Couch Slut Interview: “Real-life experiences play a big role in shaping what we do”

Couch Slut’s new album Take a Chance On Rock ‘n’ Roll is out now via Gilead Media.

New York based noise rock/noise-punk quintet Couch Slut are undoubtedly one of the most confrontational and unforgiving outfits out there at the moment. From their name to their music to their album artwork, they provoke, intimidate and challenge. Over the course of three albums, they have melded ferocious riffs with avant grade noise and a general purging.

Their latest album Take A Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll is their most direct and streamlined effort yet. We had a bit of a chat with Amy Mills (guitar/trumpet) and Kevin Hall (bass) all about that record. Have a read and a listen below.

Overblown: Take a Chance on Rock ‘N’ Roll is your third album. Have you changed the way you write and record your music over that time?

AMY MILLS (guitar, trumpet): Definitely the way we record. The first two albums were self-produced, but Take a Chance on Rock ‘N’ Roll was made in a studio with the engineering/mixing being done by someone else. We approached this record recording the songs live as a group instead of tracking each part separately as we did on Contempt. The writing process for the songs hasn’t changed much, it’s always generally been a group effort.

KEVIN HALL (bass): Refining the songs that would become Take a Chance on Rock ‘N’ Roll was in some ways pretty different from how past material was refined. Previously, a lot of time was spent with all members of the band working in the same room at the same time to edit things. This time, towards the beginning, Theo, Kevin W, and I refined the songs together at practices, but then Kevin W was out of the picture for quite a while because he was on the road for work. At that point, Theo and I kept meeting to practice the songs using just bass and drums, which led to a lot of rearranging and editing. Eventually, it became clear that we wanted to have a second guitar in the band again, and Amy rejoined in full capacity. Around that time, Kevin W returned from the road and we polished the songs with all of us together.

Overblown: Your artwork for all your albums is quite evocative and confrontational. Each cover is stylistically similar. Who designs them? What inspired the album artwork for Take A Chance On Rock ‘N’ Roll?

AM: Sex.

KH: All of our covers have been done by Leandro De Cotis.

Overblown: What is your favourite song on the new album and why?

AM: That’s a difficult decision. ‘All the Way Down’ is one of my favourites to play. It’s totally weird yet driving and accessible. It’s one of the songs where we’re all playing different parts a lot of the time, which from a performance perspective is always a lot of fun.

KH: My favourite at the moment is probably ‘Someplace Cheap’. I think it’s the weirdest song on the record and it’s got my favourite bass part of all the songs on the record (though “The Stupid Man” is close in that regard). “I’m 14” and “The Stupid Man” are up there too as favourites.

Overblown: This new album is quite a good deal shorter than your previous album Contempt. The songs are shorter too. Was that a conscious decision? Why move in that direction?

AM: I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision, there was never a discussion of “ok we have to make short concise songs.” I think part of it was the writing process was a lot longer (began long before I returned) since Kevin W was away on tour with a theatre production, so Kevin H and Theo had a lot of time to run the songs and determine which parts worked, which didn’t. Things got really refined and focused and I think it makes for a more engaging listen.

KH: My recollection is that it happened more or less organically. Earlier on in the process, many of the songs that appear on the record were longer or in some cases combined with another as a single song. When we started to cut things, we found that we liked the songs more. I think partially it was a rejection of the idea that a certain part or parts should be repeated more times than they are on the finished record. I think we also wanted this to be shorter than Contempt which I believe is north of 40 minutes. Generally, I really hate seeing bands play live for longer than a half-hour (including bands I like or love), and even 30 minutes is pushing it for me. That said, if the songs were better served by being longer, or if the collection of songs didn’t feel like a complete record, I don’t doubt we would’ve made them longer.

Overblown: You include some trumpet on the track ‘I’m 14’. Where did the idea to do that come from?

AM: We’ve used wind instruments on previous records and we are all fans of expanding the arrangements beyond typical rock/metal instrumentation. It offers a much broader palette for textures or sounds, as well as presenting the listener with something they might not expect to hear. Trumpet is also my first instrument, so when we were figuring out where we might want to add some additional instrumentation, trumpet was an obvious choice.

KH: I’m not sure, but I’m glad it’s there. The first time I heard the song with the trumpet part was at the most recent show we played (in September 2019). I loved it immediately.

Overblown: There is also a short piano interlude on the new album. How was that written? Is that an instrument you would consider using more in future?

AM: I believe Theo composed this in MuScore, and then the piano player worked it out with the band in terms of phrasing and approach. Definitely more of that in the future!

KH: I think we remain open to more or less anything and everything.

Overblown: Of all your songs, which one gets the best reception live? Why do you think that is?

AM: I can’t speak to this.

KH: At this point, probably ‘Funeral Dyke’, the first song on Contempt. I think it’s the only one of our songs I’ve ever seen people in the audience dancing to. It turns into sort of a stomp at the end of the song which is easier to shake your ass to than most of our stuff.

Overblown: Outside of music, what inspires your music? Take a song like ‘Someplace Cheap’. That’s like a Cormac McCarthy short story set to music. What inspired that musically and lyrically?

AM: ‘Someplace Cheap’ is just a recounting of an actual experience Megan had. Most of the lyrical content is more autobiographical than inspired by art or fiction etc. we may like.

KH: Real-life experiences play a big role in shaping what we do; so do our senses of humour. I’m sure we each bring different sensibilities to the table about how things should or should not be done as a result of cinematic or literary influences, but I don’t think I can point to anything specifically.

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