Learn as You Go With Slutty HeartsPosted by Ashleen Aguilar
Most bands are learn-as-you-go bands. Learn to play better. Learn to be a solid performer. Learn to simply be a good bandmate. But how many bands start with members who don’t know how to play their instruments at all?
At least one.
Before Slutty Hearts, Marty Smith was drumming in another Portland band, but he wanted a project in which he could play guitar instead. He met Marisa Laurelle while working at a pizza joint, and Smith slowly taught Laurelle how to play drums. They started jamming together, writing super lo-fi, minimalist cabaret tunes.
“We started off basically just guitar and a snare,” Smith explains. “Then a snare and a tom, snare and a cymbal.
Slutty Hearts’ super mellow sound has been around since the beginning, probably to compromise their material with Laurelle’s then-limited kit skills. The early performances had Smith playing guitar and kick drum while Laurelle sang and tapped a tambourine or pinged out a couple of measures of keyboards or xylophone. Eventually, she started performing with a couple of standing drums, too.
But the pieced-out drums were limiting and awkward. Their funky charm wasn’t cutting it anymore. So finally they put the full kit squarely between Laurelle’s legs and recruited one of Smith’s roommates, Cathleen Arnerich, to take over the keyboard.
“Marty called me, and he was like you’re gonna be in the Slutty Hearts,” Arnerich says, “and I said I don’t play any instruments, and he said that’s okay.”
“You can get somebody who is a super good player, and then they get bored and take off. You have to get somebody who is your friend so if they quit, you can hate them forever!” Smith jokes.
Arnerich’s addition to the band gave Smith and Laurelle more room to play around with their own instruments. They added more distortion and effects. Their performances became more dynamic and they found their stride.
Nowadays, performing off of their debut cassette We Learned It By Watching You, Slutty Hearts profligate their collective and chronic Peter Pan Syndrome. They like to make social observations about the crazy spectrum of people running around Portland (“Ballad of the Food Stamp Office”), and they sing the blues with heavy, hung-over heads (“Goddamn Sun”).
So just because you don’t know how to play an instrument doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, right Marty?
“Neither do we,” says Smith. “Come pretend with us. It’ll be fun.”
See Slutty Hearts with Delaney and Paris, Old Wars and Little Volcano at GIRLS ROCK NIGHT Friday, Sept. 21, 9 p.m., at Katie O’Briens. $4 cover