Salem—the trio of John Holland Marlatt, and Jack Donoghue—is witch-house/dream-crunk/"fuck drag-step/worst.band.ever./gen core/amaaaazing/hiding-behind wigger/fake-black-metal/angeli thug/Michael Stipe-endorsed/po from no place in particular. They make the kind of music you play for adults to convince them that the world is ending soon. And since it probably is, Salem embodies a generation that doesn't care about race, sexual orientation, authenticity, and a lot of other stuff that used to be a big deal. Their music is produced simply, probably with too much bass, and in a perpetual state of stealing from everything they like. They got their name from the Salem witch trials... maybe. In a way, you can't help wonder if Salem is just a totally bullshit invention—another evolution of the Midwestern white kidz rap group, like a band of bougie Juggalos with long hair on some Jayfrom-Clerks trip, giving rise to the second Dark Carnival while pretending to be stoned... and being kind of snarky about it, too. Or maybe I just can't help but wonder. "I don't really know what [Juggalos] are about," says Holland over the phone. "But honestly, I don't really see them around where we live anymore." "They're still in Chicago," Donoghue interjects. "I just saw a Juggalo at 7-Eleven yesterday for free-Slurpee day. He had a big hatchet man on his forearms, and I was like, 'WHOOP WHOOP, yo what up, family?' I have my hair in braids
right now—my friend just braided it—and this guy was so down with it. We talked for a minute and I was like, 'Anyway, have fun with that Slurpee.' I guess I respect that they're doing what they want to do. But I'm not really trying to listen to [Insane Clown Posse] that hard. I think I like Juggalos a lot more than I like ICP." "Yeah, me too," Marlatt says, laughing. "They're, like… so much more creative." "You're gonna start beef with like, Violent J," Donoghue says back, totally deadpan. "I saw that video for 'Miracles' the other day, and dude was like, 'Fucking magnets/How do they work? ' and I thought that was really funny. But aside from that, I haven't really been thinking about Juggalos that much. It's a miracle, brother." When I speak to Salem via conference call, Marlatt and Holland are in Traverse City, Michigan (where Marlatt has just bought a home) and Donoghue is in
Chicago. They speak with a psychic drawl of likes and ums and long vowels, and they politely resist recounting their drug-addled history, though they do confirm the lurid drug- and hustler stories from an interview with Butt magazine last year were true. But that's just not where they're at now. "There was a writer from the New Yorker that wanted to write a feature about us, and the editor wouldn't let him because he read that [Butt] article," Holland says. "He was like, 'They're too subversive... we don't want to [run the piece]'. So I feel like, if we're too honest, it can limit our options in other things. Do you guys agree?" "Yeah…" Marlatt says, slowly. "But I don't, like, really care?" Salem has only been around for a couple of years, but Holland and Marlatt met years before in high school at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, a boarding school in Northern Michigan that Josh Groban and Rufus Wainwright once attended. Both Holland and Marlatt studied visual arts; Holland later became addicted to heroin and cocaine, funded by work as a gas station prostitute, mostly for married men. Holland eventually moved to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and met Donoghue
Published on Sep 9, 2010
Published on Sep 9, 2010
Indie rock's most talked-about band of the last couple years, Salem, starts off this issue we're dubbing The Chi-Light Saga, in which we dig...