“I like to paint a picture of a modern woman who’s sexual and who can do the same things as a man,” Sallie Ford tells me over the phone. Sift through her lyrics, her throaty rock vocals or the imagery in her band’s music videos, and it becomes clear that Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside is not just paying lip service. A sampling of the fuzz-rocker “Bad Boys” from the Portland band’s 2013 release Untamed Beast illustrates it well: “I can fuck / I can drink / I don’t care what you think / You could say I’m just a girl / But I’ve had a lady or two / I bet she’d prefer me to you.”
Amen. Need more proof? Queue up the music video for “Party Kids,” and see Ford get into a bar brawl with a bunch of dudes, or “They Told Me,” and experience some sweaty, sensual play on gender roles. All this plays out over a rockabilly-meets-garage-rock soundtrack, with Ford’s voice channeling greats like Peggy Lee through a fiery filter.
“It makes you squirm,” she says with a laugh. But Ford isn’t some shock-and-awe performer (a la Miley Cyrus); she’s here for the rock. “I think in the current music scene there’s not many girls that are rocking out,” she says, adding that on Untamed Beast, her goal was “pretty simple. I just wanted to rock more.”
And Ford, 26, has been rocking out for about 8 years. At 18, she bought a one-way ticket to Portland — where she didn’t know a soul — from her home state of North Carolina after a solo two-month trip through Europe.
“Portland and Austin are just cities that young people talk about moving to. The West Coast seemed the most interesting,” she says. Up to that point, Ford had studied classical music, photography and filmmaking but none of it quite clicked. In Portland she fell into a group of creatives, rooming with Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza and meeting bandmates Tyler Tornfelt (bass, piano, organ), Ford Tennis (drums) and Jeff Munger (guitar). Since then, the band has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and become a darling of The Avett Brothers.
Eugene is one of many stops on the band’s West Coast tour before they take it to Europe in November, where they will play in France, a country Ford loves and that loves her right back. “In France, it’s pretty cool for musicians because they put a lot of their tax money towards art and culture things,” she says. “I wish our money would go towards art and not war.”
Make rock not war — now that’s a message I can get behind.
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside play with Wooden Indian Burial Ground 9 pm Thursday, Oct. 3, at Sam Bond’s; $10.