SLUGS’ Marissa Longstreet Tells the Story Behind “Super Sane”

When SLUGS’ vocalist / guitarist Marissa Longstreet sings “It’s been a weird year” at the top of the Los Angeles indie rock quartet’s latest single, “Super Sane,” she’s not referring to 2020.

Longstreet actually wrote the song—featured below with an accompanying video—a few years ago after having something between an emotional breakthrough and an emotional breakdown in a yoga class.

“A friend of ours had passed away in an accident and another friend had just had a baby,” Longstreet tells American Songwriter over email. “After a memory of my friend came up during a yoga class, I started crying in the middle of practice and did my best to contain it. I reflected on how I was doing all of this daily work to ameliorate my chaotic mind, when maybe I should surrender to the hurt and ‘go crazy’ to give myself the chance of finding some peace.”

Longstreet recounts this episode in the song’s opening verse: “It’s been a weird year / one was born and one died,” the Rochester, New York native chirps over fluttering guitar. “I got reasons to be happy / and I got reasons to cry / I was in a downward dog / it always catches me off guard / I start sobbing at the thought of you / a little memory, a single shard.” The track opens up a little bit in the chorus, then opens up again following a glowing instrumental interlude. Longstreet’s vocal performance carries the song—her voice swells from an almost inaudible croak to a full-throated bellow, calling to mind the vocal gymnastics of And the Kids’ Hannah Mohan.

SLUGS—currently rounded out by bassist / vocalist Sarsten Noice, lead guitarist Josh Beavers, and drummer Dash Hutton—recorded “Super Sane” with their pal Kenny Becker of Goon. “We made plans to hang out at his place and make a demo and I brought this song,” recalls Longstreet. “We recorded the instrumentation to tape in a higher key at twice the speed and then slowed everything down for that warm wash before adding vocals on top. We completed it as an intended demo that afternoon, and all felt we had captured the sentiment of the song in that take and committed it as the version we released.”

For Longstreet, “Super Sane” is about giving oneself space to feel—and, ultimately, to heal. “The song is about the ways we experience our pain and bliss and what happens when they coincide,” she says. “When you let it all surface it can create this sort of ecstatic dance within ourselves. All rules can be abandoned and you can cry or smile in the moments that aren’t expected. I hope people can take away that in any emotional conflict, the dance of insanity is the full expression of healing.”

Longstreet says she writes her best when “I’m in my head on a hike, a long drive, or in the mornings, but oftentimes it’s not that romantic.” Her process is usually spontaneous: “Songs have appeared during tantrums from kids I was babysitting,” she says, “or [while] waiting for the last train out of the city after too long of a night. Songwriting is generally never planned and usually spurs in the mundane. I’ve written a lot of songs while at work at an espresso machine.”

In a way, SLUGS only exists because of those hours spent behind the espresso machine. “I started playing guitar and writing songs in my room when I was sick and isolated in my room for a few weeks,” says Longstreet of the band’s origin story. “I made demos on GarageBand and when I returned to work at a coffee shop, I shared some of my demos with my co worker, Sarsten Noice who had just started renting a practice space in Hollywood by our shop.”

“After our shift,” Longstreet continues, “we would play these songs together and jam until I would catch the last train home around midnight back to the valley. Soon my brother, James Longstreet started joining us on drums. Then we met Josh Beavers at a backyard house show who eventually became our guitarist. We were a four-pack of friends and family who enjoyed our time most when we were making music and being rambunctious together.”

Longstreet’s inspirations are decidedly analogue. “Mixtapes from friends are nourishing,” she says. “A collection of songs made to tape, curated with my tastes in mind and not selected by me is hugely inspiring and helpful to my imagination. Conversely, making tapes for friends.” She also draws inspiration from nature and books: “Time spent with nature is a great time for reflection that can serve me moments of creative impulse,” she explains. “Also, my past selves and experiences along with books provide material to revisit with a new perspective. You can write a song about one experience, change your character and write it again and again. I return to old memories or books often just to inspect what I can conclude differently.”

“Super Sane” is SLUGS’ second single of 2020 following “Dum Luk.” Both tracks come after the band’s 2018 Cool World EP and a previous collection of demos, 2017’s Bedroom Attempts

Longstreet stops short of confirming a forthcoming EP or full-length album, but when asked what she’s looking forward to in 2021, she replies, “Coming out of the hiding I’ve been in since our last release in 2018. Sharing the music I’ve been making with friends, making more art with friends, and planting more seeds to watch what grows.”

“Super Sane” is out now.

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