Leah Wellbaum, the singer of Slothrust, a jazzy grunge trio, is known for her brash lyrics and crafting songs that build like her vocals are having an argument with the bass and drums. They are slow-building songs that come in waves of varying intensity until they explode and with her screaming. Wellbaum, bassist Kyle Bann, and drummer Will Gorin, formed Slothrust while at Sarah Lawrence College and are now touring in support of their third album Everyone Else. We interviewed Wellbaum, a former Boston resident in advance of her show with Kal Marks and Ian Sweet 3/1 at Brighton Music Hall.
AP: How did it come about that Slothrust’s song became the theme song for You’re The Worst? Do you identify with any of the characters?
LW: The creator of You’re The Worst, Stephen Falk, heard our song on someone’s Tumblr a couple of years ago and decided it would be the perfect theme song for his new show. I was hesitant at first because I hadn’t seen the show and didn’t have any experience working with major television networks like FXX. But Stephen and I started talking on the phone and I really liked what he was about. He has become a good friend, and everyone else involved with the project has been lovely as well. Although I don’t particularly identify with any of the characters on the show, I wonder if Will or Kyle might…hmmmm.
AP: You were on tour during the election, was that a weird time to be playing shows?
LW: It was very strange. I spoke about it onstage every night. It went over much better in some cities than in others. Regardless, I feel the state of politics in America is an important thing that people need to be discussing– even if their views are not the same. I believe that peaceful communication can lead to progress.
AP: Who were your musical influences when you were younger and what bands are you really into right now?
LW: Growing up I listened to the soundtrack to Les Misérables obsessively. I also enjoyed Destiny’s Child, TLC, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, perhaps a little Papa Roach every now and then. As I got a bit older I became more interested in bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rilo Kiley, Built to Spill, and Nine Inch Nails. There is also a ’90s grunge band from Buenos Aires called Sugar Tampaxx that I did not discover until much later, but I wanted to give them a shout out because they were badass.
Currently, I mostly listen to older music. I am a big fan of Fats Waller, Thelonius Monk, and Les Paul. In terms of contemporary acts, I recently opened for WHY? and that was something I had wanted to do since high school. We also love our friends PWR BTTM, Mal Blum, and Dilly Dally. There is a newer hip hop artist called Noname that I am quite into as well.
AP: With your album Everyone Else there seems to be a lot of childhood nostalgia and allusions to the beach and the ocean. Did you grow up near the ocean?
LW: I grew up in Boston, which is relatively close to the ocean. I have spent a little bit of time in Marblehead on family day-trips. Also, every June we used to go to Myrtle Beach with my mom’s side of the family. It was always a magical time. Once I watched a sea turtle die on the beach because of some human-made object that had penetrated its fin. People need to be infinitely more mindful about how they treat the ocean and its creatures.
AP: Your music video for “Horseshoe Crab” features a lot of nostalgic childhood toys like a Glow Worm and a plastic Gumby, so I was wondering what childhood toy do you miss the most?
LW: I tried to keep the ones that meant the most to me, but I will forever miss the mysticism of Teddy Ruxpin.
AP: You guys played SXSW last year, what was that like? Would you do it again?
LW: SXSW is really fun and really exhausting. We have gone for the past three years and we are really happy to be touring elsewhere this March instead. Perhaps will shall return another time, though!
AP: Do you have a favorite song to play live?
LW: It is hard to pick, but I really enjoy playing “Pseudo Culture” as well as “Beowulf.”
AP: Do you have any pre-show rituals? How do you stay sane on tour?
LW: I do not have any rituals in particular other than attempting to drink a bunch of water and do vocal warm ups. In terms of sanity on the road…I suggest touring with people whose personalities you love and also getting copious amounts of sleep.
Slothrust plays Brighton Music Hall Wednesday at 7 PM with Kal Marks and Ian Sweet. See the Facebook page here for more updates.