Five Questions with Sallie Ford

The Portland singer talks about her sophomore album, out this month, and her growing desire to rock.

By John Chandler January 18, 2013


Sallie Ford & the Sound outside releases its sophomore album, Untamed Beast, on February 19 and plays two concerts to celebrate at the Wonder Ballroom on February 22 & 23. We review the album in our February issue, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask Ford a couple of questions about her swing away from swing and into rock.

Culturephile: Did you and the band set out to record an album that rocks harder than the first one (Dirty Radio)?
Sally Ford:
Totally, yeah. I’ve been wanting to have more of a rocking sound, because it’s funner to play live music like that. And also to listen to! I’ve been writing less swing stuff and more classic, straightforward rock. We don’t want to have a specific style unless it comes naturally. And that’s the style of the band. That’s how we approach all of our songs.

Is the song “Rockabilty” from the new album your definitive answer to the inevitable interview question, “What kind of music do you play?”
(Laughs) Yeah, sort of! The backstory of the song is from when we played on this television show in France. And the show was a little bit mainstream and the woman on the show didn’t know what “rockabilly” is. And everybody in France calls us rockabilly, even though it bugs the shit out of me. The woman kept saying the word “rockabilty” and I thought it was pretty funny. In general though, whenever someone asks what kind of music we play, I tell them, “Rock ’n’ roll.” Anything that’s under that umbrella. Punk rock, surf rock, garage rock … anything with “rock” in it.

It seems as though there’s a very tangible attitude of defiance happening throughout Untamed Beast. Who are you singing these songs too? What are you rebelling against?
Anger is important. That’s where I get the inspiration to write songs, I have to get angry about something. I think, being the girl that’s in the boy’s club, playing with all guys … Most of the music that I really idealize tends to be from the guy’s world.  There are a lot of girls that I think make good music, rock ’n’ roll stuff. And I’ve been trying to educate myself about the history, trying to find music from a woman’s point of view that still really rocks. But I guess I’m not singing at anyone specific. Maybe just to myself.

What are some of the things you learned between the release of the first album and the new one?
Musically … I wanted to get better at the guitar, and Jeff (Munger, guitarist for the Sound Outside) has taught me a lot about that. A lot of it has been finding the right toys that make it more fun to play the guitar. More effects … trying to find my own guitar sound … boosting the gain and making it crunch, and using reverb. I’m still figuring it all out, and Jeff is like my guide. He seems to know a lot about gear.

Lyrically, I wanted more of a conscious message. A lot of the stuff on Dirty Radio, was more like fairy tale. Stuff that was in my head that wasn’t too specific. … I was trying to make a world that wasn’t personal. On this record I have more direct ideas.

More emotional? More fire breathing?
I wanted something more fun and sassy. Some of it’s supposed to make you laugh a little bit! … I think the songs that ended up on the album all hit pretty hard—even the slow ones have some guts to 'em. … I’m really happy with the album.  

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