On first glance, Sallie Ford may not be your prime contender for rock ‘n’ roll glory. Typically cloaked in vintage sun dress and horn-rimmed glasses, the 26-year-old Portlander looks more like a library sciences student than prime frontwoman material. But one listen to Ford’s latest with her band The Sound Outside and you’ll be rethinking your first impressions. On Untamed Beast, the follow-up to the group’s 2011 debut Dirty Radio, Ford can be found channeling her inner Chrissie Hynde, brazenly delivering lyrics like “I can fuck, I can drink, I don’t care what you think,” with a voice that oozes sultry confidence.
That Ford’s range neatly melds punk bravado with a jazzy chanteuse femininity is just part of what makes the dichotomy work. With The Sound Outside, she captures a sound that’s part alt-country, part psychobilly, and all vintage rock ‘n’ roll. Below, we chat with Ford about growing up, rocking out, and finding allies in Portland’s burgeoning metal scene.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Wednesday, October 9.
I know your dad is a puppeteer. Did music play a big part in your childhood? We definitely listened to a lot of music when I was younger. That’s when I was exposed to The Beatles, Aretha Franklin. We’d also sing together in the round — a lot of “Row Row Row Your Boat” type of stuff. My mother is also a musician and she grew up listening to Joni Mitchell. My dad also did music stuff; he plays guitar and listens to a lot of rock ‘n’ roll. But art in general played a pretty big role in influencing me in what I want to do with my life. I’ve known forever that I wanted to be an artist.
Who were the artists that made you want to pursue music? When I decided I wanted to start writing my own music I was listening to a lot of jazz and also contemporary indie rock stuff; Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, and Squirrel Nut Zippers, who do a lot of classic jazz modernized. I just loved that feminine tone of voice. I also listened to a lot of Cat Power, CocoRosie, Regina Spektor and just thought, yeah, why not do something that’s a mix of them both.
Tell me a bit about Untamed Things. Were there any specific goals for the record? I just wanted to make more of a rock record. Rock ‘n’ roll is all so similar, so you can take influence from anything, but I wanted it to have a fluid sound, and I think we pulled that off. Really I just wanted something that would be fun to go out on tour with; something that people really pay attention to because it’s loud and it makes you want to dance.
Has the vibe of the shows changed since the album came out? Well, it was more of a gradual thing just because Untamed Thing kind of got delayed coming out. Between the first and the second record we were just touring the entire time, playing both stuff that wasn’t released yet and older stuff. Over that time we’ve done seated shows, but we can also make it have the vibe that people should definitely be standing up, drinking a beer and letting loose.
Have there been any especially crazy shows? There was this one time in France last summer when these kids started crowd surfing, or trying to crowd surf. They were kind of crazy and I felt like they just wanted to go for it, no matter what the music was. At one point I made a joke to our guitarist that he should join in and he shook his head a little bit, but during the last song he just went for ir. That’s the only time it’s ever happened at one of our shows, but I love stuff like that.
I feel like you don’t see too many mosh pits in Portland. Yeah, I feel like that’s starting to change, though. There’s this sweet metal band called Sons of Huns that’s starting to get a lot of attention. Red Fang is from up here, and they’ve been around for a while. Then our really good friends are in this band called Old Light and, oh my gosh they are just awesome and they rock out. It’s been cool to see bands that don’t necessarily have the same kind of sound as us, but we share a kind of energy and it’s great to play shows with them. It definitely surprises people.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Wednesday, October 9 at 8 p.m. with opener House of Wolves. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and info.