Slothrust is a L.A.-based band, recently relocating from the east coast. It’s comprised of Leah Willbaum (vocals/guitar), Kyle Bann (bass), and Will Gorin (drums). These talented musicians met while studying at Sarah Lawrence University and have been on fire ever since.
Their sound is beautifully well-rounded, with influences from all types of genres. While attending university they got the chance to experience playing in blues groups, jazz, chamber music, improv, and much more. It’s obvious that this experience has greatly added to the quality of their sound.
You notice when you listen to them you can find tracks like “7:30AM” that gives you a grungy-garage sound with a catchy melody. Then there are tracks like “Pseudo Culture,” from their most recent album “Everyone Else,” that has lighter vocals and darker undertones that provides a more punk rock tune. However, though they hover within the rock’n’roll genre, it’s still easy to detect their inspirations of different genres like classical, international, or even pop. For example, the track “Pigpen” definitely has some more classic Americana/folk and blues influences infused with their garage style.
Image courtesy of Ebu Yildriz
“Everyone Else” was released just this past October on Dangerbird Records. Willbaum tells BTRtoday that a few of the themes that are found throughout the entire album are dreams, consciousness, and water. “I think if you dug into it there’s definitely philosophical and existential elements of it as well,” she admits, though she adds those were unintentional.
They’re excited the album is out since they’ve already been playing the tracks live. Their formula for songwriting is playing it in front of different audiences to gauge the vibe and response of it before putting it down on an album. “I find that when you play new songs to different audiences and feel the energy exchange, sometimes the songs change,” Willbaum says. “Trying to capture that live energy recorded is something that’s important to us.”
Willbaum describes their live shows as very honest. She emphasizes that their ultimate goal at live shows is to bear it all on stage for the audience to experience everything they are also experiencing, with lots of improv and learning opportunities. “Every night the three of us are really working together and trying to feel the vibe and all that,” she explains. “Just leaving it all on the stage… with an openness of how it goes.”
“The Last Time I Saw My Horse,” the sixth track on the newest album, is slow yet catchy, with some definite blues and old school R&B influences. Willbaum admits that even though they don’t tend to play this song too often, it’s her favorite to play and hopes to play it more on their current tour.
“[It] has a much more minimal break down section, which I really like about it—there’s a lot of quiet in that song as well, and there’s a portion of it that has a lot of space,” Willbaum recalls about the song. “It does something I really like in music, which is the cycling of chords…it makes this interesting cyclical feel to it, like a spiral, which I really like.”
Album artwork courtesy of Dangerbird Records
Being immersed in music is nothing new to Willibaum. Many of her family members are classical musicians, she attended summer art camps, and was even briefly in an acapella group. In fact, she even participated in a production called “The Urban Nutcracker,” which she reveals to us laughing, “that’s not something I share with many people—not that I’m not proud of it, cause I totally am, it just doesn’t come up a lot.”
Her experience in the production has come into play with an upcoming music video they’re planning on releasing soon for one of their new tracks. Willbaum describes it like nothing they’ve ever done before with their music videos. “[There’s] a lot of the dancing [and] a big improvisational element, but also thinking about the types of moves that people do in middle school and the ways that dancers create shapes and work together,” she describes.
Besides touring, and working on music and videos together the trio have other music projects they dabble in. Willbaum works in a duo with a drummer named “Mickey,” which she describes as spacier and concentrates more on improv. They recorded tracks before she move to the west coast, but hasn’t had time to release them quiet yet.
Bann and Gorin also have their own separate music project called “Warg.” Willbaum describes it as “very metal.” In addition to what they play in the band, Gorin also plays guitar, as does Bann, who also plays keys, and Willbaum can also play keys—she admits that if she had to play only one instrument for the rest of her life it would be piano.
The band came up with the name “Slothrust” from an adaptation of the name “Slothbox,” which was what the solo project of Willbaum was called. She admits that sloths are one of her favorite animals, being “weird ones.” They also all agree that the word was just fun to say and write.
Currently, Slothrust is on tour. They tour often and admit that the more offbeat cities tend to be the more appreciative. “We always want to play for fans that we don’t necessarily have enough access to,” she explains. “I enjoy playing the cities that less musical acts pass through because the people are really excited about it.” They’ll be ending their tour in Flint, Mich. at the Machine Shop on Nov. 19th.