An Interview with Punk Rock Anomaly, Slingshot Dakota

Plus, listen to a new song "Grudge" from their yet-to-be-named full-length.

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Nov 4 2014, 5:20pm

In the East Coast punk community, Slingshot Dakota has always been an anomaly; from their earliest tours with the seminal Latterman, to their recent national tours with cornerstones of the pop punk scene Title Fight and Citizen, the two-piece band led by keyboardist/vocalist Carly Comando and drummer Tom Patterson seems to always be way outside of what anyone else would think is a “comfort zone.”

For the band, though, that’s exactly where they’ve always found themselves. And when you see Slingshot Dakota, often on a bill with three or four punk or hardcore bands, it’s an experience in contrasts to watch such powerful and moving music come out of a two-piece.

After releasing 2012’s Dark Hearts, the band toured intermittently until this summer, when Comando and Patterson decided after a year of marriage to drop everything and make Slingshot Dakota a full-time machine. The band jumped on a last minute tour with Citizen and You Blew It! earlier this month, just began their own run of dates throughout the eastern half of the US, and is hard at work on recording their follow-up to Dark Hearts. Noisey spoke with Comando about Slingshot’s future, what punk sounds like, and being on an episode of The Simpsons, and you can listen to a song from the yet-to-be-named full-length below, “Grudge.”

Noisey: What spurred the decision to quit your jobs and make Slingshot Dakota a full-time band ten years into the existence?
Carly Comando: We have been incredibly lucky to have supportive jobs and bosses that validate our band. I think because they have been so supportive, we wanted to be loyal to them and work as hard as we could when we weren't on tour. It then eventually hit us last year when we saw friend after friend going on great tours, and realized the only reason we weren't doing that was because we were prioritizing our jobs. I've also grown up with a very hard work ethic, and I've had a hard time not having a safety net kind of job. I like to know that if anything ever happens on tour, we have a financial safeguard.

After a lot of time, we've been able to save up, both with the band and our part time jobs. I think getting older and realizing that our part-time jobs weren't in alignment with our actual passion and goal was a great moment, and we decided to just go for it. Our bosses were basically like, "It’s about time!" We won't be able to travel forever, and we can always figure something out if this doesn't pan out. But Steve Harvey's morning show told me that it will be just fine.

A lot of people get to their late twenties and start winding down on touring, so it’s pretty unique that you guys are going all in now so long after Slingshot Dakota first started. How long do you see the band being able to put out records and tour at a consistent level?
We are definitely starting the full-time route a bit late in the game, but it's only because we wanted to make sure we had a safeguard. I also think everything happens for a reason, and I think we needed to work our other jobs and realize with certainty that we'd rather be on the road doing what we love. We hope to do this as long as our bodies allow us, and as long as people are into it.

You’re one of the rare bands in the DIY community currently active that has even lasted this long. How has it changed for you since you started writing these songs when you were in your early twenties?
The DIY community is a special and huge part of our lives. It is cyclical, and has huge ups and downs. For a few years, our town will be thriving with kids getting crazy involved in booking/going to shows, and then a few years later, there will be a lull. I grew up in Long Island and I remember when our DIY scene was so strong. Then, it changed. People moved. I know there's still stuff happening there, but I'm far removed now. I'm sure the same can be said for the Lehigh Valley. You have a strong scene, people get super involved, and then they move or need a break from all of the hard work that goes into it. It's still there in many cities, it just depends what cycle it's in. It depends who wants to take over and motivate/inspire people to create a DIY space and community. We love playing these shows and hope to continue to play them, even if we branch out to other kinds of venues. They are our home no matter what.

You've done some bigger US tours in the past couple of years, with Title Fight, Citizen, and others—how do you think the explicit decision to make Slingshot the main thing in your lives is going to change your approach to touring and writing and recording music?
Our tours with Title Fight and Citizen were amazing opportunities, and we are forever grateful to everyone who helped us be a part of that. Not only are those bands amazing musicians but they are wonderful people.

I think the fact that Tom and I have more time to be creative and put 100 percent care into what we're doing without having to worry about a work schedule will yield a stronger record. Their Dreams are Dead was written with a sense of urgency, and Dark Hearts was written with a lot of time between records and dealt with a lot of sadness in our lives. It is musically a wonderful record but it was also written over a long period of time. I think the new record is going to be creatively powerful and cohesive.

You're calling your current tour the “Wedding Anniversary” tour, because you both got married last year—how does being in a band with your spouse differ from being in one with your partner?
In a nutshell, for me personally, being married has made my confidence soar even more. Being in a band with my best friend and partner—we were friends and bandmates before we ever dated—was already amazing, but being married makes us an even bigger force to reckon with. Also as a two-piece married couple, we are an asset to tour with because we're easy, awesome, nice, and responsible, and we can drop anything at home instantly without having to ask any other band members if they can hop on a last-minute tour.

From my vantage point, I've always seen you as a band that has a smaller fanbase than some of the bigger acts in the scene, but when someone loves Slingshot Dakota, they LOVE Slingshot Dakota. Is there a certain aspect to your music that you think resonates so strongly with your fans?
I am appreciative of anyone who supports what we do and I am incredibly thankful. I think Tom and I write songs that are about musicianship and not trends. We put a lot of genuine love and care in what we do, and will also explain our songs if we feel like it's important. We love talking to people, we don't mind getting called out, and we just sincerely love being in a band. I think that resonates with people.

The direction of this new song, "Grudge,” seems to lean a little bit more into the jazz and pop realm than anything you've ever written before, and seeing as how you're both stupidly talented musicians—do you feel more comfortable in that territory than your previous material?
As for the new song, and the new album, we are finally coming into our own. We finally realized that we are a band that has come from punk and hardcore and is strongly influenced by DIY ethics. However, our band is NOT punk. We don't play punk songs. I have no idea what we are. I guess pop rock. I think we're finally realizing our identity and accepting it, instead of trying to fit in a scene that we are entrenched in, but don't actually musically play. I think having this realization will be heard in the new songs. We are more confident than ever, a strong unit of people with a strong sense of direction, and I can't wait to see what happens.

I think you're a punk band more because of the scene that you've always associated yourself with and the fact that your music is so raw and emotional. Do you hope that the new sense of direction will put you in front of more people outside of the traditional punk scene, or do you hope to be a kind of anomaly within the same community you've always been a part of?
I think as a band we have the ability to reach a lot of people, punk or not. For me, I define punk as being yourself and not committing to societal standards. Punk to me is a safe place where you can share your ideas, political or personal. It's not necessarily just a style of music, clearly as in our case. Or maybe we're "punk" because we refuse to play traditional punk music in a punk scene. Tom and I are punk at heart forever, no matter where we play. I would love to play to anyone who is interested in hearing our music, no matter what genre they normally "like" or are entrenched in.

It's always fun to play for people who have NO idea of a basement show and think that's awesome—or crazy. There are so many folks we play to that aren't used to hearing a band explain their songs, or take a moment to be grateful for a tour, because they didn't grow up in the DIY communities we did. I think it's so exciting to play to those people and expose them to what we know.

This upcoming record will be the third since Tom joined back in 2006. Do you think the new approach to Slingshot will result in songs being written and records coming out more frequently than they have in the past?
We will definitely be putting our material at a faster rate now that this is our full time deal.

A couple of months back, you put some guitar-based stuff you've been writing on the internet—is there going to be guitar on the new record?
There may or may not be more guitar on the new record. I want to put some on there but I don't want people to like it so much that they miss is when it's not performed live. Also, I love playing guitar but our set up is already a lot for two people, so bringing another instrument sometimes seems too much. I'm also terrible at tuning a guitar.

One thing I have to ask: how did a song of yours get into an episode of The Simpsons?
Ian Maxtone Graham wrote the Slingshot hotmail account. I wrote him back, not knowing who/what he wanted, he called me and said that the entire writing staff of The Simpsons loved "Everyday" and listened to it while they wrote. They wanted it for an episode where they spoof the viral YouTube video it was originally used in and I obviously said yes. I later found out Ricky Gervais was a huge factor in wanting my original song used as well, and that episode of The Simpsons won an Emmy award. I have an Emmy, and it's crazy. Life is amazing. That experience of having your music on The Simpsons is amazing and that feeling of awe never goes away. Tom likes to tell everyone, but I don't bring it up unless someone asks.

Did you win Mr. and Mrs. Oktoberfest of Bethlehem?
I won Ms. Oktoberfest alongside the sweetest older gentleman named Gus, who won Mr. Oktoberfest. The next day was his birthday. He swore that drinking one beer a day is the answer to a healthy, long life. Gotta love him!

You can check out the band’s remaining tour dates here.

Paul Blest is on Twitter - @pblest