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Sluts of Trust
By Alexander Laurence

This 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 Trust.


AL: How is the American tour going?

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 reach.

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 Glasgow.

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 Ferdinand now.

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 then?

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 myself.

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 about anything.

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 the audience.

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 afterwards?

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 of Trust?

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 Killer."

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?

John: Sure.

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.

Website: www.slutsoftrust.co.uk


--Alexander Laurence



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