Everyone is asking Naked Giants what “Sluff,” the title track of the Seattle trio’s debut album — whose video is premiering below — means. The short answer is “everything and nothing,” and it largely came out of nowhere.
“I just needed a word for the chorus of that song,” bassist Gianni Aiello tells Billboard. “I knew I wanted to shout something, but I didn’t know what. I was hanging out with my girlfriend and I said, ‘Hey, what’s a good grunge-sounding word?’ She thought for a minute and then said ‘Sluff!’ I said, ‘That’s perfect!’ It sounds like something Soundgarden might do. It’s just a nonsense word.” Sluff has taken on a life of its own since then, however.
“People started ascribing different meanings to it,” Aiello notes. “Grant (Mullen, Naked Guns’ guitarist) thought of it as when a snake sheds his skin. Steve Fisk, who produced us, said in truly grunge sense it’s the black gunk on the back of your Doc Martens in a Seattle winter, sluffing through the snow. Recently it’s become an acronym for Stop Listening U Flipper Fools — our music is not for dolphins!”
But once the Sluff album is released on March 30, Mullen, Aiello and drummer Henry LaVallee hope people are talking as much about the band as the title.
The three got together during 2014, with childhood friends Mullen and LaVallee playing music together since they were teenagers. They were a two-piece until meeting Aiello at a battle of the bands, and as a trio they fashioned the propulsive grunge/power pop blend — with a bit of kinetic indie rock and R&B thrown in — that’s heard on Sluff‘s 12 tracks. “It’s just what feels natural to us,” Mullen says. “Its birth was just a spirit of jamming with no purpose and just making songs that go from one dynamic to another. It’s felt like a natural progression; The more years we played and the more shows we played we’ve adjusted our sound to excite people. The goal was just wanting to have fun playing music, and this is how it’s ended up.”
Along the way Naked Giants became part of Car Seat Headrest’s expanded concert lineup after befriending frontman Will Toledo several years ago. “Is has been weird to know how to deal with that,” Mullen says of the duality of the two bands. “I think it’s been pretty fun, though, kind of like a big boost. We get to play way bigger shows than we would by ourselves. We open for them, too, so it’s a lot of hard work. We’re playing two and a half hours a night, but it’s worth it. It’s what we signed up for.”
Naked Giants will showcase at South By Southwest and then continue with Car Seat Headrest for shows in the U.S. and Europe. And the group is looking forward to getting its own due as Sluff finds its audience.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mullen says. “We’ve had a lot of these songs for a long time. We’ve wanted them to be released on a big platform. It took a long time to find a label. We finally did (New West) and it’s really satisfying. We’re excited to see what it does, what people think of it. I don’t know what it’s gonna do, but I think it will do something.”