Don't Call Singer Sallie Ford 'The Rockabilly Queen'
Whatever you do, don't call Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside “rockabilly.” Yes, Ford's voice harkens back to mid-century blues songstresses, and there's a good old-fashioned simplicity to the Sound Outside's tunes, but this Portland band is anything but nostalgic. Ford's lyrics give a modern rawness to bluesy mood pieces, love songs, and raucous ballads about women's struggle to be taken seriously in a man's business. “They're telling me I'm like the rockabilly queen...I just want rockability,” Ford rasps on a track from their new album, “Untamed Beast.” We expect them to deliver their inarguable rockability to Los Angeles when they play the Troubadour on April 8.
“I think in general I've just been getting more comfortable with the way I write songs,” Ford says, speaking from Denver before a busy week of South by Southwest Shows, discussing the in-your-face aggression of “Untamed Beast.” It's an album that feels exciting and brand new next to the tired retro-pop that continues to crowd the musical landscape. “'Dirty Radio' [the band's debut full-length release] is a lot of stuff that I didn't think too much about...This record is more from my point of view and the point of view of my peers, living in this era, this time.”
That's not to say Ford didn't look backward while finding eclectic inspiration for the album. “I sort of re-fell in love with music,” she says. “I was listening to a lot of surf music like the Ventures...and then, like, the Cramps and P.J. Harvey.” It makes sense—on “Untamed Beast,” you can hear echoes of both riot-grrrl punk and '60s R&B. It's an unexpected but sublime combination. Ford has the same distaste for genre boundaries that she has for prescribed gender roles (just try not to cheer for her when she singlehandedly destroys a biker gang in a bar fight in her video for “Party Kids,” below). “When bands get so specific in their genre, it just means they can't relate to other bands.”
The band is currently touring alongside the equally-talented Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, and both bands are guaranteed to put on an electrifying show at the Troubadour. Is Sallie Ford looking forward to it as much as we are?
“I do like In-N-Out Burger,” she admits.