In Conversation with SLOTHRUST
We met up with Slothrust in central London to discuss the new release, their leftfield music videos and… Lego.
Enlisting the services of sludgy guitar and melodic hooks to revive the sounds of 1990s New York, Slothrust have released three full length albums since meeting at Sarah Lawrence Music College.
Leah Wellbaum, Kyle Bann & Will Gorin have just unveiled their covers EP, Show Me How You Want It to Be, which includes renditions of tracks from The likes of Al Green and Britney Spears, before embarking on a tour across the US.
So the three of you met whilst studying music?
Will: We lived on the same floor in freshman year, so we became friends early on. But in terms of collaborating in the music program, was it immediate?
Kyle: Yeah, I think we all started playing together immediately in school stuff. I mean, I was a year older than them.
Leah: The music program pretty much has blues bands, punk bands and some people doing the hip-hop thing within it. So we would all play in different setups and get to know each other.
Kyle: The band really started when we were graduating.
What careers would you be pursuing if music college had not worked out?
W: I’d be cooking.. I guess probably BBQ.
K: I’d built those big-ass Lego models.
W: Can you get paid for that?
K: Yeah man, in Legoland and places like that.
So I assume that you’ve visited Legoland in your time here?
L: I actually have, weirdly enough. My dad was on tour here with the orchestra when I was a kid and my sister and I went to Legoland with the family. We saw this performance thing that was so notably bad that we still talk about it to this day. It was bad in the best possible way, just really bizarre.
W: There is a Legoland in California, but I haven’t convened anyone to come with me yet.
You have just dropped an EP of covers, what made you want to release the record?
L: We all like a wide range of music and I think we all wanted this covers EP to showcase that a little bit; taking risks and branching out.
Did any cover versions get scrapped during the recording process?
L: We could have done a whole LP of covers, we have a lot more. We cover a lot of Nirvana songs, Jimmy Hendrix…
Any particular Nirvana tracks?
L: Umm the one that we did the most was probably ‘Something In The Way’.
What are your personal favorite covers?
L: Probably ‘Superstar’ by Sonic Youth.
W: My favourite thing in the world is a YouTube video of Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose singing a duet of ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles. It was on New Year’s Eve in the 1990s. The minute Axl Rose walks on stage, you can see Bruce thinking that he does not want to be around this guy. The band are playing this cheesy 90s version of the song… So that’s my favourite cover, if that counts?
Will any tracks from the new EP make it into the live set?
L: Maybe none, we have 30 minutes a night and our material is not particularly short. Hopefully when we come back to Europe with a longer slot, we can put some of the covers in there then. We like playing the Britney Spears cover a lot.
Will a Nirvana cover ever make the set?
L: Anything is possible.
You have received a lot of attention for your music videos, one of your more recent releases ‘Pigpen’ takes the viewer on a journey down a rabbit hole, where did the initial concept come from?
L: I worked on that one with our friend CJ, we’ve done a few videos together. He’s someone who has just always understood the band and really ‘gets’ the aesthetic of the band, he nails the feeling. The cake scene in the video was my idea – but I didn’t know it was going to come out so well. Our friend Emmy, who also worked on the video, heard our idea and it turnedout that her mum is a professional cake decorator – so once the idea was there, we had no choice, Emmy put her foot down and said “we’re actually doing this!”
You produce most of your music videos with CJ Riehl, how did that partnership begin?
L: CJ found us on the Internet, before anybody knew who we were. He lived in Kansas City with a few other fans who wanted us to go over and play in the city, so we travelled over to do a gig. Then CJ made this weird poster for us in college and sent it over to us. Nobody had made us any fan art before, so that was nice… I mean, it’s like a praying mantis, dressed as a wizard, doing some kinda wizardry to a piece of old fruit. It’s really bizarre. We’ve just worked with him ever since.
Do you enjoy the long days of filming for music videos? Or does it become a chore?
L: It depends. On that Pigpen video we had a really short timeframe, so it was like a 22hr day of filming, which was the worst we’ve had to do.
K: What about the Horseshoe Crab video?
L: Oh yeah, whilst filming the video for our song ‘Horseshoe Crab’ I got sun poisoning from staying in the ocean for a really long time, cos we were only that with me, CJ and Emmy. I couldn’t even tell you how long I was in the water for, it was hours.
Do you often have a concept in mind for a music video whilst you are writing and recording a single?
L: We generally treat them separately, I think it’s really important for a song to stand alone without any visuals. However, now that music videos are becoming such a crucial part of the album cycle, it is something that we put a little bit of thought into.
Are you intending to release any music videos for the tracks on your Covers EP?
L: The only song that we have even discussed making a video for is the Al Green song ‘Let’s Stay Together’. It’s sort of the oddball on the record – in that you may not even recognize it from the original arrangement.. As it stands, however, we are so busy touring that we may not get a video done.
Are you hoping to see much of Europe whilst you are here?
K: Well we have hardly any days off on this tour. We need to get to the venues for sound checks, then we maybe have an extra hour or two to go and explore the city.
W: Some of us are sticking around a little bit after the tour to get some travel time, I’m going to go to Prague.
Photos: Patrick Gunning