Interview: Slingshot Dakota

Husband-and-wife duo Slingshot Dakota released their fifth and finest album yet, ‘Heavy Banding’ a fortnight ago. We loved its Hollywood keys and Carly’s raw, hungry child-like, vocals so much we made it our album of the week. The Pennsylvania duo bring their PDA romance to British shores soon, playing alongside the incredible Fresh. Ahead of that, we caught up with Carly (singer/keyboardist) to discover how therapy and the birth of her goddaughter represented key moments in the making of Heavy Banding. We also touch on sex, past relationships, parents and so much more.

Your album is out in the world. How does it feel? Are you happy with the initial reaction?

It feels INCREDIBLE! We spent a lot of time writing/demoing/recording this record and then another year SITTING ON IT, waiting for it’s release to be worked out, so we are ecstatic. We’ve known this whole time that “Heavy Banding” is our breakout album, so our patience has definitely been tested up until now. We are overwhelmed at the positive reaction to it, although not completely shocked since we’ve always known it’s a killer record. I think we’re mostly surprised that it’s taken until now for folks to start paying attention to us, but I also understand that it’s because we’ve released our finest work of art. This is also the first record where we’ve done everything completely on our terms and handpicked every single person involved.

In 2016, you truly began to witness the inequalities of the music industry. How did those inequalities materialise? How did they make you feel?

I started seeing all of the parallels between the “safe space music bubble” and mainstream US culture. We were out here rallying online or at protests about inclusivity/equality, yet when I looked at all the tours being announced, it was mostly 4 groups of straight white men making up the package. I was definitely really angry when I had that realization, and then more angry that no one else seemed to see what was going on. It was just the fact that none of us were paying attention to the inherent inequalities in our OWN backyard. I think no one had taken the time to be like “oh shit, wait? our own bubble can do better!” It just goes to show that we all get comfortable and we think that just because we’re “liberal” or open minded, we are doing the best we can. It’s a reminder to CONSTANTLY hold ourselves, our friends, and our scene respectfully accountable.

You’ve previously said that you thought of Slingshot Dakota – husband-and-wife duo – as not cool. What made you think that?

We’ve always thought that we were cool, but the industry definitely made us question “wait, are we NOT cool?” It felt like unless I was playing guitar, I wasn’t going to get any recognition. I actually wrote a guitar-based blog to kindly say “Hey, what you do is really cool- but in a world where women/LGBTQ/nonbinary folks are ALREADY marginalized, it sucks that you only include string shredders and not other cool instrumentalists.”  I think I projected this fear that I was never going to be “cool” onto myself and sunk into a little hole for a while. Sometimes you have to work on yourself before you can thrive. I started therapy, started to believe in myself a lot more, and worked my ass off to write a ton of music I was proud of. I had let these doubts rule my roost, and I turned that around. Up until that point, I never cared what anyone thought and then for whatever reason, I did. I worked hard to get myself back up on my feet because even when I look at myself from 2004 playing my first shows with Slingy D, I’m cool as fuck.

Sometimes the folks closest to you will give you a list of excuses as to why you’re not getting A, B, or C. But if that list includes “You’ve been around for a long time” or “you’re old and it’s hard to pitch you,” DROP THEM. That was a huge hurdle for us and a big reason we both really started doubting ourselves. But then we’d get tour offers and know that the problem wasn’t us- it was OTHER people projecting their OWN fears that we weren’t cool enough.

In my review I wrote that you represent the meaning of ‘too much.’ Why is that a space within you feel comfortable, and even excel in?

When you’ve always been a band that no one can pigeon hole, you get used to being “too much” or whatever indication that you don’t fit the mold. We’ve just learned to embrace it. Everyone always says “being unique is the best thing” but then when you are, people don’t know what to do with you. Or they say that as an artist you need to have your “thing” but then I see the same boring bands getting recognition when there are so many cool voices/set-ups out there. The world wants to embrace originality but then when it’s presented to them, they have to slowly accept it on their own. I think that’s where we’re at, and probably why we’ve had a slow ascent, but that just means we’ve got longevity.

You’re very open about your sex life on social media. Why are you happy to share that with your followers?

It’s as if people aren’t watching porn on their own time or sexy Netflix series. Normalizing sex is very important, and especially as a real life married couple who are absolutely in love with each other, we love being an example of a happy, healthy, sex-filled relationship. My Dad used to come home from work and give my mom the loudest, wettest kiss that they’d block with their hands (although I can still hear that sound forever) and even though as kids we were like “UGH GROSS”, now I’m like “heck yeah mom and dad! get it!” Some folks are private with their love and that’s 1000% awesome. But we like to makeout all the time and we’re not embarrassed about it. We’re proud and we think it’s funny to share it. We mostly care about trolling everyone with the Dwight gif about being ravenous after a night of lovemaking.

‘Weird Like Me’ feels like a song I would’ve really clutched to my heart as a teenager, when I was struggling with feelings of being an outsider. What inspired that song? Any particular experiences?

I wrote “Weird Like Me” for my god daughter Lexi. I was in the room when she was born. We cancelled a show that day in PA and I drove to Long Island immediately. It was such a magical and surreal experience. My sister in law is such a strong person and I’m so grateful I got to witness her giving birth. She also made it seem way too easy, which isn’t fair! As soon as Alexia was cleaned up, we all took turns holding her. She had her feet stamped for her birth certificate, hence the line “pressed your feet on my arm like a tattoo” (the nurse stamped my arm with her feet).  Seeing her on day one of her post-aquatic life filled me with so much love and awe, and I just wanted to write her a song that made her feel like she could be whoever she wants. We’re living in a weird time and I just want her to be happy, loving and loved. As for the “weird like me” part, I just wanted to stress that there’s no “right” way to live your life. We make mistakes, we reconfigure our careers. I’m an artist who spends a ton of time on the road- and that’s what brings me the most amount of joy. For Lexi – and everyone – I just want to say that we aren’t born knowing exactly where this life is going to take us, and that’s okay. Just listen to your heart and know that the world is mostly a loving place that is rooting for you.

I’d say that on ‘Heavy Banding’ you embraced the cheese. Were there any moments you were like ‘woah, that’s too much,’ that’s too bold?

Never 🙂 When you embrace being “too much,” that applies to cheese!

You’ve called Heavy Banding your ‘fucking here to stay’ album’? Why? Also, why this more so than your other records?

We’ve always worked really hard on our albums, but “Break” was where we really learned how to be the best versions of ourselves. Going into writing this record, we just instinctively knew our formula and how we could make each song unique and strong in their own way. We spent WAY more time writing and demoing songs, and buying our own house has had a huge impact on our practice schedule (although we bought our new home DURING the recording of HB, something I don’t wish upon anyone!). We were watching the show “Dancing Queen” on Netflix and someone had a shirt on that said “Losers complain, Winners train” and it weirdly stuck with me: there are plenty of folks out there succeeding whose art I don’t necessarily love, but that doesn’t help ME get any closer to my dream. I can come up with excuses as to why I’m not farther ahead career-wise, some legitimate and some whiny, but the only thing I have control over is being the best version of myself and working hard to create music that’s so good it won’t be ignored. I can say that we 10000% worked our butts off to make the best album we could. It was our intention to make it so incredible, so catchy but REAL that it’d take us where we needed to go.

At times on the record, you sound on the brink. Particularly when you sing ‘promise you’ll visit me’ on North Shore. Where does that come from?

I’m from Long Island, NY – I’m always on the brink!! I’m an emotional human and I don’t hide it at all. That song is about finding out that my parents were moving to FL and that guttural, childlike reaction that I had to it. We all knew they were planning on moving, but when they told us that they bought the house, I felt crushed. I’m so happy they’re living their lives the way they want to- My dad retired and they are both so sincerely happy down there. It’s just crazy that we feel like our parents have to serve us ALL of the time, even when we’re adults. This song is about coming to terms with my parents own autonomy and my own feelings of forever being their baby.

Do you ever sing about past relationships? How do you deal with that as a married couple?

We honor each other and our pasts, so it’s not “untouchable” territory to talk about our past relationships. The song “People Pleaser” alludes to me living with an ex-boyfriend way longer than I should’ve. We all have our own experiences or friends who’ve stayed with someone for too long out of comfort or a rent discount. I’ll honestly always love everyone I’ve been in a relationship with, so I don’t ever feel like I’m talking badly about them- I’m just being honest. “Until the Day I Die” is about another person in my life who I was *positive* I was going to end up with when that song was written, but life has a funny way of surprising you. I still love that person, too, but it’s not weird to sing that song if we’re in the mood to play it. Tom even said it in our vows 🙂 Definitely weird how that one worked out but I couldn’t be happier!

What’s it like being in a band with your marital partner? How do you ensure you have time separate from one another or is that just not a thing for you two?

We were bandmates before we were ever dating/married, so we already saw the best/worst in each other from our YEARS on the road together. That makes touring together relatively easy and if we need alone time, we just say it! I always wake up early and go out reading, walking or to the hotel gym. I know Tom needs his sleep and alone time. He’ll hang out in the van and read when I’m inside talking to folks. We just communicate constantly and honor each other’s needs. When roadies come along, I do my best to make sure they’re comfortable and happy, too! It’s a living, breathing relationship in the van and it’s super important everyone feels heard and healthy.

Finally, we can’t wait to see you over in the UK? What plans have you got for the tour? What are your expectations?

Thanks to our beautiful label Specialist Subject (and Dave Brent) we’ll be coming to the UK in July with our friends in the band Fresh! We are so excited. I expect to eat a lot of cadbury and eat lots of English food and have a great time with some wonderful folks! We hope to melt some faces and hearts along the way, but we hope for a happy, healthy and successful time for everyone involved.

Heavy Banding is out now on Community Records and Specialist Subject Records

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