With their long-awaited third album Everyone Else, Slothrust deliver ten riveting anthems that reward repeated listens. The songs grab the ear and pierce the psyche with complex arrangements and lyrical depth intensified by guitarist/vocalist Leah Wellbaum’s penetrating vocal delivery.
Slothrust is Wellbaum, Kyle Bann (bass), and Will Gorin (drums). The trio first staked out their unique strain of jazz- and blues-afflicted rock as students at Sarah Lawrence College. The band’s 2012 debut Feels Your Pain, and its successor 2014’s Of Course You Do, established the band as a breed apart, serving up deceptively clever epics that veer satisfyingly between incandescent riffing and pop hooks, winsome anxiety and powerful heft.
“People have always had trouble comparing us to other bands, but someone recently described us as Nirvana meets Wynton Marsalis, and I loved that,” says Wellbaum. Even the band’s name inspires a beat of thoughtful consideration as the eyes take in the letters and the brain makes its snap judgement: Slo Thrust? Slot Rust? Slo Trust? Sloth-Rust.
We all studied jazz and blues, so I often use chords and voicings that aren’t quite as conventional for contemporary rock,” she continues. “Certain harmonic movement can get stale, so I try to incorporate colorful notes to give it more depth. The improvisational spirit of blues music is also something we try to always keep with us, even in more composed playing. I am drawn to musicians a bit further outside of the rock tradition, such as John Fahey, Elizabeth Cotten, D'Angelo, and Portishead. Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B and classical music. And musicals."
While Everyone Else clearly shows Wellbaum fulfilling her early promise as a singer, it’s where she hits her stride as a lyricist: Pulling the listener under the surface to explore a submerged world brimming with exotic creatures. Water motifs abound, detailing oddly off-kilter observations about floating, submerging and drowning that are anything but morose. Instead, they contort and reflect worldly truths about life on dry land.
Nowhere is this vision clearer than on the slow burn of the album’s centerpiece track “Horseshoe Crab.” Here, with storm cloud riffs and Will Gorin and Kyle Bann’s perfectly calibrated rhythmic undercurrent, Slothrust’s erupts in a geyser of emotional and spatial distance, as Wellbaum observes, “I don’t have anything in common with myself, except that I came from the sea, like everyone else did.”
“Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone" opens like some bizzarro world lullaby dispensing sage advice: “Drink seltzer, smoke weed when you can’t sleep. Think about shooting birds, everyone has got a violent streak.” Then, as the guitars explode, the rhythm section dials into stylish, disciplined groove to set up an expansive instrumental break that gently floats to a close with Wellbaum, at peace: “Hold me under the water. My lungs are filling with plankton. But the lake is not lonely. No need for you to come with me.”
Above all the overriding ethos of Everyone Else is its sense of inclusiveness: all people, every feeling, quiet, loud, any time signature. With a snap of the neck the band launches into the hyper-adrenalized “Rotten Pumpkin” with Wellbaum singing in a rapid-fire vomit burst, “I’ll make you sick because I’m soft water. Reach inside of me, and scoop out my seeds.” This midpoint between grunge and art rock is the aesthetic Slothrust elevates: sharp-eyed individualism, serious musicianship, humble intelligence, controlled abandon.
And The Kids
Growing up, often the safest haven to plot your dreams and get a handle on your identity is within the confines of trusted friendships. For the musicians in the critically acclaimed band And The Kids, these bonds have been a life raft. But as friendships evolve from adolescence to young adulthood, sometimes the lines between friends, lovers and all that comes in between can grow murky. On the Northampton, MA-based band’s latest, Friends Share Lovers (out June 3rd on Signature Sounds), And The Kids examines blurred boundaries in close-knit relationships.
“The friends we grew up with were troublemakers, lost souls, dropouts, and mother figures,” says And The Kids guitarist and vocalist Hannah Mohan. “The title references the incestuousness of friend groups and how things get messy.”
And The Kids channel existential crises into pop euphoria. With this sleight of hand, the quartet manages to conjure chunky indie rock, blissful new wave, chamber folk, jarring avant-garde, and brawny classic rock.
Mohan navigates this expansive creativity with aplomb. Effortlessly she swoops heavenly for high tones, digs deep for swaggering rock n’ roll low tones, and manages to mash up sweet sass with new wave bliss for a vocal feel that masks sage wisdom beneath sweet innocence. In addition to Mohan, And The Kids is Rebecca Lasaponaro on drums, Megan Miller on synthesizers and percussion, and bassist Taliana Katz. The quartet’s beginnings couldn’t be better scripted: Mohan and Lasaponaro met in band class in seventh grade. A few years later, the duo dropped out of school and found themselves at a learning center that provided them with a free rehearsal space. There they practiced everyday, inspired by such diverse artists as Modest Mouse, Rilo Kiley, The Doors, and The Police, among others. Those formative moments in friendship and music have been everlasting. In 2012, the fledging duo met Meghan when the three were interns at the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen, MA, and soon after welcomed her into the band. Recently, Miller has battled visa problems as a Canadian citizen and has been forced out of the United States for five years. To show the strength of their bonds as friends and artists, And The Kids chose to record Friends Share Lovers in Montreal so that Miller could participate. Recently, the trio added bassist Taliana Katz, a close and trusted friend who also attended IMA, to maintain a full sound live in Miller’s forced absence from American touring.