If you like heavy, noisy rock music and and aren’t hip to Slices, don’t be surprised
if your dedication to the art form is called into question. This Pittsburgh band pretty
much embodies what I want out of modern amplified guitar music: brutality, noise, tension,
strong vocals, memorable riffs, thoughtfulness and wit, one of the few who can check off
all of those boxes. They really came into their own on Cruising, their debut Iron
Lung Records full-length, teasing uncomfortable ambient interludes into forceful noise-rock
anthems, all with the smart sensibility of punk kids familiar with basements and the
things that happen in them. As of now, their new single Modern Bride was just
released care of Kemado Records, and their second album will be arriving shortly from
Iron Lung, two greasy Slices I can’t wait to dig my teeth into. Vocalist Greg Mantooth
tells me about his group’s pizza preferences, among other pertinent topics, below.

How would you describe Pittsburgh to someone who’s never been?
It’s less a city than it is a loosely connected blob of neighborhoods. I was really
disoriented when I first moved here, it took me a couple of years to really get a handle
on how this place is laid out. There’s a certain level of romanticism that people have
about this city that I think is kind of inaccurate. Like it’s some sort of enchanted
forest of rust and bridges growing in the aftermath of American industrialism, populated
by aging blue collar gnomes and intrepid young people. I don’t really buy into that.
We’re kind of dominated by the health care and university industry, so you see the signs
of that everywhere, even (and sometimes especially) in the most economically depressed
communities.

I feel like for as big of a city as Pittsburgh is, the rest of the world doesn’t
seem as interested in the bands coming out of there than say, Baltimore or Columbus
or some other similarly-sized city. Do you get that same feeling, like it’s harder to
“break out” if you’re a Pittsburgh band?

I think that’s probably the case, but I think that’s mostly because there isn’t the kind
of infrastructure to support bands really trying to “break out” like there are in other
major cities. I don’t think it has much to do with a lack of interest, but more of a lack
of awareness. I think Pittsburgh is pretty firmly established as having a solid track record
for bands on the DIY punk/hardcore side of the spectrum, and I don’t think there’s
insufficient recognition for that. I also think it has a lot of do with pure volume of
bands “trying to make it.” There is certainly far less music being produced here that appeals
to tastemakers. I’ve never heard Black Moth Super Rainbow, but apparently they get some
notice? Then you’ve got stuff like Anti-Flag, Wiz Khalifa, or Girl Talk. But in places like
Baltimore, Philly, or wherever, you’ve got so many more groups trying to get noticed. So I
think if you adjust for size, scale, and scope, Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily ignored, but just
a smaller pool.

So is the name Slices a pizza reference? There seems to be a few punk bands openly
into pizza these days, but that’s really not the vibe I get from Slices at all.

I’m fairly certain that the members of Hair Police came up with the name Slices while
intoxicated. Mike and John were just playing around town billed as the Kasunic Brothers by
promoters. I guess they played with Hair Police at some point and those folks just came up
with the name while they were all standing around bullshitting about ring modulators or
whatever.
There are often pretty intense debates about our favorite pizza around town though. Ovens
(drummer) and I are pretty die hard Mineo’s loyalists, while Mike is more of an Aiello’s
guy (fuck Aiello’s). John doesn’t care for Mineo’s, but will eat it if offered. He’s a
chill guy and doesn’t let his emotions get the best of him.

It’s my understanding there are two brothers in Slices. What’s it like being in a
band with blood relatives? I’ve always admired family members willing to play music
with each other.

I have also admired people who have been able to get along and play music together. Mike
(bass) and John (guitar) actually work on a lot musical stuff together and I find it
amazing they’re able to make it work. I sometimes think about trying to make music with
either of my brothers and it gives me a panic attack.
What I guess is surprising about the band dynamic is that it’s not much different than
any other band I’ve been in without blood relatives. In fact, it might be easier. The
first time they got into kind of a “brother fight,” Ovens and I were kind of freaked out.
It was really intense and came out of nowhere, but stopped just as quickly, and later
they hung out and watched some YouTubes like nothing had happened at all.

As someone who is not a teenager or in your early twenties, what compels you to
play loud, abrasive, heavy music? How long have you been doing it?

I’ve been listening to loud, abrasive, heavy music since I was a teenager. I had been
peripherally into punk and hardcore, but when I first heard stuff like Spazz and Dropdead,
I think it broke my brain a little bit. I became really obsessed with anything fast,
blown out, etc., etc. So there’s still a lot of that interest that lingers, even when I
get excited about finding some early Bob Seger LPs for cheap.
Beyond that, it’s always just been really fun and it’s hard for me to imagine I’d be able
to have this much fun in any other kind of band. Not to say the the music Slices plays is
inherently more fun than anything else, but I’ve always been in bands with my friends,
and my friends are typically people who have a certain level of humility and light-heartedness
about playing music. So the two tastes are kind of mutually inclusive I guess.
Before Slices I sang in Warzone Womyn, and before that, I sang in a metal band called Corpse
Grenade. Ovens has been in each band and I’m still friends with everyone else who was
involved with those projects. Well, except for one dude because he went on a vision quest
and I don’t really see him much anymore.

What makes it so much fun for you? What do you get out of playing a Slices show
that you couldn’t get from playing like, ambient drone or pop-punk?

I would actually love to be in a pop-punk band, but I don’t think I have the chops. Maybe
if it was more like Grimple I could pull it off. But to answer your question, obviously I
like the music we play, so there’s that as the baseline. Beyond that, I think most of the
enjoyment comes from essentially hanging out with friends doing something we all enjoy. As
sappy as it kind of sounds, it creates a pretty positive environment, be it at a show,
in the van, at practice, etc., etc. So yeah, I do think I could have just as much fun
playing pop-punk or ambient drone, it’s just that I’ve never been in a band that sounds
like Grimple or Earth.







How would you describe your new material, like the new Modern Bride single? Is there
some sort of progression from Cruising?

When we played a show the other night, a friend mentioned afterwards that it sounded like
we’ve been listening to a lot of New Bomb Turks. This didn’t really make any sense to me
at the time, considering that I don’t think half of the band listens to NBT at all, but I
think I can see where he’s coming from. A lot of the songs on the single and the forthcoming
LP are definitely not as “dark” as the stuff on Cruising. I dare say there’s even
a little melody in some of it.
We recorded and are currently still mixing with the same guy who did Cruising and the
previous EPs. I think it was a little difficult for him, from a mixing standpoint, when he
started sitting down with the songs because they’re definitely…brighter? I’m not sure what
that implies, but he kept pulling out Cruising and playing it in comparison to the
stuff we had just recorded. He kept apologizing to us for “ruining” the record. As kind of
an awkward group of guys, we were just like, “Uh, no you didn’t. Not at all.” We’re incredibly
lucky to have someone like him in town.

Was there any change in mindset to make “brighter” music this time around? Or was
it just more like a coincidence that your first album is pretty dark, and the newer
stuff less-so?

It was definitely more of a coincidence. I think it happened more because John would come
to practice and was like, “I got this cool riff.” On Cruising, a lot of the songs
were born of us screwing around at practice until something started coming together. They’re
more in line with a song like “Medusa” than with “Red Raft”.

Is there anything in particular that you want a listener to get out of a Slices record,
beyond just being impressed by some solid tunes? Like, is there any particular feeling or
thoughts you’d hope to invoke out of a listener?

I think everyone in the band just generally hopes that people like the records and get
more than just a few listens to it before shelving it away. I know earlier on, and throughout
the band, we’ve all generally agreed that we wouldn’t try to push some image that we’re these
depraved or deranged individuals. Not that there’s anything wrong with trying to create
that image for a band, but we felt it would be disingenuous. It would probably come off as
half-assed if we tried, since I think we’re all pretty well-adjusted, nice guys.

Well, what is the title Cruising all about? That seems to have some sort
of depraved connotations, at least to the many straight white males who enjoy hardcore
punk, through the movie of the same name, or you know, the act of cruising.

The original title was actually “Rock Music,” but I think the title came about because
of a discussion we had about what the cover would look like, which had to involve us and a
car somehow. John and Mike came up with the title later on, but I don’t think it had
anything to do with the movie at all. “You know, like driving around real fast on a nice
day on an empty road.” I don’t really know that feeling because I don’t know how to drive.
Furthermore, I’ll admit that I had no idea that it was a movie until after it was all said
and done. In their minds, it’s probably more of a tribute to the Nurse with Wound song
“Cruising for a Bruising.”

Why do you think people care that noisy, heavy rock bands have to be filled with
miserable, awful people, as if that somehow authenticates it? Do you think anyone has
ever been disappointed that you guys don’t all live in the same garage and put out your
cigarette butts on each other, and are instead reasonable, friendly people?

I think those people need to feel like they’re involved in some scene that’s dangerous
and seen as deplorable by mainstream society because they live an otherwise pretty normal
and stress free life. The people who are really strung-out on drugs and self-mutilation
want nothing more than not to be in that situation. In a way, I think of people who want
all of their music to be played by these types of characters romanticize it to the point
that it verges on the edge of Cosplay.
And yeah, I do think some people have been disappointed that we’re not these nihilistic,
gas-huffing freaks. But that’s fine, because there are plenty of people like that in the
world so I don’t feel like I’m really depriving anyone of this. There are people like this
who live in my neighborhood. Maybe I can convince them to start a band.

I think I remember hearing about Slices giving a talk at a public library on how
\to be in a band, or something like that… can you explain?

My friend does a lot of programming at a public library, and she does a series called
“So you want to be a _____?” This time she was having trouble finding people who wanted
to be involved with “So You Want to Be A Rockstar?”, so I volunteered.
Their programs are geared towards teens and pre-teens. I was supposed to come in, talk
about being in a band, putting out records, touring, playing shows. I think being in a
band orbiting the punk omniverse coddles you a bit; all of these things are generally
unconditionally valued, and you get congratulated or thanked pretty frequently. So if you
ever want to be knocked down a peg or two, try to tell this to kids.
First, they don’t give a shit. You’re just some weird old person who they haven’t seen
on TV. Second, they will be very confused that your bands don’t have CDs and that they
cannot buy them at Borders. Yes, specifically Borders. Lastly, the fact that you don’t make
any money playing in your dumb band will in fact make them rather disgusted.
“So…you don’t have any money being in this band?”
“Uh…no…we kind of do it mostly for fun.”
“That’s not very smart.”