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 V.21 No.48 | November 29 - December 5, 2012 

Show Up!

SLC Songstress Punks Up the Uke

Jessica Davis on code and categories

S.L.F.M.’s Jessica Davis
Brent David Colbert
S.L.F.M.’s Jessica Davis
Thrashing on an electric ukulele is not only totally possible, it’s surprisingly boss. Salt Lake City native Jessica Davis has been proving the uke-punk formula on the road for a couple of years now. Her solo project, S.L.F.M., initially emerged as the result of indecision, says Davis. After graduating high school, she was at a crossroads. Urged on by uncertainty, she says she raided her savings to purchase a ukulele and keyboards. Ultimately, unwieldy keys didn't jive with her preferred mode of touring in a tiny car. She pared her gear down to the highly portable ukulele.

Davis digs adventure. The Alibi reached her by cell phone in Saint Augustine, Fla. She didn't have a formal gig lined up, so she spent the day exploring and sought out an open mic night. Her touring methodology is equal parts community networking and fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants. Along the way, she picks up a lot of intriguing historical facts. “Saint Augustine is the oldest city in America,” she enthuses.

The subgenres attributed to S.L.F.M. aren't self-inflicted. Most of her Bandcamp tags—ranging from tomboy twee-punk to thrash to ukulele punk—came from others' descriptions. Her recitation of the punk / uke portmanteau “puke” is accompanied by a hearty laugh. She's not terribly interested in categorizing her work but admits doing so is a necessary evil. She prefers a simpler description: “I play really fast, and I yell sometimes.”

Her lyrics aren't overtly political in nature, and neither is Davis. “I don't declare anything,” she says. “I like to be accepting of everybody. As soon as you put labels in front of something, you separate yourself from everybody else.” Her songs are fast and furious. She says writing and performing anything longer than two minutes bores her. “I don't really write pop music,” she says. “I don't repeat myself much.”

S.L.F.M. small-batch album production
S.L.F.M. small-batch album production

Her rapid-fire compositions are themed on subjects ranging from la petite mort to Ms. Pac-Man to staying in bed all week. And her vocal style segues from mellifluous to primal, sometimes within the course of one song. Davis hesitates to call her releases albums, describing them as samplers. A more serious debut is in the works long-term, but so far Davis says she’s satisfied with her output. And she’s exploring influences she once actively avoided—classical music for one, which she’s been listening to on the road. “Eventually, words just get really annoying,” she says.

Burque isn't unfamiliar to the young musician. She played now-defunct D.I.Y. venue Outerspace and Burt's Tiki Lounge on past visits. At Burt's, she rocked out with local groups Great White Buffalo (disbanded) and Gusher (active), and she hooked both those bands up with an underground gig in her hometown. At Outerspace, the S.L.C. punk played on a bill with Austin Morrell and the Alchemists, who will also perform at Synchro Studio this time around.

Davis is psyched to reconnect with Morrell and company. She isn’t familiar with the other performing acts—Española gonzo roots / Norteño sextet The Imperial Rooster and A Hack and A Hacksaw side project Tapered—but she’s enthusiastic about experiencing new Nuevo Mexicano sounds.

Via email, Heather Trost explained that Tapered is yet another variation of the fluidly named improvisational group in which she, Jeremy Barnes and Deerhoof’s John Dieterich explore other instruments in. Early performances found the act titled Extremadura and Extradura Quality Carbon.

Davis wouldn’t reveal the meaning of her project’s acronym: She says S.L.F.M. is a secret club, and you have to guess what it means to get in. She admits that might seem silly, but she’s firm in her commitment to keep her lips sealed on the matter. Is it a computer science thing, like Semiparametric Latent Factor Models, Stationary Laminar Flamelet or Simple Little Firewall Monitor? Sailor’s Life For Me? Salt Lake Feminist Mojo? Secret Love for Mustaches? Whatever the hidden meaning, Davis’ music is challenging, charming and best heard live.


with Austin Morrell and the Alchemists, Tapered and The Imperial Rooster
Saturday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.

Synchro Studio
512-B Yale SE
Tickets: $7, all-ages
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