Slang is the long-gestating project of drummer/vocalist Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Wild Flag) and guitarist/vocalist Drew Grow (Modern Kin, Pastors’ Wives). The Portland band now also includes guitarist Anita Lee Elliot (Viva Voce) and bassist Kathy Foster (Thermals, Roseblood), with guest appearances by the likes of Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), Mary Timony (Ex Hex, Wild Flag, Helium) and Sam Coomes (Quasi). Though the release date for the quartet’s debut, Cockroach In A Ghost Town (Kill Rock Stars), is May 27, Slang is throwing the MAGNET minions some advance love with the video for a new track from the album. Here’s what Weiss and Grow had to say for themselves.
Slang has been around in one shape or form for more than a decade. Why was Cockroach In A Ghost Town so long in coming?
Janet Weiss: Drew and I started Slang as a fun, low-pressure cover band. We were both in numerous other groups at the time and didn’t have the capacity for another serious project. But the collision of our musical tastes showed promise, and eventually we began writing original music together.
How does Slang differ from your various other projects?
Drew Grow: Slang is the most intensely collaborative experience I’ve been privileged to undertake so far. Janet and I would build these recordings in our basement studio, taking turns heading down the stairs, tracking and deconstructing. The bar we set for ourselves was high, and we just didn’t relent. It took some time—not overworking the material but just kind of conjuring, channeling the voices, building things and smashing them. Janet and I had been together for some years at this point, but it was a hell of a way to deepen our understanding and respect for each other.
Is the songwriting a group effort?
Weiss: I almost always have ideas for how the songs should feel and how they get constructed. Drew writes the lyrics, comes up with the initial drafts, and deals in the concepts and meaning. We both love the studio, and we really enjoyed fleshing things out with overdubs and background vocals. As a four piece, we can lean on Kathy and Anita to take our music to the next level.
How did “Wrong Wrong Wrong” come together?
Grow: I’d written the main part up at our friend’s cabin. When I drove home, I really felt like something was cooking. I tracked what I had into the computer and played it for Janet. She has a crazy ear and a strong compass for the direction she wants to go. She pushed the Ziggy Stardust thing even further, wrangled the song form and opened up the whole bridge section. Then I went back in with a pile of words I’d been writing and let it rip.
Staying warm seems to be a prevailing theme in the song.
Grow: When I was a kid growing up in Washington State, I remember playing outside all the time. My mom would come out on the porch to ask if I was warm enough—there were a lot of rainy, cold days up there. That question has stuck with me for some reason and morphed into a metaphor for everything in general. Can we ever be warm enough? All the running around and efforts and insulating and starting fires? We’re all trying, but where I come from, the cold gets into your bones.
We’re proud to premiere the video for “Wrong Wrong Wrong” today at MAGNET.