Salem: Ghost Town

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Freaking out with Salem, the world’s only witchcraft-loving juke shitgaze trio.

XLR8R: Where do you guys live?

Heather: Jack lives in Chicago full-time. John lives in New York and I just go back and forth. We do some stuff over the internet when we’re not all together. Jack will send us a beat and John and I will do stuff over it. 

Jack: None of us have jobs, so it’s not really hard to fit in time to make music. 

Where did you grow up and do you think that influences your aesthetic? 

Heather: Jack grew up in Chicago, and me and John grew up in the countryside. The town that we’re from is really small.

Jack: Growing up anywhere influences your aesthetic. We like a lot of things, like water and the forest, nature, and stuff like that. We grew up in the woods pretty much. When we were 13 or 14, we went to this boarding school [Interlochen Center for the Arts] together in Michigan. We were day students so we could leave the school. We went there for visual art. I studied painting and drawing. I did a little photography. 

The reason I ask is that you guys seem to have some Satanic/white trash/metal vibes that seem very Midwestern.

John: In a lot of white-trash towns where we’re from, kids are into that for some reason. They like to torture animals and cut themselves and bleed into cups and worship the devil. That’s everywhere. In small meth towns, that’s really big. The Midwest has that on lock. 

Heather: The town where John and I went to school is right next to this trailer park that’s basically one big meth lab. It was really weird. The school is really expensive and people come there from all over the world. You have to have a lot of money to go there, but it’s surrounded by this weird community. A lot of townies would come and vandalize Interlochen or throw pumpkins at kids who are weird. The Midwest definitely has really cool people who do really fucked up things and don’t know any different. 

Do you have any obsessions? 

John: I don’t really. Do I? 

Jack: I want to dirt bike and I’m trying to get people to lend me a dirt bike. Heather really likes horses. 

John: I always need a cigarette when I first wake up. A Marlboro Light 100. I get really affected by the way that I’m feeling when I wake up; it affects my whole day. 

Tell me about the influence of juke on your stuff.

Jack: I know a lot of people from high school and stuff who were into it. We are really into it. Our favorite artist is probably DJ Nate. He’s 18 and he’s really good. But he makes footwork. Footwork is faster: It’s like tribal drums with really spaced-out snares; juke is more to dance to and has more jive. Juke is ghetto house but it’s from Chicago instead of Baltimore and it’s better. The footworking dance is like… heel-toe stepping but really, really fast.

Can you footwork? 

Jack: Noo. It’s really hard. I feel like everyone who does it is really young, like 14. And some people who have done it since they were that age are good at it. 

How do people react to you when you roll in a juke club? 

Jack: Usually people like us or we’re not on their radar and they don’t care. We don’t look like we have any money so no one would ever want to rob us and nobody bothers us. 

I saw some pictures on your Flickr page from Africa. When did you go there and why? 

Jack: Last summer, I was in Ghana and Sierra Leone. I was really, really depressed and my mom asked me if I wanted to go, and two weeks later I went. She thought it would be good for me to not be in Chicago and around a lot of stuff. My mom found an orphanage I worked at in Ghana. I have a little cousin who I’m really close with and I went to visit her birth parents and her brothers and sisters. I didn’t go back to the same place I was at. I was in Ghana in this little town, Obuasi, which is a gold town. I found this little studio that was four feet by four feet where there was one PC. I had this guy make me a beat and it was $5 and I traveled really far to an internet café and sent it home for John to work on. Then I brought it back to the guy and I was going to rap on it but his computer broke. We couldn’t find it but the other day we found the song. We might use the beat or something. 

The Exorcist, Carrie, or The Shining

John:Carrie. Just ’cause it has Sissy Spacek in it and she my favorite actress. 

Strawberry Switchblade, My Bloody Valentine, or Diamanda Galas? 

Jack: Oh, My Bloody Valentine. I never heard of those other ones. 

Bats, spiders, or snakes?

John: I guess snakes. Jack has a pet snake, Sasha. She might be a little sick right now because we fed her and she threw the mouse back up.

Jack: And John has a rabbit named Joanie. 

Campfires, lighters, or arson? 

Jack: Arson—especially to cars. John loves cars on fire. If we’re driving and there’s a car on fire, we have to stop. 

What is the last song you listened to? 

Jack: Lil Keke feat. Yung Redd “Ride on 4s.” It’s a screwed-and-chopped song we played in the car on the iPod.

Tell me about the “Dirt” video.

Jack: I made it in my dad’s garage. Everyone in the video are just people from Craigslist. I paid the black one because she was from erotic services and the other one was an aspiring actress. While I was filming it, I played her the song and she was like, “This is awful.” I told her to do a lot of different things and then edited together the moments that were nice. It wasn’t two separate things: The black lady was dancing on the car while the other woman was inside. I don’t know what she thought. The escort lady was cool. She was like, “I don’t have to do anything? I just have to do this? Oh wow, okay.” So I went into my dad’s liquor cabinet and poured her a big cup of rum and she just danced naked and we got at it.