Slothrust is principal songwriter, guitar player, and unrepentant aesthete Leah Wellbaum, with
drummer Will Gorin and bassist Kyle Bann.
(Photo Credit: Danny Lane)
To celebrate Pride Month, Slothrust and Sons of an Illustrious Father have teamed up to cover each other’s songs, and they’ll be donating the proceeds of the project to the Trevor Project. You can listen to Slothrust’s cover of “U.S. Gay” and Sons’ cover of “Horseshoe Crab,” and read thoughts on the project from both bands, below.
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor
I wrote “Horseshoe Crab” at a time when I was struggling with dissociative depressive episodes while living in Brooklyn. The song itself is a reflection of the duality that exists inside of all of us, and the maladaptive complexities that come with being human. In short, it’s an exploration of feeling disconnected from your true self.
This experience is one familiar to many queer people, especially those who struggle with mental health issues. I have spent a lot of time hiding my mind and my body from the world, and even from myself. For many of us, it takes a lot of work to be at ease in a world where we do not fulfill the expectations society has educated us to believe are desirable. It wasn’t easy to gain the confidence to do this internal work, but I am happy to say it has been worth it.
Part of that work, is noticing and surrounding yourself with the type of people who make you feel seen and who encourage you to be yourself. Sons of An Illustrious Father have embodied this love since the moment we met at our first show together in Boise. Each member is so unique and their show is no less individual. There is a raw creativity and earnestness about their show that evokes a timeless performance experience. The three of them are not afraid to be weird, loud, theatrical, or vulnerable and these qualities inspire me to take more risks in my own work.
While the Slothrust version of this song feels like it holds a lot of fire and frustration, the Sons version swims in cool and unfamiliar water. It is almost as if they are the seahorse and we are the horseshoe crab. One is soft and rarely seen, swimming freely in the ocean, leaving gender norms to surface dwellers. The other washes ashore on many coasts, its thick brown leathery shell hiding the surprisingly opaque blue blood within.
Knowing that the lyrics of this song were inspired by feelings of alienation and solitude, it’s a beautiful choice that Josh, Lilah, and Ezra all sing this song together as opposed to one of them taking the lead. As the songwriter in our band, it can feeling isolating and exposing at times to come in with songs like this one. Having three totally unique voices reinterpret it brings about the feeling of unity and sameness that I hoped to convey in the lyric “I don’t have anything in common with myself, except that I came from the sea like everyone else did.” It is as though three people are having parallel experiences at the same time, and it’s a humbling moment to have the song become a source of healing reflected back at me.
— Leah Wellbaum, Slothrust
Listening to Slothrust’s cover of “U.S. Gay” makes me feel sick, the way that falling in love does — that dull, heavy stomachache. I feel so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for Leah, Will, and Kyle for showing me what this song that I started could become. In writing “U.S. Gay” I attempted perhaps for the first time to write something genuinely pop-y.
The Pulse night club shooting filled me, like many others, with abject horror and grief; it felt to me that in order to make anything from that experience that might help myself and others process, it had to be somehow palatably packaged — we needed some sort of spoon full of sugar to be able to even attempt to get it all down. For the most part, I think we succeeded in creating something that is fun to listen to despite its decidedly un-fun content. But as a band, we’ve always been fairly helpless vehicles in our expression, melding the message as best we can while largely flailing in surrender. This, I think, is part of our charm and I wouldn’t change it, but it means that our “pop” song is still a bit ragged and off-kilter. Leah, on the other hand, is a veritable pop fucking genius fronting the greatest rock band alive, so hearing the Slothrust version of “U.S. Gay” is like hearing the song in its ultimate form. I truly feel like our version was a first draft. This is the smooth, skillful rendering of my dreams. A spoon full of sugar dripped right in your ear, the even more devastating weight that Slothrust lends even more appealingly applied.
The song was never meant to be the proprietary property of any band — it was our offering to the queer community in a time of tragedy. For it to be sung by another queer person makes me feel like it’s being further absorbed into that broader community, where it was always meant to live. It’s made me realize that I yearn to hear the song sung by so many more people. But I’m fairly certain that no one will ever outdo the Slothrust version.
— Lilah Larson, Sons of an Illustrious Father
You can buy the tracks digitally here; a vinyl 7-inch will be released on August 9.
(Photo Credit: Danny Lane and Rafe Scobey-Thal)