I think the concept of “parallel timelines” has crossed everyone’s minds over the past year and a half—whether it’s the fantasy of getting to see a band whose tour got cancelled in the spring of 2020 or a more consequential life event that got turned upside down by the pandemic. For the new Slothrust album, though, Leah Wellbaum took this concept way back to her childhood, with peripheral thoughts of the drastically different life that would’ve resulted from small changes she’d made as a kid underlining each of the album’s tracks, which sonically expand upon the band’s longtime central thesis as well.
With guitar riffs ranging in influence from grunge to blues—including Wellbaum’s longest guitar solo ever, in turn warranting her audience’s longest “yeah boy” ever—Parallel Timeline is a daring exploration of all the avenues the band had previously never thought to venture down, providing a fresh musical journey not infrequently painted in shades that are distinctly Lisa Frank. With the album out today, Wellbaum took the time to walk us through each of the album’s 10 tracks, sharing how personal frustrations—such as the inability to feed our own needs in a dying world and the struggle to be a queer people-pleaser—worked their way into the record.
Stream the album below, and read on for her words.
I think of “Cranium” as an absurd mating ritual dance by one of those beautiful complex birds with iridescent tail feathers—except instead of feathers I’m holding family heirloom tweezers and my hands are coated in honey. It’s sweet, but incredibly uncomfortable and definitely overbearing. This track contains the longest guitar solo I’ve ever played, and it’s one of my favorite moments on the record because I feel I’m singing through my instrument.
2. “Once More for the Ocean”
I have a unique relationship with this song because it felt like it came through me more than from me. I didn’t know what it was about at first, but I’ve come to realize it’s about an epic search to feel whole. So many times when we’re searching we’re looking outside of ourselves because it’s the only way we know. But the truth is, what we’re looking for lives within.
This song really embraces brat energy. It examines how frustrating it can be to be a queer people-pleaser. But I’ve certainly learned that you can’t keep everyone happy all the time.
4. “The Next Curse”
“The Next Curse” is a song about how even in a time when we see our planet on fire and flooding, we still don’t take the time we need to heal ourselves. These circumstances begin to mirror each other in a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s my desire that humans as a species work toward less violence and more compassion for one another despite differences. I hope we can show this kindness to planet earth as well and treat her like the magical, generous being she is.
5. “Strange Astrology”
“Strange Astrology” is one of the only proper love songs I’ve ever written. It’s an honest exploration of what it means to love someone who is intrinsically different than you. It’s about hoping that those juxtaposing qualities and instincts encourage meaningful growth instead of chaos, but knowing that inevitably it will always be a bit of both.
“Waiting” is an anthem of liberation for those who don’t feel free within themselves. So many of us are in a cage of our own making due to limiting beliefs, and this song encourages people to look beyond what they think is possible and live freely like nature intended. I’ve found many answers in watching birds and clouds.
7. “King Arthur’s Seat”
I remember writing this song like it was yesterday. I was incredibly sick after a tour overseas, but stayed behind in Scotland and attempted to climb King Arthur’s Seat anyway. I couldn’t make it to the top and told my partner and tour manager to go on without me. As I sat there alone staring at the glowing green earth, this song felt like it was dropped into my head. I’ve realized in retrospect that “time” in this song is a metaphor for a higher power, and the desire to feel we’re not alone.
8. “A Giant Swallow”
I wrote this song toward the very end of the recording process. It really tied everything together for me, and feels like an honest reflection of where I came from and where I’m going. It’s one of my favorites on the record.
9. “White Rabbits”
This is a song about desperately wanting to heal, but not quite knowing how. It deals with self-denial and what it means to come out of that space and embrace feeling the world around you again. It’s a reminder that although it’s tempting to numb out, the only real way out is through.
10. “Parallel Timeline”
This is the only time we’ve released an album with a title track. To me this song sums up some of the steps I’ve taken on my journey to be where I am today. I meditate daily, I take medication, and I try my best to be grateful for exactly what the universe has handed me.