that stems from ’90s alternative rock but also clearly draws inspiration from across the musical spectrum, the band—consisting of lead singer and guitarist Leah Wellbaum, bassist Kyle Bann, and drummer Will Gorin—is sure to excite when it plays at Eclectic this Friday. In the meantime, The Argus spoke with Wellbaum over the phone about the band’s name, the group’s influences, and its upcoming third record.
The Argus: “Slothrust” is a pretty interesting name. Where did it come from?
Leah Wellbaum: I had a project when I was younger that went under the name “Slothbox,” and I just really like sloths. There was a time that there were only, like, 50 pictures of sloths on the Internet. There weren’t very many of them at all. And I used to just look at them over and over, and then once I got older and started working with more people, we just sort of kept the “sloth” around and “rust,” like time passing. We liked the way the word looked as one word. I just like really blocky looking words. I also like s’s.
A: How did the band get started?
LW: We started the band in college. We played in a bunch of blues groups together, a bunch of blues and jazz groups at Sarah Lawrence. We just really liked working together. So we started doing something more heavy. And Kyle came on board a little bit later; we had a different bassist who went back to Colombia, he was from there. And we were like, “Oh, God, an opportunity to record a record, we need a bassist.” And so we asked Kyle because he was just the sickest guitar player, so I was like, “This kid is the top; wonder if he’d want to do bass,” and it turns out that he’s also actually the sickest bass player. So that worked out well for us.
A: Once you had formed, where did you guys go from there? How has the group evolved?
LW: Just playing out more and more. It’s a pretty natural progression of being in a band where you start to take on more and more shows, and then slowly start to tour more, travel, get your shit together. I’ve had to practice that sort of thing. In the end, being in a functional, up-and-running band is like running a business; there’s a lot of things you have to keep in mind if you feel like it’s sustainable. We’re all really well-balanced, actually; we have the right combination of skills to lock that in together.
A: A lot of media has compared you guys to the great ’90s alt groups like Nirvana and Weezer. Are those some of your influences?
LW: Yeah, for sure. All of us are influenced by a range of totally different stuff. We’re all really, really all over the place. Which I think is something that people hear in our music. Just that we try to combine genres, not necessarily with the intention of doing so. But yeah, I’m a huge Nirvana fan for sure, but I also really like Jonathan Fahey, which is just straight finger-picking, artistic folk stuff. He has some wild electric stuff as well, but that’s more what he’s known for. He was Christian. A good Christian boy.
A: What do you think makes Slothrust work so well?
LW: I think Slothrust works well because we all have different strengths that I think really come in handy emotionally and also on the road. One of the things that makes or breaks a band: Can they tour? Can they be around each other for an extended period of time without going insane? And we totally can. We try to break up tasks accordingly and we just have the right vibes.
One of my favorite things about working with Kyle and Will is that when we tour, we can drive in the van for, like, hours, and sometimes in complete silence. So we’ll talk, I guess, but other times we won’t listen to any music for hours; we’ll just have it be quiet. And I think that quiet is really undervalued in contemporary society right now. As a musician, it’s really important for me actually to not hear music all the time. I definitely need to hear the shit that’s inside of my head. And it’s the same way: At any given moment we don’t all need to put on music. I’ve gone on trips with other bands before and a lot of people want to hear music the entire time no matter what.
A: How long have you been working [on your third record]?
LW: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t really know now. I sort of have had songs floating around my head for forever. We’ve sort of more recently have been hitting it hard, trying to make sure that we have them all in super tight shape for the tour in September. And we’re going to want to be able to play all those songs out.
A: What makes this record different? Are you trying new things on this album?
LW: Since we haven’t totally recorded it or processed it, it’s a little tough to say what’s going to happen, but I can say that lyrically I have a bit more continuity on this one than on the last one; it’s more of a visual record. A lot of it is about the ocean. Just, like, dream states, and different perspectives, I guess.
A: Is the lyric-writing process different now?
LW: Yes, a little bit. Some of the songs I’m bringing back are ones that I wrote six years ago at this point, things that I wrote when I was a lot younger that we really reworked together, but the newer stuff, I write lyrics a little bit more intentionally now that I did when I was younger. When I was younger it tended to have a mind of its own, and I didn’t question it. It was like, “Cool, this is what I wrote, this is a song, these are the lyrics.” Whereas now I think a little more critically about how I want it to connect and how I want it to really be cohesive as a piece of prose.
A: I saw that you guys are touring with The Kills at CMJ. Is there anything on this tour that you’re super excited about?
LW: Well, we’re not touring with The Kills. We’re touring with Cymbals Eat Guitars, but we’re playing with The Kills on October 23 [at CMJ]. We’re excited to go to the West Coast. Burger Records is putting our tape out, so we’re excited to go meet them and get the fuck out of Brooklyn.