Volume 94, Issue 7
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
More to Sloan than Money City Maniacs
WE WEAR OUR SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT. Halifax favourites Sloan bring hits like "Coax Me" and "The Good in Everyone" to the Wave tonight.
By Matt Pearson
With five solid studio albums, an army of adoring fans and a sound that is distinctly their own, Halifax natives Sloan have much to sit back and smile about.
Growing up and getting their musical feet wet in Nova Scotia is seen by Sloan's Jay Ferguson as a good thing. He says it allowed the band to develop outside of the mainstream Canadian music scene and achieve a certain level of musical expertise, before beginning the arduous task of presenting themselves to record companies. "We were able to develop in our own little corner," Ferguson says thoughtfully.
Sloan's involvement in the Halifax music scene has had a lot to do with putting the city on the musical map and Ferguson says the band was happy to help out. Launching Murderrecords, the band's very own label, allowed them to document the scene and give their peers a place to release albums. Over the past few years however, Murderrecords' roster has shrunk to a point where Sloan is the only band left on the label.
Part of understanding Sloan comes with a knowledge of the band's journey thus far. Exhausted from touring and disappointed with an American record label's icy reception to their second album, Twice Removed, the band found themselves in a rut. "Our band kind of broke up at the end of 1994 and we didn't think we would put out anymore albums," offers Ferguson, saying that they came very close to calling it quits for good.
As time passed and the group continued to release albums by other artists, they eventually found a desire to record a third Sloan album. This time things were different because owning their own label gave them complete control over their artistic output. "When we got back together, it was easier to stay together because we could set our own agenda. We could tour when we wanted and put out records when we wanted," Ferguson explains. "It's like working for yourself."
While most bands tend have one person who is clearly the lead, Sloan takes a different approach no one is the principal songwriter or spokesperson for the band. "Everybody is the boss of their own song," Ferguson says. In terms of playing, everyone takes on a little bit of everything, according to Ferguson. Lastly, in order to keep things fair, all four members of the band split their profits evenly.
Central to Sloan's existence is a close attention to detail. Whether it's an album jacket or a music video, the members of Sloan play an active role in every step of the process. "We're concerned with an aesthetic," Ferguson says. "We design our album covers on our own and try to make the whole campaign look similar."
To this end, the band is always searching for ideas to reproduce or copy. The concept for the album Navy Blues came from a 1960's Polish movie poster, while the theme for the popular music video, "The Good in Everyone," resembles a scene from the beginning of the film Easy Rider. "Instead of a drug deal, he was buying a guitar," Ferguson explains.
For some Canadian artists, the massive American market is a dangling carrot which they chase fervently throughout their careers. But to Sloan, it is something far less important. "It would be nice if it [success in the United States] happened, but it's not the be-all and the end-all," says Ferguson. "We're not striving for American acceptance, but if it came our way, we definitely wouldn't shun it."
Ferguson is quick to point out that the band does well in certain pockets of the US, particularly the East Coast, the midwest and California. "We do well enough that we can go to the United States and have a good fan base in quite a few cities," he maintains.
Yet the band would prefer to tour in places like Japan, Australia and throughout Europe. "I would rather be a medium-sized band everywhere in the world, as opposed to just huge in Canada or the United States and nowhere else."
The release of a double live album in 1999 can be seen in some ways as a summation of Sloan's career. Ferguson believes the band still stands behind the songs found on their earlier albums.
"We've changed the way we play some of our early songs," he explains. "Some songs aren't as guitar-saturated as they were." Despite this altered delivery, Ferguson asserts the lyrics still retain their significance. "They are songs about our own lives. They haven't really lost their relevance, they're just more historical now," he jokes.
After playing a string of orientation week shows throughout universities in Ontario and Eastern Canada, Sloan has plans to return to Europe in October. The band spent the spring opening for the Tragically Hip on their European tour, which took them to countries like Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. On their upcoming tour, Sloan will re-visit those countries, as well as making stops in Spain and the United Kingdom.
Above all else, one thing remains clear about Sloan they know what they are about and have no plans to change anytime soon. "I don't think we are going to make a record that is a slave to current trends just to sell records. Our priorities are to continue making good quality records and continue making enough money so that we don't have to have other jobs."
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