The Slaughter Daughters are simultaneously adorable and terrifying. The sister(esque) duo takes the stage in cowboy boots and sundresses with their hair tied up in pinup bandanas and proceed to grind out dark, up-tempo, yet downtrodden murder ballads and melodic but agonizing tales of lonely torment. It is confusing. A curious murmur slinks through the crowd during their New Year's Day show opening for Larry and His Flask, who are these girls and where did they come from?
The answer, is Wichita, KS.
Ariana Celestine and Cecilia Raheb met at a party in 2011 in Wichita, which hosts a modest, if not minute, music scene—and, ever since then, have been touring their minor-key, dark bluegrass around the country. The ladies have been carving out their own niche in the male-dominated Americana punk scene famous for barn burning banjo solos and stomp pits, not lipstick and polka-dot dresses.
But the Slaughter Daughters prove that they can have both. Celestine clawhammers her banjo with precision and speed, and Raheb's rhythm guitar provides a cradling ribcage for the girls' beautifully brittle harmonies.
"A lot of times people see a poster and say, 'Oh, they're girls.' We get pigeonholed in this girl band thing," said Celestine. "People put us on a bill with singer-songwriter ladies that sing beautiful songs and they're great, but that's not what we're doing."
What Slaughter Daughters is doing is bringing the pain. Their music is primarily categorized as "gothgrass"—country sounds with death metal themes, ominous and morose, like a slow dance with the devil before he erupts into cacophonous flames.
"I've written all of my songs except for one when I'm upset," said Celestine, who shares songwriting duty with her band mate. "You can't write a jolly song in G when you're really sad. It can be a little heavy, but a lot of folks enjoy it. Maybe it's because we're little girls singing it."
Not only can they write dark, play hard, and engage an audience, the Slaughter Daughters have proven they can live out of a van with the best chronically touring musicians, spending 13 of the last 18 months primarily on the road. When the girls met local folk rockers and fellow tour-addicts Larry and His Flask, it was punk rock love at first sight.
"We're both roots-based bands," said Celestine. "Banjos, guitars, harmonies, darker sort of themes for songs. There are a lot of similarities and we share a lot of friends on the road. We have the same audience."
The two bands have been crossing paths on their endless tour schedules ever since, and when Slaughter Daughters play in Bend, they add two members of The Flask, Dallin Bulkley and Andrew Carew, to their lineup. The Flask's singer and banjo player, Carew, switches to mandolin, and Bulkley, who characteristically plays guitar, takes over percussion duty on the upright bass, both with impressive ease and a massively deepening effect on Slaughter Daughters' eerie songs.
Thursday, Jan. 23 with Dirty Kid Discount
Astro Lounge, 939 NW Bond St.
10 pm. $5.
Saturday, Jan. 25 with Almost Acceptable
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.
9 pm. $5.