Type Without Thinking (Too Much) with… Slothrust’s Leah Wellbaum

Type Without Thinking (Much) is an email interview series I do where I encourage my subjects to let their mind wander, plug what they’re working on and not to give my questions much thought. The order of the questions are intentionally random. Given the strange times we’re living in, I’m hopeful this gives you a bit of a break from the news.

Photo/ Lindsey Byrnes

Last month, alt-rock band Slothrust released their new album Parallel Timeline, and if you’re a fan like I am it probably hit you sideways. I mean that in a very complimentary way. The album is a complete detour sonically and lyrically compared with their other works in that it sounds bigger and tackles themes way beyond our comprehension. Rather than expand on that myself, I’m going to let lead singer Leah Wellbaum explain everything for you. She is, after all, the architect for this record. I’m just a dude sending her an email interview. But, I mean well ya know?

Before you dive into this interview, be sure to catch the band on the round. They’ve joined the ridiculously-talented Manchester Orchestra on their The Million Masks of God Tour, which kicked off Oct. 5 and also features Foxing. With all that, said let me double down on the questions and answers.

The first question isn’t much of a question. Plug as much as you can about your new album and tour.
Woooo okay! So our new album is called Parallel Timeline. A favorite poet of mine, Shira Erlichman, described it recently in a way I really liked. She said, “Parallel Timeline is a fuzzed-out lullaby strung together with honey & wire & great distances & water intimacy.” So, let’s go with that and then add guitar solos and more harmonies than I’ve ever done on an album before.

We are on tour this fall with Manchester Orchestra and Foxing. I am currently writing from the back of a Sprinter on our way to Atlanta from Tampa. It’s a pretty long drive to do in a day. We are happy to be back at it though. In 2022, we are going to headlining a big tour, broken up into several parts. All we have announced so far are the West Coast dates, but more shall indeed come.

Awesome! The album is a wonderful sonic detour of sorts. Tell us how Parallel Timeline came about?
Parallel Timeline is a collection of songs written as long ago as nine years, and as recently as during the recording process. We recorded the majority of the album in Los Angeles with the fabulous Billy Bush. He is a part of Garbage and has worked on a ton of amazing projects. His ears are really special.

In a parallel timeline, what have you been doing and what does this country look like?
In a parallel timeline, I am a storm chaser. And then I am the tornado. And then I am the flowers the tornado uprooted. In terms of what our country looks like in a parallel timeline, I would love to imagine it with less violence and more hot air balloons.

Love that imagery. What’s the best thing to happen to you during this ultra shitty time?
I began the process of owning my shadow. I am still absolutely in that process. I got serious about my search for the truth and committed to trying to remember myself beyond my human experience. I desire clarity now more than ever and have woken up to things I had previously been asleep to.

The album’s artwork is very colorful and interesting and great adjectives. How’d it come about?
I had a long time to work on the creative direction for this album because we weren’t on the road like we typically were. This is our fifth album. In the past, I placed more of an importance on austerity. It made me feel safe at the time. There is something comforting in feeling unknowable. I am not really into that anymore. I wanted to make an album cover I wanted to live inside. The inverted rainbow realm of Parallel Timeline encourages us to ask if what we are seeing is real, and to be curious about consciousness. If you stare at the inverted rainbow for about 30 seconds and then look at a white wall and blink, your brain inverts the colors and what you see if a typical ROYGBIV rainbow. This still blows my mind.

Speaking of art, finish this sentence: Bob Ross is _______.
Bob Ross is inspired.

Do you have a favorite city to perform in?
My favorite cities to perform in are New York and Boston. Those are the two places we have performed in the most and they feel like home. That being said, I love when we get the opportunity to plays markets I would not have expected we had fans. Madison, WI and Wichita, KS have been highlights.

What does Boston mean to you?
I have a lot of fondness for Boston. I had a really great experience growing up there musically. My family works in classical music, and Boston had a vibrant music scene when I was growing up. I went to shows almost every weekend in high school whether or not I knew the bands. I have always loved experiencing live performance and am grateful I have always had so much diverse access to it.

If the pandemic were a song what would it be and why?
If I had to pick a song to go along with the pandemic I would choose something from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It makes me think of unsettling but beautiful transformation.

If people entered rooms with entrance music like wrestlers do what would yours be?
The band used to walk on every night to “The Stranger” by Billy Joel. In terms of a personal theme, that would very much change based on my mood. Today let’s go with “Everyday Is A Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow.

What’s your favorite song on your new album?
My favorite songs on the album are “Cranium”, which I wrote the majority of nine years ago, and “A Giant Swallow, which I wrote toward the end of our recording process.

You’re hitting the road with Manchester Orchestra, who IMO released one of the best if not the best album of the year. How psyched are you to A) open for them B) be back on the road and C) hopefully not answer this contrived question again?
We absolutely love Manchester Orchestra. They’re an inspiring band and we are honored they asked us to hit the road with them. I have missed live performance so much the past couple of years and to be able to perform again, as well as to watch other people I admire perform in the same night is truly a treat.

If bands came with taglines?, what would yours be?
Bingo bango.

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Jon Chattman

He once enjoyed a Reuben sandwich with Randy “Macho Man” Savage, has written eight books, hosts his own music series, and is a proud dad. He can’t ride a bike.