THE PAST YEAR put a big stamp on Sallie Ford's musical timeline. It marked a new label, a new album, and an entirely new band.
After Ford and her first band, the Sound Outside, announced a hiatus last year, the group quickly realized it was "a breakup rather than a break," says Ford. And while debating the next step and parting ways with her label, Partisan Records, Ford decided it was time to make a more definitive change.
"I wanted to take more of an initiative to lead the sound and have more of an idea of what the sound was," she says, "because with the first band, I'd come up with the sound by accident, but then over the years it all changed. I don't think that band had a cohesive sound from record to record."
Ford had already started working on a batch of new songs, and after joking with a friend about wanting to start an all-female band, she decided it wasn't a shabby idea and began asking around for musician suggestions. She assembled a new group (Anita Lee Elliot on bass, Amanda Spring on drums, Cristina Cano on keyboard), and the ladies began rehearsing. From the start, Ford had a clear idea of how she wanted to work with the new band, taking a stronger direction as a focused leader.
"Now [the band's] just my name, so it is more my thing," Ford says.
By February they were in the recording studio putting together Ford's newest album, Slap Back. "It was kind of nice having a fire under our ass about it all," she says.
The new album comes out Tuesday, October 14, on Vanguard, a new label for Ford, and she and her new band celebrate the record's release at Friday's show at the Doug Fir. She'll also participate in a Ford family show at Mississippi Studios on Sunday, October 12, sharing the afternoon bill with her sister's band, Orpheum Circus, and her dad's puppet show, Hobey Ford's Golden Rod Puppets.
While Slap Back is still distinctly Ford's sound, that sound itself has become more distinct: driving drums, siren organ, well-placed and gritty guitar lines, with a psychedelic sheen of synths laid over the straightforward rock. There's far more space in the music and Ford's vocals are more clarified, with strong, resounding choruses on songs like "Coulda Been" and "You Bet Your Ass." Ford worked closely with producer Chris Funk (the Decemberists, Black Prairie), who played a big part in the shaping of the new sound.
"This is the first record that has really had an active producer that I knew beforehand, and was really stoked to work with," Ford says. "The whole process was awesome, and he's a friend, but I really believe in what he does."
The result is self-described "fuzz rock," but it's also something Ford can call purely her own. "What I'm doing now, I like to think it's more of who I am. Before, maybe I was less comfortable with myself and I wanted music to be this way of being someone new and putting on a character," Ford says. "I don't know if I can relate to all the songs I wrote—at the time it seemed genuine and what I wanted to do—but now I want my music to be more of who I am, rather than who I want to be, this character."