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Leah Wellbaum of Slothrust Expounds on Influences, Music and Making It Through Life

Leah Wellbaum of Slothrust Expounds on Influences, Music and Making It Through Life


Leah Wellbaum is the sole guitarist and vocalist for the grunge-influenced indie rock band, Slothrust. Having been playing in the group for nearly a decade, Leah has made her signature brooding lyrics stick in listener's minds, and combined with the band's technical and inventive musicianship, it's earned them a sizeable indie following. Slothrust released their fourth album, The Pact, in September 2018 and have been on tour supporting it. We checked in with Leah to dig into the origins of the band, influences and how to pass time in a touring van.


    Slothrust met while attending Sarah Lawrence. Were you all musicians when you enrolled?

                                       Yeah. Yeah. Yes.

                                                      You can definitely tell that the band is a bit more technical than your average grunge band in some respects. What influences led to Slothrust?

                                       We studied blues and jazz with two really amazing teachers, which are Glenn Alexander and Matt Wilson. Matt Wilson's one of the head, top jazz drummers right now. And Glenn Alexander is an amazing guitarist in all respects. So we had played in blues and jazz groups together. We all can be accompanyists too. Like, yes, I'm a front person in this project, but at the same time I'm equally excited to just accompany another vocalist, another front person. We all really give a shit about older music. The new stuff right now, there is a lot of things that are still awesome about it, but we also, I think, are pretty traditional in some senses in terms of what we value in music.

                                                      You guys spend a lot of time together obviously as a band. What do you like doing outside of music?

                                         We played a really lackluster hand of cards the other night. Kyle invented a card game recently that we played in the car that was really cool. I gotta say I just really, really, really love Will and Kyle's personalities. And that makes this whole circumstance a lot easier. Because I think we all get along as friends. We share similar passions and have similar pastimes and want similar things in life. So that's nice.

                                                      Your songwriting is incredible but Will's drumming also stands out as a bit more elevated than other bands in your genre.

                                      Yeah. Will's the shit. I've worked with him for a really long time. He works really hard and he's really... Honestly, he's one of the most special people I've ever met in my life. You know, drumming aside, he's just a very kind, special individual. He and I really see each other in a specific way and in terms of playing, he's flexible and he's down to work. And I still find it exciting to jam with these people and I think that's really special and uncommon.

                                                      If you weren't doing music, what do you think you'd be doing right now?

                              I've been asked this question before and it's hard to answer because the other thing I do besides music is teach music.

                                                       Some people are like "If it wasn't for music, I'd probably hang myself" or something to that extent.

                                 I don't think I'd kill myself or anything. I mean, you know, we all have our times, but I like to teach. I'm happy working with kids. I'm happy working with adults. I like to spread music as a means not to draw financial success, but as a form of not only self expression, but focus. Because in the end we're all so tortured by our own minds and having something to focus on sort of detracts from that. This is a good quote I'm giving you.

                                                      Nice. Was there a certain time that you felt Slothrust was finally picking up? You did the Jam in the Van, but was there a moment where you were like, "Okay. This band might stay together for a few years?"

                                         No. I always knew we'd stay together but I think it's pretty clear to all of us that we're a slow burner. But we don't really give a shit. That's fine. We'll just slow burn forever if we want to. If not, then not. We probably will. I don't know. I like these people. They like me. It's all good.

                                                      “Magnets Part Two” is my favorite song of yours. I'm just guessing here, but is that about addiction?

                                      I guess I'll be explicit with you because this question has been asked to me particularly frequent amount. I feel like my syntax is shitty right now. I wish it was better. That's about my old roommate Jack. He ended up killing himself in, I think, 2011. I thought about him very frequently. I had trouble processing all of it because I was in the situation where I needed to graduate from college. And I wanted to do what he wanted me to do and I wanted to do whatever felt right for everyone. Whatever that means. It doesn't really mean anything. But yeah, I guess, to sum it up it's about losing someone that you weren't ready to lose but eventually you have to gain acceptance in that. Because if you don't, you'll just be tortured forever. And if you and that person had a certain kind of lock, which Jack and I did, then they wouldn't want you to be tortured forever.

                                                      Lou Reed or Bowie?

                                     I hate that you asked me that. I just hate that you asked me that. That's about it.

                                                      Beer or wine?

                                     If I had to die with either in a goblet in my hand I would pick wine because it's closer to blood.

                                                      Paradise Rock Club or Roseland Ballroom?

                                       Didn't exist when I was growing up. Paradise did but it didn't let people under 21 in and Roseland Ballroom, I don't think it existed. So fuck both those places. Access and Avalon forever. Neither exist. Fuck what's happened to Boston. The police destroyed it. We used to have a good punk scene. And they took that away from us because of noise ordinance. And everyone can go and-

                                                      Fuck themselves?

                                     ... have a bad old time.

                                                      If you had to pick anybody to share the stage with, who would you pick and why?

                                         Oh, I'd pick John Fahey. He could come on and do some amazing finger picking set during any song and I would be so pleased to hear that melodic contour. That's it.


Published: February 25, 2019 |

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