Couch Slut, noise rock band from New York, released one of my favourite albums of 2020. Take A Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll is an absolute assault on the senses, blasting through its half-hour runtime without even letting up in the gaps between songs. I was lucky enough to get to chat with guitarist, writer and badass Amy to ask some burning questions…
“I had some friends in the metal scene here already when I moved to New York in 2013. I met my friend Theo through some mutual friends and he suggested we start a noise rock band which would be Oxbow-influenced, and we just started jamming in his basement.” Singer/screamer Megan was the final piece of the puzzle and the band began to write songs. After a few shows, it was clear that they had something special, and they headed in the practice space to record. Their first record, 2014’s My Life as a Woman, bares a woman giving a semen-dripping penis a blowjob on the cover. The music inside the record is similarly provocative, filled with loathing and agony and abuse.
“We write pretty much as a collaboration,” says Amy. “Even when one person will bring in the main idea, we’ll all fill it out together.” Moving on from My Life…, they released Contempt in 2017, followed by last year’s Take a Chance… “It’s definitely our poppiest record!” laughs Amy. One thing which continually struck me was how Couch Slut’s lyrical content will be reliably uncompromising.
“Our lyrics will be written by Megan, about 90% of the time. It’ll all be from her personal experiences. Theo has a writing background, so he will sometimes work with Megan and make them sound a little more poetic or help with the phrasing of the lines. But it’ll mostly be Megan in terms of the content. She’s not the type to hold back her feelings!”
As well as the dirty guitar tones, the gravelly rasps of Megan’s fury, the album contained elements of dark jazz, and spoken word. I felt that this really elevated the sound of the record to something truly compelling. “I started out playing classical trumpet while I was growing up and then became influenced by Naked City. I heard that and I just saw the fusing of jazz and noise in such a cool way. I also love traditional jazz, and we all have a variety of backgrounds in terms of what we like and listen to as well, so it made sense to bring it in. 1940s and 1950s jazz was super punk as well! The scenes were similar, the energy was similar – staying out all night, doing hard drugs, partying… Just with jazz music instead of punk and hardcore, yknow? It’s kind of funny how similar they are even though they sound very different!”
And then there’s that feedback between songs, and that spoken word section… “That’s just a story that happened to Megan. It’s all true, I’ve seen photos! Theo had the idea of it being a spoken word part, I wasn’t sure at first but then obviously it ended up sounding really cool. There tends to be some feedback in between tracks on all our releases. The order is really important for us as well, we like to make it make sense, as if it’s a story.”
If you read a feature about Couch Slut, chances are it will mention the city of New York at some point. It’s utterly imbued into the band’s sound, intentionally or not. There’s something about the gritty nature of the city which absolutely makes its way into this music. “I don’t think it was intentional but we’re all from here and live here so it’s all just built into our energies at this point I think. There’s a tradition of amazing sounding bands from New York, musicians who are pushing boundaries and doing new things so we come from that background and are influenced by those bands.”
Writing music as such an abrasive and cathartic act such as Couch Slut, the anger and trauma of the lived experience as a woman (in Amy’s case, a trans woman) is able to be injected wholly into the art created by the band. “I’m able to play something really loud and harsh and gross and evil-sounding. If I didn’t have that outlet, I don’t know how else it would come out. I’d be curious to see how it would come out in other art if I hadn’t ever started playing heavy music. And I also think that taking space up as a woman and as a queer person in that scene is really important. There are so many macho dude-men, and a lot of them are very sweet, but a lot of them are not… I also wish there was more trans representation in the scene – there are like two trans singers that I’ve read about but that’s it.”
And finally, if Amy could pick one act to headline Download, it would be FAE TOOTH. “They’re some women playing like 90s-influenced noisy doom metal. I checked out their record and I really liked it!”
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Amy! While we wait for live shows to come back, check out Couch Slut below, and turn it up!