LA alternative rock band Slothrust is receiving critical praise for their latest album, The Pact. The band, consisting of Leah Wellbaum (vocals/guitar), Kyle Bann (bass) and Will Gorin (drums), formed in Boston, MA in 2010. The trio met while attending Sarah Lawrence College and formed Slothrust, seeking a heavier sound then the bluesy and jazzy fused rock that they had focused on in school. The band has released 3 previous full-length albums, 2012’s Feels Your Pain, 2014’s Of Course You Do and 2016’s Everyone Else, having grown as musicians and as a band over the years. The Pact marks the band’s first time working a producer, Billy Bush, who encouraged them to push each song to it’s full potential. Having toured as support for Highly Suspect in 2016 and for Manchester Orchestra’s European tour in 2017, the band will be embarking early next year on their first headlining tour of Europe. With plenty of momentum surrounding their latest album, the band plans to continue touring and writing, excited to see what the future holds for them. Staff writer Emily May spoke with the band before their show in Louisville, KY on 10/28/18, discussing the new album, Bann’s first bass solo, their upcoming European tour and what’s next for them. You can stay up-to-date with the band and all upcoming music and tour news, as well as where to stream and purchase their music. You can check out their video for “Double Down” below!
You just released your latest album last month. What would you say was the main inspiration behind the songs? I know you have grown your sound as a band over the years, so how do you feel that you evolved with this album?
Leah- This is the first record we’ve done where we got to spend a significant amount of time in the studio. In the past we’ve had to move pretty quickly when making records. In this one we got to explore instruments we hadn’t necessarily been able to explore in the past. It’s also the first album we’ve released where we worked with a producer. We worked with a producer named Billy Bush who’s really excellent and he encouraged us to take each song and push it to its full potential and see what we could do with them. It was a much deeper exploration of each individual track.
Leah- “Double Down” was your first foray into co-writing a song. What was that experience like for you? How did you meet John Buscema and come to co-write the song with him? Do you think you will do more co-writing going forward?
Leah- It’s funny. You’re actually the first person to ask me this question!
Leah- Yeah, no one else has asked me anything about it yet. I got paired with John Bushema just in a random writing session. I live in LA and go on writing sessions to write stuff for other people. I’m a flexible and open writer. He and I just met up one day and talked about what it’s like being from the East Coast and we just vibed really well. There are definitely writing sessions I’ve gone on where it’s been like “Ok, let’s get down to the track. Let’s make this happen”. You never really know what’s going to happen with a piece of music like that, that you write in a session. But, yeah, I’ve done tons of co-writes before and that’s the only one I’ve considered bringing to the band. Most of the co-write material I do I have in mind for other purposes.
So you do songwriting for other bands, as well?
Leah– In theory. That one ended up in our folder of demos. I sent it to the guys and they really liked it and we felt like it was something that we could adapt for the band and make work for our sound. It has a much more obvious pop edge then stuff we’ve done in the past. We thought that would be a cool direction to go with the band.
Do you feel like your move from NY to LA influenced your sound or lyrics at all? I’ve had other bands mention how NY has a more aggressive edge and California has a more laid back vibe. Have you found this to be true for you?
Leah- Well, there’s a lot more space in LA, which for me I think equates to feeling like I have more space creatively and sonically to think in that direction. Living there I definitely started to think more outside the box and worry less about what the band had been previously and instead just dug into the music for the sake of music to see what happened.
Leah- You’ve taught music before and taught at a rock camp for girls in the past. How did you get involved with that and are those things you think you’ll do more of at all?
Leah- Um, yeah. I started teaching music when I was about 18 and I really like kids and am really passionate about teaching music in a way that is exciting for whoever the student is. I think that, at least with the way I grew up, a lot of music teachers don’t necessarily have that approach. They kind-of have their own agenda. So I started working at a rock camp for girls and really tried to focus on listening to what these kids were interested in and what kind of music they wanted to learn. I think that, in the end, is what people need to do more of in education, figuring out what is relevant to the person you are trying to work with and catering to the student instead of pushing your own agenda. I believe that to be true in all topics. Right now I am not teaching because I think you need to compartmentalize things a little bit with music when you are doing so much of it at the same time but I’m sure it’s something I’ll go back to. I did it for a very long time. I’ve been not teaching for less time then I was teaching.
Kyle- You taught music, as well right?
Kyle- Yeah, I taught guitar lessons and piano lessons in Brooklyn and Westchester, NY. I started when I was 18 and taught up until about 2 years ago.
Do you think you’ll do more teaching at all?
Kyle- Yeah, certainly. I really enjoy it, it’s just like what Leah was saying, with touring and everything, it’s hard to be in a consistent place long enough to really develop a rapport with a student. I like getting inside someone’s head and figuring out what it is they need to hear that’s going to make them interested. But I love it and feel like it’s a great thing for all musicians to do because it really makes you go back to the basics and really re-study those. If you haven’t done that for 20 years or so , going back and actually reviewing basic sight reading is really, really helpful and challenging. There’s nothing in the world that puts you on the spot like a 4 year old asking “Can you play this?” and you’re like “Oh, yes”, but then you have to do it. It’s a lot harder (laughs)!
Kyle and Will- An entertainment site recently named the two of you the best rhythm section in music! What is your secret? What’s the secret to a good rhythm section?
Will- We lived together for a few years. I’m sure that doesn’t hurt!
Kyle- Definitely! We’ve spent a lot of time together.
Will- I think for us it’s mostly that we’ve played in a bunch of different types of bands together on different instruments. We haven’t always just been a drum and bass duo. Kyle’s played the organ with me on drums and we’ve both played guitar in a band.
Kyle- I think that might be the most helpful, that we’ve both played guitar in a band.
Will- We knew what we wanted out of the rhythm section.
Kyle- Exactly! We got it!
Will- We’re trying to give Leah all of those things that we never got!
Kyle- The song “Planetarium’ featured you’re first ever bass solo on a song. What was that like for you? Do you have any more planned for songs going forward?
Kyle- Not necessarily. We have our moments during the set…we definitely have our drum/bass moments. That’s been happening more recently and has been really fun. That wasn’t really…well, I guess it was a planned thing but it was more that Leah sent the song around and I hear it for the first time and knew immediately…a bass solo just popped into my brain! At practice I was like “Do you mind if I write a bass solo for this?” and Leah and Will were like “Yeah!”.
Will- I read that you like to cook a lot when you are off tour and occasionally are a personal chef for others. Do you have a favorite dish you like to cook?
Will- The personal chef work is more by request. I’ve been trying to figure out how to monetize the situation, like maybe having friends over for dinner and having everyone throw down some money and I cook a big meal.
Have you always loved to cook?
Will- Yeah, I mostly just really love to eat and I’ve found that sometimes it’s difficult to find the food you want that’s the quality you want, so if you make it yourself, you are set for life.
Do you have a favorite kind of food you like to make?
Will- I’m really into BBQ and meat dishes or pasta.
I’ve never tried to make fresh pasta before!
Will- It’s really cheap and really easy and really good!
Your recent tour with Manchester Orchestra was your first time touring Europe. How did that compare for you to touring in the US? Were the crowds and vibe different at all?
Leah- You know, it’s a little hard to say because we were the opening band on that tour so it’s kind-of hard to judge someone else’s crowd. I will say that the fans of Manchester Orchestra definitely are music lovers who pay a lot of attention to music and are really respectful and pleasant with the performer.
I saw that you will be heading out in January on your first headlining tour in Europe! What are you looking forward to the most with headlining a tour in Europe?
Leah- Man, I’m stoked to see what our fans are like over there because it’s kind-of hard to gage when you are out with another artist. I do know that people have been writing to us from there for years and a lot of the Manchester shows are already sold out and sold out very quickly. I’m really excited to meet our people over there and see what the energy is like.
Do you have any places you’d like to go back to while you are there that you discovered before, like a restaurant or record shop?
Kyle- I’m trying to remember the name of this club that we went to in Berlin. It was after our show and it was another club that was down the street from where we played and there was a punk band playing. I’m trying to remember the name of the band! They were a punk band that’s been together for like 40 years or something. They were playing down the street and some friends of ours told the door person “Oh this is the band from up the street. Let them in” and it was a fun time.
You just created the Slothrust Trail Game. How did that idea come about and what’s the reaction been?
Will- The reaction has been good. The idea came about…we had talked about making a Slothrust board game once upon a time, but the logistics behind it and making that happen just seemed a little bit over our heads. We realized this is the 21st century and we probably know somebody who can do coding and that might be a much easier thing to actually accomplish (laughs)! We put the idea out there and did in fact know somebody who could code and the game exists now.
What’s next for you, aside from your tour in Europe? Are you writing new material?
Leah- I always try to have new material percolating, but we mostly just have more touring coming up and we’ll just take everything as it comes.
Thanks for your time!
Leah- Those were all really good questions! Thank you!