A homecoming — and top billing — when Slothrust kicks off tour
They met as music majors with jazz backgrounds at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, but the band they created certainly doesn’t play jazz. Slothrust has been described as “punk” and “grunge,” but those terms aren’t quite right either for a group that can shift from contemplating their insecurities one moment to shredding a guitar solo the next. As with their how-do-you-pronounce-that? name (think lazy mammal and metallic reaction), the band isn’t easy to pin down. Featuring Brookline native Leah Wellbaum on vocals and guitar, Wellesley-raised Will Gorin on drums, and Kyle Bann on bass, the band simply creates music that feels right to them. “We don’t care about labels,” says Wellbaum. That recipe has worked just fine so far, as the band now has recorded three full-length albums and gone from grinding nightly in New York City dives to touring across the country. Slothrust comes to Brighton Music Hall for a show Wednesday that kicks off a national tour. Although they played in Boston just last November, this time will be different: They’ll be headlining, not opening. We caught up with the 27-year-old Wellbaum over the phone to talk about her homecoming, how she finds inspiration, and her deep affinity for the ocean.
Q. What was your introduction to the music world as a teenager in Boston.
A. Growing up, I went to a lot of shows. Like, multiple per week. There was actually a really awesome DIY scene when I was growing up, there were tons of places willing to host punk shows that just aren’t open anymore. My favorite venue was Regeneration, though.
Q. You’re based out of Los Angeles now. Do you miss any part of Boston or the East Coast?
A. There’s definitely a certain feeling that the East Coast evokes that makes me nostalgic. Luckily, I’m in a position where I can revisit the area a lot. One thing that the two cities have in common is that the driving during rush hour is very aggressive and terrifying. Oh, and Los Angeles definitely has way less sports maniacs.
Q. Your music is youthful, but not in the optimistic, cheery sense of the word. It feels like listening to all the doubts and anxieties and complexities of growing up, embodied in a song. Do you draw a lot of your material from your own experiences growing up?
A. I feel like inevitably, when you’re writing music, it has to connect to your own experience. In the song “Horseshoe Crab,” there’s a line, “Faces look flat and unfamiliar.” I remember coming up with that because I was in Union Square in New York, and I saw this woman who was wearing a ton of makeup, and she was wearing it in a way that looked so 2-D to me. Something about it made me feel like I had never seen a human face before. It was a very dissociative moment.
Q. There are a lot of different things going on in your music. It can be whimsical, isolating, and upbeat all within the same song. Is that mixture of emotions something you try to create?
A. I think so. I’m really into the absurd and I really like to have a sense of humor about the things that I write. But it’s also really important to me to offer some honesty. I don’t like to be depressing, though. Just realistically melancholy.
Q. It seems like you have a little bit of a preoccupation with water, based on your songs and some of your music videos. How come you keep coming back to that as a theme?
A. I’m really obsessed with the ocean, and there are a couple reasons for this. The first is because it makes up the majority of the planet, and we know very little about it. It controls more than you realize. The second reason is that, when you’re fully submerged, it’s like being in a womb. It’s the closest thing besides actually being in one.
Q. The rock star lifestyle can be trying, both physically and mentally. Is that something you think about, trying to hang on to your health and well-being while living your dream?
A. Definitely. I’ve seen a lot of bands fall apart because of being on the road too much and because of working with people who didn’t care about their mental and physical health. That’s how a lot of musicians end up dying. We’re very lucky though, because Will, Kyle, and I all want health and longevity. I would much rather be part of a group that can exist for a long time and really explore its depths than be part of a band that gets super famous really quickly but burns out because they weren’t set up for the long term.
At Brighton Music Hall, March 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $13, www.ticketmaster.com