By Maisie Sheidlower
Noah Hellman is a man of few words, and many demands. He agreed to partake in the following interview on the grounds that it could happen on his bed, and that I bring a “huge” bag of chips, a bag of fruit snacks, and a large soda. Reclining on his flannel bedspread, Hellman — already Cheez-Its dusted — began describing Slampson, the four-man band for which he is a keyboardist. It is, I learned, a “screwaround group where nothing really matters.” The ensemble, which includes Owen Frankel (bass and vocals), Noah Sherman (drums), and Benjamin Byrd (guitar), will perform at Miles Gilbert’s house on March 14th, where Hellman informs us that they will “probably open around 10pm.” He’s not sure about the address.
Reminiscent of the grunge musicians who preceded them, Slampson has adopted a contradictory attitude toward their music that is simultaneously apathetic and somewhat aggressive. Speaking to the vibe Slampson wishes to foster in the concert, Hellman says, “Like, fuck you, we wanna play music,” and when questioned about rituals the band might have in rehearsals, he reveals, “We give zero shits.” Elaborating on what a typical rehearsal looks like, the keyboardist first muses, “I don’t know…” before concluding that the group can be found “Just fucking around for a while.”
I’m curious about whether the degree of ‘shits they give’ varies from song to song, and inquire about Slampson’s songwriting process. I learn that “Dancing with the Drummer” was the hardest to write, and is also the song with the line that most often gets stuck in Noah’s head. That line is: “duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh.” This is the song he is the most excited about performing, though concertgoers can look forward to an eclectic evening, as the setlist “Is just every song we’ve ever written. Probably over 30.” He tells me a seasoned listener would be able to notice the influence of The Beatles in Slampson’s music, but people might be more surprised to notice the influence of The Beach Boys.
Slampson has decided not to publicize the performance (though they’re considering posting in Oberlin Party Info, an event-focused Facebook Group), meaning that it’s likely the house show will be mostly populated by guests already familiar with the group’s music. Slampson nonetheless welcomes novice listeners, and would describe their style to someone who isn’t familiar with their group as, “Fried. Incredibly stupidly fried.” Hellman adds that the one thing someone needs to know going into the concert is, “You can’t take our music too seriously.”
When I’m invited to preview one of Slampson’s newest songs, I hear a track that opens with a drum beat. A melody picks up, and Owen Frankel’s familiar, classically indy voice comes crooning in, reassuring me that he “understands if [I] don’t like [him].” An almost galactic sound effect swirls beneath his vocal track as it becomes layered, soothing me about how often he lies in bed thinking about me. At the end of the song, Hellman offers a brief Commencement address: “Yeah, that was it, word.” It seems like it’s time to talk about emotions.
What does Noah Hellman want people to feel when listening to his music? Pause. He needs this to be rephrased. What three emotions might someone listening to Slampson feel? Hellman hesitantly offers, “Happy…excited…” before concluding, “That’s all I can pick. You decide the last one.” I offer to pull up a list of emotions on my laptop. He accepts. No longer aimlessly groping to label the emotions of his fanbase, which is approaching 50 monthly listeners on Spotify, Hellman enthusiastically skims the list, and confidently reels off, “Confusion, anxiety, and nostalgia.”
Describing a concert in which everything went absolutely perfectly, Hellman simply offers, “There’s gonna be a projector facing the band.” When asked to envision a concert in which everything goes horribly wrong, he said, traumatizingly: “There would be no projector.” Fueled by more Cheez-Its and some light gossiping, the 6’4” New York native provides more information about this projector — it’s an In-Focus X2. The concert will be completely dark — the only source of light coming from the In-Focus. It will be showing stock footage of random, strange images, mostly things Hellman found while looking up “trippy videos” online.
I ask him to speak to some of the musical strengths of his bandmates. He says Owen (bass) is good with bass, Noah (drums) is good with drums, and Benjamin (guitar) is good with guitar. However, Hellman did take breaks from his more literal interpretations to my questions, revealing, at times, his wacky side. Toward the end of our interview, Hellman said he wants the concert “to be so loud that you’re covering your ears” before chuckling and adding, “No, I’m kidding.”
So, to round everything up in chronological order: Hellman doesn’t know the address of the concert, he is “incredibly stupidly fried” (yes), his favorite line in his favorite song exclusively contains the word “duh,” he only knows two emotions off the top of his head, and he is not the best at offering flattery. But there’s something I haven’t mentioned. It’s BYOB, and they will be selling [redacted] for $5 a [redacted]. So, I will see you there.