Interview by Rachel LeBlanc
Distance makes the heart grow fonder — or at least your music stronger, as the Seattle duo The Last Slice of Butter have learned. Although the two thrash punks spend stretches of time apart for school (they’re now freshly separated until April as you read this), they’ve still discovered how to create head-rattling music when together.
The Last Slice of Butter – Powers Ten (MP3)
The path hasn’t always been easy for the young band, who share with me how they turned a personal tragedy into creative drive, why the police are always on their tails, and much more. These two persevering Seattlites have more than proved the basements and venues they pack are well deserved.
Me: Catalin, you’re from Romania, and Travis, you’re from Seattle? How did two guys with such different backgrounds become friends, and ultimately start a band?
Catalin: We met through our friend Tibor; we all went to the same junior high school together when I first moved here. I went to their (Tibor and Travis’s) first show for their band, Arabian Nightmare.
Travis: Tibor played guitar and I played drums, and I met Catalin at our first show. For both of us Tibor was our best friend, and after a little while Cat started playing bass for us in 2005. It was pretty much the best thing ever. Tibor passed away in January 2006. It is actually the reason we’re still playing, we even had a memorial show for him at the Paradox. I felt really motivated to keep playing for him. The first few practices after were awkward, they were really emotional, we were playing Arabian Nightmare songs, just minus the guitar. Those songs were more angular and punky, in a low-fi way. Over time, my playing has started to be heavier, more cymbals, while Cat’s guitar is becoming more powerful to cover more sound.
Me: Have you been really influenced by other two-pieces, like Hella and Lightning Bolt?
Catalin: In the beginning it was cool because I would watch the Lightning Bolt DVD and say, “Wow, they can actually keep the power going (as a two piece.)” It was cool to know they could do that, we could do it too. But instrumentally, no, I don’t think so.
Travis: When we write music, we don’t really take it in a two-piece mentality. We actually take inspiration from bands with a lot of members.
Me: I noticed on your tour “thank you’s”, you listed the law enforcement an awful lot. Did you have a bunch of run-ins with them?
Travis: The first tour we had several run-ins. We were with another band, and we’re all 17, but we had a bunch of beers we got from a show. They were in the bass drum with the other band’s car, which Catalin was driving. He also wasn’t supposed to be driving more than one person at the time. But they let him off! We played The Bus — it was a really huge bus made to be a police enforcement vehicle. This guy bought it from the police and turned it into a moving venue with a platform and speakers to play on. They just drive it around and park it places.
Catalin: One of our friend’s bands played while it was moving.
Travis: It drove to meet up at a house, basically a show driving to the show. There were people on the bus and people already at the house, it became out of control. We wanted to leave because we’d already played two sets, but seven cop cars came and blocked off the roads. It was really crazy! I tried to back out driving down the road in reverse.
Me: What is the deal with your upcoming split release with Portland’s the Black Black Black? When is it coming out?
Travis: There are two new songs. We recorded them at the Black Black Black’s studio, so we got to do it for free and they turned out really well. It was supposed to come out in October, but it’s coming out this month. Boy Gorilla Records is releasing it for us.
Catalin: We’re basically BFFLs with the Black Black Black. Every tour we’ve gone with them, or met up with them at least.
Travis: They’re experimental punk, very angular, edgy. We’re complimentary to each other, not exactly the same. This recording, I think, is their best compared to their great live shows.
Me: Travis, you seem to me to be quite the sound collector, with all the dialogue clips (used on songs and in shows.) How did you start that, and where do you look, or listen, for them?
Travis: When we first started (in Arabian Nightmare), we would have two TVs on static facing the audience, or used faced up towards us for the light. We were trying to make the shows more than just us. I got bored of the TVs, and they took up a lot of room. I thought the audio clips would fill the talk time between songs. We’re only two people, we wanted to add a third element. Rather than saying, “How’s everyone doing tonight!?” between songs, we’re not really a bar rock band. I get the clips from books on tape from the library or old movies. I look all over, at first it was hard, but I’m getting better at it.
Me: Right now you’re both leaving for school, until April. Last year you released a new album and toured. What is the plan for 2008?
Catalin: Personally, to write new songs. Maybe tour again, hopefully.
Travis: The thing is, we’re getting busier in our personal lives. We used to practice every week for four days when we started, and now even though we only practice a few times a month, we’re much more efficient, we have such a great musical chemistry now. We’ve had practices where we don’t say anything to each other, but we both start together, and create new songs. Last summer, he came back from Romania at 1 o’clock in the morning. And then the next day, we practiced and had a show that night at the S.S. Marie Antoinette with Mika Miko. Then the next day we went off on our tour! I was worried he’d forget all the songs!
You’re really entrenched in the underground Seattle music scene. Where do you see it headed?
Travis: I think it’s getting much more positive. I feel like I’ve been running into less jaded people. There are also more places to play. It’s less clique-y, people are becoming more open, friendlier.
Catalin: I think, even though the looks have changed of the scene, it’s still the same underneath. If I were to name any one band going somewhere: Seahouse.
Travis: They just play really rad pop-punk, playing without any modern paradigms, anything supposed to be “hip”.