SWEET MORMON SINGER IS LIVING IN NEW YORK ON TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK
Steven Slovacek is a talented guy on a major budget. Not the kind of budget that your friend is on when he says he’s got ‘no money right now’ and can’t go to Metropolitan with you. No, Steve is sleeping on his friend’s couches, eating rice and beans three times a day, riding the subways using an erased Metrocard that lets him beat the payment system, and taking whatever steps he can to get his first album out there. It’s called The Headless, and it was released under Steve’s performing name Company Man. We got the album in the mail a few weeks ago and for all the disparate tastes in the BUTT office, we all agreed it’s actually a pretty good album – kind of low-fi, indie folk like The Microphones or Iron & Wine. Steve started writing the album to explore his religious upbringing and his experience being a fag in a Mormon household but then took the songs a step further, creating strange anti-hymns that aren’t quite about either of those things. I invited him by our office last week for a chat.
Adam: Where exactly are you from?
Steven: Utah. I lived all over as a kid but I was raised as a very orthodox Mormon and then went to college in Utah for a year, which is where a lot of the lyrics and conception for the album began. Then last year I moved to New York.
Have you been excommunicated from the church for being gay?
I haven’t been yet. It seems that nowadays they save that for people who…
Do bad stuff…
Or make an issue of it or like publicize it. Say for some reason I sold like 100,000 records and I was known as the gay-Mormon then they would try to excommunicate me and would bring me to the Court of Love.
What’s the Court of Love?
It’s this kind of court in your church’s ward with these 12 high council members. You stand there and you give your case and they give their reasons why they want to excommunicate you and they talk about what you need to do to get back to the church and it’s like them going through a laundry list of everything you’ve done wrong. It’s pretty funny. I’ve actually always wanted to do it but they haven’t sought me out yet. I came out to all my family and they’re not cool with it or anything but they didn’t report it to the church. If they had, I would have gotten the chance, which I still could actually.
And if you’re excommunicated that’s bad for your family because you’re not joined in heaven right?
Yeah, I still get letters from my parents talking about how if I came back to the church, married a woman or whatever, and we could all be together forever, for eternity and stuff. But yeah, otherwise we won’t be together forever.
Do you not believe in god or any religion?
I’m 99% atheist. You know how some people are atheists except when they’re in a really bad, dramatic situation? I’m kind of the opposite. If something really good happens I feel like rather than it being due to my own work something else made it happen.
Where do you live now?
I was living in Williamsburg but money ran out and so I’m crashing in the unheated spare bedroom of a friend in Bed-Stuy. But I just got a job, starting on Friday so hopefully by March 1st I will have a apartment and a bed again.
Do you have a boyfriend?
No. Ever since I’ve moved back I’ve been extremely poor so it’s been tough to go out to a bar and meet people and I guess I don’t have too many gay friends in the city. So I’m single at the moment. It’s a priority though. As soon as that money kicks in.
So you just stay in until the money situation improves?
Pretty much, yeah. I’m on a $25 a week budget. So…
I have a friend with a spare oversized closet that I can crash in and for food I just stick with like beans, rice and eggs. So $25 dollars a week, making it work until hopefully this job thing pays off. I start Friday.
What kind of guys do you like?
I dunno. As weird as it is, with the Mormon upbringing I tend to like the really straight laced, mid-west looking, straight acting whatever that means, dark hair, dark eyes. Just very all-American clean-cut type people.
Did you have sexual experience early on?
Not really, like I remember when I was living in Utah I was trying to because I was that age and I always wanted to. But in Utah there’s actually this weird system of secret policing at the Brigham Young University campus. You try to meet someone online but there’s an actual class they offer at BYU for security personnel to monitor chat rooms and to try to set people up for stings.
You’re kidding! That’s horrible.
Yeah so you’re never sure if who you’re meeting is a security agent or an actual person. There were a couple of aborted attempts when I was 18 or 19 but I didn’t have any sexual experience until I was 20 as a result.
So you would be talking to these guys online and suddenly you would be like, ‘I dunno, I can’t trust this person?’
Exactly, you talk to them online and you try to feel out and you try to say the dirtiest thing possible, right? Because you’re thinking that a good Mormon guy would probably hesitate to respond back in kind but if they do, you arrange to meet at a certain spot but it’s really freaky because you’re just sitting there and every person that walks by, you’re just wondering, ‘Oh god are they Mormon security?’ Their policy is that they send a letter to your family saying your son was caught trying to engage in homosexual activities.
So when was the first time that you hooked up with a guy?
That was in college in Tallahassee, which isn’t the largest gay community in the world. When I was 20 I ended up getting to second or third base with a really drunk straight guy, which was weird. Eventually I drove down to Miami and got laid for the first time. I think it was for my 21st birthday. Although the guy was from Peru and he started writing me afterwards and was like ‘I can tell we’re going to best friends for a long time’ and I felt kind of bad because I just sort of stopped writing.
When did you come out to your parents?
I came out to them as an atheist when I was nineteen. I came out to them as being gay when I was 23, a lot older.
Do you think that your atheistic beliefs developed from being in a religion and following through with its ritual but at the end of the day still feeling condemned inside for being gay?
Yeah, it did. It comes up a lot. There are talks where the prophet will give a speech about how do defend yourself against homosexuals, you know, that sort of thing, ‘By all means necessary.’ So there was that constant, ‘Oh, God! This says this and this says this!’ I remember when I was a kid, I made a pact with God. I said, ‘Okay, I will go on my mission and I will turn twenty-one, but as soon as I do that, as soon as I take care of everything, you have to make a deal that you will go ahead and kill me. And that way I will have fulfilled everything and we will just have this whole thing done with.’
So you were prepared to die rather than be gay?
Yeah, at the time. Actually, when I was in Utah there was a whole rash of people shooting themselves. Utah has a really high teen suicide rate. At one time it was the highest in the nation and it might still be.
And it’s mostly gay teens?
Yeah, I firmly, really believe it’s because of that, just because it’s set up so that the Mormon Church is incorporated into your daily life. It takes up so much of your life and they like it that way. But for someone that doesn’t fit in, someone who is gay, it means that your life is just absolute shit.
Where do you want to be in year.
Oh, God. In an apartment! The plan is that I will get this job and keep this job and then next month I will have a practice space to play with friends and then tour over the summer and fall and then play shows and start recording everything. I just want any job that will pay enough to survive here in New York and concentrate on playing music.