With the release of their debut LP, Rot Forever, Sioux Falls is quickly becoming a household name in Portland and beyond for fans of tumultuous indie rock. And rightfully so. Rot Forever was years in the making, dating back before guitarist/vocalist Isaac Eiger and bassist Fred Nixon had even moved to Portland from their hometown of Bozeman, Montana in 2011. Over that time they’ve been fine-tuning their own genuine sound with the release of a handful of EPs, and have helped cultivate a strong scene of like-minded DIY indie punk artists in the Portland community, including the likes of Little Star, Snow Roller and Blowout.
Rot Forever is an expansive piece of work with 16 tracks, a 73 minute runtime, and a depth to the songwriting that is uncommon in traditional punk-influenced music. The album is both emotionally expressive yet sonically restrained. Underneath the brashness of Eiger’s vocals and cacophony of instrumentation, there is a sense of sweetness and a nod to indie nostalgia inherent in the melodies. It’s as if Sioux Falls took everything we liked about early Modest Mouse, and reimagined it through a more relevant lense of millennial-era angsts.
We had the chance to sit down with the inspired young men of Sioux Falls where we chatted about the evolving dynamics of the band over the past six years, themes of loneliness in lyrics and how that translates for the rest of the band, the conditional experience of fans listening to Rot Forever for the first time versus seeing the band live, and of course, plans for the future.
Noise & Color: Isaac and Fred, you two have been playing together since around 2010, how has the collaborative and creative process evolved since then, including the addition of Ben into the mix?
Isaac Eiger: I don’t think the degree of collaboration has changed. I think it’s always been that often times I have an idea for something, or chords or melodies, and I bring it into the band and we all flesh it out together.
Fred Nixon: We may have had past drummers that were less influential in the way that the final thing turned out. But generally it starts out with Isaac writing a full song in varying degrees, like maybe it’s a full song or maybe it’s a riff and we jam on it and it sort of takes shape.
N&C: Lyrically, it seems that there’s a recurring theme of loneliness on Rot Forever, can you explain where you were coming from?
IE: I think that when I’m writing, I think I’m trying to get at the core of my experiences by myself and with other people. I think that loneliness, at least while I was writing the album, was one of the most pervasive feelings in my life. I don’t know, loneliness is interesting because it’s not totally dependent on being physically alone. You can feel tremendously alone around all your best friends. That was interesting to me and something I thought about a lot.
N&C: How is it for you, Fred and Ben, to interpret lyrics like that and translate those feelings sonically? Or are you more focused on the dynamics of instrumentation than lyrical content?
IE: Generally I feel like you guys don’t know the lyrics.
Ben Scott: There have been times where I get a song stuck in my head and we’ll listen to a demo or whatever and I’ll ask Isaac what the lyrics mean, but that doesn’t necessarily influence the way I feel like the song should sound.
FN: Half the time I don’t know the lyrics until I have a bass part written or half the times Isaac brings in a song and has the first verse written and then he’ll write the rest of the lyrics after we’ve fleshed out the song musically.
IE: I think the lyrics are a thing that people only know, or have become cognizant of, in like the last three weeks since the album came out. Before that I’m just screaming them in basements and stuff. It’s not a huge part of the [live] experience of our music. Personally it’s everything to me. But in terms of other people, now it’s awesome that they can think about them too.
FN: People here in Portland who have seen us live a bunch and know all the songs on this record from hearing us play them live a million times, most of the time in basements or with shitty PAs, where you can’t even hear the vocals, let alone understand the lyrics. Those people know the songs and never knew the lyrics, I’m sure. Whereas now we have a broader reach I guess. There are people who are hearing Sioux Falls for the first time on a record where they can hear the lyrics. It’s funny that people have a conditional experience in that way.
N&C: Knowing that you have two separate audiences in that way then – people who have only heard your record, and people that have seen you live – in each instance, what do you hope people walk away from your music with?
IE: I hope there’s a semblance of consistency from the live show to the record. I think that live we get a little psyched or whatever, but the goal of the record is to try to capture that. That was the intent at least.
BS: I don’t know how congruent this is with the other members of the band, but we put a lot into our live show and I just hope people are able to let something go and feel it with us, without sounding too corny.
N&C: The album took several years to come to fruition, are you currently working on anything new, or what are the plans moving forward?
IE: I have a lot of stuff.
FN: Isaac has like a million demos that we haven’t really started working on yet.
IE: After this tour, I think we’ll start. We want to put more shit out as soon as possible.
N&C: Will future recordings be in the same vein or is there anything different you hope to try?
IE: No, no it’s going to be totally different. I want it to feel more intimate and textured and atmospheric.
For folks not in Portland, catch Sioux Falls in Austin this week for SXSW, or in Boise next week for Treefort Music Fest, or look out for them coming through a town near you during their upcoming tour. For everyone else, enjoy Rot Forever below.