At the Sailor Jerry Gypsy Lounge event in East Austin, Slothrust opened their set with the same song they always open with. Simply titled “Intro,” it’s a minute and a half of intimidating sound that boldly proves Leah Wellbaum is much more than a pretty face. The crowd head-banged as the band thumped through a blistering set, literally shaking the stage.
Brooklyn’s Slothrust have a new album, Of Course You Do, which dropped last month from Ba Da Bing Records. Their single “Crockpot” is on MTV, and has a moody, atmospheric opening, riding along with a restrained vehemence. There’s a break in the song with mere seconds of speed metal, followed by a return to a lovely melodic riff that feels almost comforting.
It’s easy to see the loud/QUIET/loud influence of the Pixies, but also a strong possibility that the band has listened to Slint’s Spiderland in the dark more than once. Wellbaum, the guitarist and frontwoman, works at The Trash Bar, helping to book bands while also playing in one. She hasn’t been compared to anyone she didn’t like — and those comparisons have ranged from Karen O to Fiona Apple to Tom Waits. We caught up with her as Slothrust headed to SXSW to play the Northern Spy and Ba Da Bing showcase at The Palm Door on Friday at 11 p.m. She was thinking about feminism. And sloths.
You spent some time in Argentina. What were you doing there?
I was studying human rights and social movements.
Is that important for someone in a rock band?
Yeah, absolutely — rock music came out of blues music, and blues came out of a culture of oppression that happened in America. Rock musicians and musicians aside, I think it’s really important that people have some kind of knowledge of social rights… and the way politics function in other countries. I wish that I knew more about all of those things.
Are you excited about the new album?
It’s our first one that’s coming out on a label. We like working with Ba Da Bing a lot, they’ve been very supportive throughout the process. It’s nice having a team of people work with us as opposed to having to do it all ourselves. On our first album we didn’t have any distribution, because we didn’t know what distribution was, entirely, and I think I’ve learned a lot about how the music industry works in the past year or so.
There still don’t seem to be that many women in rock. Does that influence you?
I try not to think of it as being in the minority. But there are fewer women in heavy rock music, there are more men. But I try not to let that be a disempowering experience. It’s something that I think about, for sure, but I don’t think about when I’m playing, and I don’t think about it when I’m working with other people. But obviously the role of feminism can evaluate the ways in which women have been treated poorly in rock music and looked at as objects.
Is it cool to have a video on MTV? Does that still mean anything?
It doesn’t mean what it used to, because MTV is not music television and it’s not broadcast live, it’s streamed over the internet. But yeah, you know, we’re stoked to have our music anywhere that offers us more exposure to people we couldn’t access otherwise.
There’s a real sloth in that video. What is your deal with sloths?
I’ve had that obsession for a really long time. I used to Google them kind of compulsively because I like how they always look like they’re smiling. So when I would get into these dark places I would find myself Googling sloths and just staring at them. There was a time where I thought that I had seen most of the images of sloths that existed when you pulled them up on Google, since then other people have caught on to the fact that they’re really majestic. So there are a lot more photos of them now. So I have more access.