Sluts of Trust
By Alexander Laurence
is a brand new band from Scotland. Q Magazine describes
their music: "Leaves you feeling violated. In a good
way." The Sluts of Trust first unleashed their wildly
original brand of sleazy rock music to an unsuspecting audience,
and since have become something of a phenomenon in Glasgow.
The band is just two guys: John McFarlane (guitar/vocals)
and Anthony O'Donnell (drums). They look like they have
a permanent hangover. I met them in Hollywood at an IHOP.
They claimed to have just run into Paris Hilton and Nick
Carter who apparently are regulars there. We went record
shopping all over and ended up at Amoeba. Before that, we
stopped at a nearby café where I stepped on someone's
Chihuahua. We got to see some homeless people yelling in
the street. Local color is helpful.
The Sluts of Trust have been a curious band all this year.
They played a blistering energetic show at SXSW. Their songs
"Piece o' You" and "Leave You Wanting More"
are totally unforgettable. They combine indie rock and heavy
metal and total original singing and just out of control
playing. I saw them on a night they even threw in a song
by Talking Heads. They even took a bow at the end. People
loved it. We got to drive around Sunset Boulevard and learn
more about all things Scottish. They often joke around and
repeat themselves in American accent because they are not
sure if people understand what they are saying. Their first
album that came out in May is called We Are All Sluts of
AL: How is the American
John: It's going rather well. We are going to a lot of
new places on the west coast. WE played SXSW a few months
ago. That was our first time in the States and our first
gig in the States. It was really wild and really good. We
are going to a bunch of new places for the very first time
that we have never been. We get to play a show in these
places. So it's like a double whammy. When you get to work
here it gives you a little idea of what it is like to live
here. That makes it much more fulfilling.
AL: Do you have a lot of public transportation in Glasgow?
John: The public transportation system there is reasonable.
We have a big subway there. There is rather extensive bus
network. There are a lot of cabs. It's a good walking city
if you have any resilience for walking. Everything is within
AL: How did you meet each other?
Anthony: We both did a course in Scottish theater in 1995.
It was when we first met. It was a five-week course over
the summer. It was part of a youth organization.
AL: What do your parent do for a living? Do they play music?
John: One parent drives coaches around Europe. My mother
is a network specialist. My mum and dad sing. My oldest
brother can sing and play bass. Next brother can sing and
plays guitar, bass, drums, piano. Another brother plays
drums. Only the second oldest is in a band apart from me.
There are a lot of good bands in Glasgow.
AL: How do you stand out if you a re a new band in Glasgow?
John: That is not for me to say because I don't stand around
with a big mirror beside me. You should ask someone from
AL: We don't see a lot of bands from Scotland here. There's
Delgados, Arab Strap, and Altered Images, and so on.
John: There is Shirley Manson of Garbage. There is Franz
AL: What is the local scene like there in Glasgow?
Anthony: We still play there a lot. There are a lot of
venues there. There are a lot of bands there. Some are good,
and some are not so good.
AL: How did you get involved with Chemikal Underground
Anthony: Someone from the label came to see us at our third
gig. A few more came to the next gig. Then all the Delgados
came along to the next gig to see us in Edinburgh. They
called us up a few days after that and said, "Let's
make some records together." So we said "Yeah."
AL: How does the songwriting happen in the band?
John: Each song is vastly different. Some of the songs
that sound nothing like the other ones were written at the
same time. I can't say that I go through phases. I will
write them and have ideas how they should be arranged.
AL: Do you have a lot of expensive guitars and gear?
John: I play a cheap guitar. It's a Epiphone my friend.
I think about Gibson guitar and Marshall stacks but sometimes
you have to think about eating and paying the rent. I like
that guitar that I have. When I had enough money to buy
another guitar I just thought that it wasn't important and
I found other things to use my money for.
AL: You have a talent for guitar technique?
John: I studied Classical guitar in high school. I read
music for the exams. I learned up to grade eight. I got
to a point where I thought it was more beneficial to learn
stuff by memory instead of reading music. When you come
to write music, all that stuff has been written inside your
head, and you don't need to open up a piece of paper. There
is a big jump between putting it on paper and letting it
pour from the back of your mind. I still study Classical
now. But I haven't learned a Classical piece note for note
in a long time.
AL: Do you play in weird time signatures?
John: It's not always played in 4/4. But since we worked
from the start from a very instinctual basis, that we never
had to discuss and acknowledge the things we already knew.
We knew what we are doing by virtue of playing and listening
to one another. We don't say "Okay, we are going to
do this in 7/4" and be vocal about it. We tape all
our practices and rehearsals. We found that is really useful.
We experiment on tape and listen back. If it worked then
we keep that in.
AL: What are your lyrics about generally?
John: If there is a notion of depression or emotions it's
all part of a story being told. It's not necessarily the
reason the song is being written. I am not talking about
AL: Every song is a story?
John: Perhaps. I feel okay if I have had an experience
and I have learned something. Just the fact of everyone
being so different and the nature of life being subjective,
I feel that there are many things that can be unproblematically
applied to every human being. The songs are aspiring to
a universal thing that anyone can go through. So by not
being particularly relevant to my own life, if someone picks
up on the lyrics and identifies with the song in their own
way, it allows them to paint a picture for themselves. I
don't have to paint a picture for them. Lyrics are less
a message from the writer of the lyrics to a person who
hears them, and more a message from the listener to themselves.
AL: So the listener is the creator?
John: You do create when you listen. You are constantly
creating value judgments when you read or hear a piece of
music. How many essays have been written where they disagree
about the fundamental principles about a piece of poetry
or a book? Life is far to relative to be that conclusive
AL: How does the theater background influence the music?
Anthony: I think it is less obvious than we make it a big
show. We have a moral code where the show must go on. It
doesn't matter if there are ten people or a thousand there
in the audience, we still give it our all. That is what
we have done at every gig even if there was one granny in
AL: Do you like to be confrontational when you play live?
John: Every show doesn't have to be fun. If people are
going crazy and cheering it's not necessarily a successful
show. Things should be challenging. I like to be upfront.
I like to take it to them. I don't have any perverse notions
about creating anxiety. If you feel anxious, it's more telling
something about yourself. It doesn't have anything to do
with Anthony or me.
AL: Are there bands that you like?
John: I had a bunch of other brothers with great record
collections. So did their friends. I listened to bands like
The Smiths and Otis Redding. I listened to a lot of soul.
My brother's friends use to listen to The Doors, The Pixies,
The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and Dead Kennedys. I feel
that I was pretty lucky that I was exposed to different
types of music. Most of the stuff that I liked when I was
young I wasn't able to see live because they were split
up or dead.
AL: Did you ever see any of these bands or what they did
John: We had the joy of when we visiting Boston to see
some guy wandering around with leather pants and a black
cap. We were wondering who he was.
Anthony: We played before with the Delgados. This guy came
backstage and was talking about magic tricks. This guy was
David Lovering of The Pixies. He's a good drummer. He's
a good magician as well.
AL: Did you play in other bands before?
John: I was in a band called Tungsten Crust. The bass player
left the band to be a Buddhist monk. Now he is fully ordained.
We used to have long conversations about if he invested
too much time into the band he would be compromising his
spirituality. I argued that they are both inextricably linked.
He had this duplicity of thought and that led him towards
Buddhism. The Buddhist doctrine is pushing away all the
trapping of the physical world.
AL: That has to do with the body and desire.
John: Exactly. He felt that all these cravings were illusions.
They caused too much trouble and pain. He was obsessed with
idea of striving for something equals pain. Why should you
meditate and get wise, how can you help other people? How
can you be useful unless you are living day-to-day life?
Buddhists claim that the strongest they get at meditation
the better they are at leaving their physical body and have
an effect on the world. So there is a strong element of
magic involved in that. I believe that you can have all
that going on without testing it.
AL: Since we are all sluts of trust, we don't know where
we came from or where we are going. We just trust that we
are indeed alive and try to enjoy ourselves.
Anthony: We have to trust each other as well.
John: Hypocrisy is disgusting. We all shit in the pan.
No one is perfect. Some are less perfect. In that way some
people can justify murdering of boycotting other people's
rights because they don't believe in God for the same reasons
that they do. It comes down to economic privileges and that
is utterly disgusting. There is so more righteousness and
things done in the name of good and justice. If you want
to use the allegory of telephones. There are all types of
telephones that dial the same number. Who is to say that
their telephone is better than the next person?
AL: What do you think about trust?
John: It happens all over. It's got to a stage where everyone
thinks that other people are going to rip him or her off.
It's do or die. It's rip off or be ripped off. That is a
horrible set of circumstances to be in. That causes so much
unnecessary stress and compromises the quality of life.
You can't be crying about it all your life. If you are not
going to be part of the solution then you are definitely
not going to be part of the problem.
AL: Do you ever get a reaction just because the name, Sluts
John: We had a show in Glasgow. These teenage girls had
written "Sexist Bollocks" on the poster. I thought
that was weird. If they think that only women can be called
sluts, then they are being sexist. They thought that only
women are called that. But guys are bigger sluts than women.
You know the old adage: it's easier for a girl to get laid,
than a guy. Anyone can make a slut of himself or herself.
AL: How did you choose the name?
John: We wrote down somewhere between eighty and a hundred
words that we both liked. We wrote them on pieces of individual
paper and put them in a tube. Three weeks later we put all
the pieces of paper on a card. We came up with five suggestions.
We didn't want to force it. We had exhausted ourselves thinking
about it. So I got my friend Fiona. I thought that she would
be able to pick the best name. I knew it. I said, "Fi,
I need your help." She went through the names and said,
"Sluts of Trust? That is bizarre." There was a
glint in her eye. I knew that was the one. I gave her a
hug. I told her that we were going to call the band that.
AL: You played a cover song. It was Talking Heads "Psycho
Anthony: There is only one reason we have done a cover
song. We talked about it but we have never done any before.
You know John Peel, the British DJ? We did a session for
him around Christmas. You are almost obliged to do a cover
version for him. It's the done thing. The Delgados did it.
The Pixies did it. We chose to do "Psycho Killer."
Occasionally when we are playing a show and it's going well
and the audience could take more of us we bring it out.
AL: The set is mostly just the album then?
John: We play every song except "Dominoes" and
"Pirate Weekend." We haven't played "Pirate
Weekend" live yet. So maybe we will save that for a
special show in Glasgow perhaps.
AL: Can you pull it off?
John: Of course we can. All the drums and guitars are recorded
live. The vocals were recorded second. There are two guitar
overdubs. I am playing the exact same part twice so you
can pan both guitars in each speaker. It happens a few times
on the album.
AL: Did you work with the Delgados with this record?
Anthony: Yeah. Paul Savage who is the drummer of the Delgados
produced it. He also did the first albums by Mogwai, Arab
Strap, and Aerogramme. He's a good cunt. It's not necessary
that he does every Chemikal Underground record, but they
thought it was a good idea for him to work with us.
AL: Are you playing some festivals this summer?
Anthony: We are playing in Belgium in a few weeks.
AL: On some of your songs you have a Black Sabbath/Van
Halen vibe. Do you like those records?
AL: Do you have any cowbells?
Anthony: I have two cowbells. I have no use for them on
the first album.
AL: Have you seen any metal bands play?
John: My brother can play all the heavy metal shite with
his eyes close. I got to see him up close. He has the technique.
It is what it is.
AL: You meet a lot of girls at the shows?
John: I find myself being with girls who haven't seen the
show. They came to the club afterwards. Or I met them at
a party afterwards. It doesn't work out that I am with a
girl who has seen the show, and I like it better that way.