Although Celine Dion, Alanis Morrissette, and the Barenaked Ladies
may be Canada's biggest musical exports, Sloan
is probably one of the more interesting and consistent acts to come
from the Great White North. Their music mixes a variety of seemingly
FM-radio rock of Boston, the glam rock of T. Rex, and the melodic
rock of the Beatleswithin
a contemporary indie style that's wised-up without being smug. Conceived
and born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1991, Sloan soon began releasing
albums on its own imprint, Murderecords, and garnering critical attention.
The band signed to DGC in the U.S. and released two albums, "Smeared"
and "Twice Removed." Recorded in New York City in 1994, "Twice Removed"
was critically acclaimed in the U.S. and Canada; it was named one
of the "Ten Best Albums You Didn't Hear in '94" by Spin magazine.
It did not sell well, and DGC felt it was "not alternative enough."
The band took a break, worked on a few side projects, and wrote
some new songs. After their time off, they released "One Chord to
Another," which again received rave reviews from fans and press
alike. Unfortunately, the U.S. label that released itthe Enclavefolded
soon after the album release.
Flash forward to 1999: After giving up on major labels entirely,
gets back to its roots and releases its fourth full-length album,
Blues," themselves on Murderecords. After the usual go-roundwell-deserved
critical acclaim, going gold in Canada, and extensive touringSloan
is doing something new, namely putting together a live album. CitySearch
caught up with a snowed-in Patrick Pentland (guitars, vocals), and
quizzed him on all the details about the forthcoming live album,
the best part of the rock-star gig, and what he likes about New
York. Chatting on the phone through one hell of a cold, Patrick
finally told us the darkest truth of allCanadians don't know
how to drive.
CitySearch: Where are you
We're at home in Toronto. We're actually kind of mixing a live record.
CS: I had heard about that.
You're mixing it with Brendan, your soundman?
PP: That's right.
This is actually one of the first records where we're not that involved
in mixing actuallyhe's sort of taken control of thatwe
just kind of show up. But, it's been a really bad winter here in
Toronto, unseasonably snowy. It's been hard to get around the city,
because the snow removal has been really bad, and so we had to spend
a few days just phoning in and saying, "How's it going?"
CS: I have family in the
northern U.S. They've been hit with a lot of snow.
PP: I couldn't
believe it. We've just gotten an unbelievable amount of snow. It
snows a fair amount here in Toronto, I supposeI just moved
here this yearbut I've spent time here in the winter, and
usually the snow goes away after awhile. It's just been brutalaccidents
everywhere'cause people can't drive here. They drive
too fast, they're too impatient.
CS: Back to the live album.
Can you tell me any details?
PP: It's a lot
of songs. It's supposed to be 28it probably will be 28but
it may be 26, I'm not sure. With a live record ... you can go in
and overdub mistakes and double-track vocals if you want. It would
usually be our style to just record the drums and the audience,
and then go in and do everything else in the studio, because we're
control freaks. But for this record, we decided to kind of let go
of all off thatthere are some songs where the singing isn't
that in tune and there are mistakesbut we just kind of left
it. So, it will hopefully capture the excitement of one of our shows,
as opposed to sterilizing it a bit too much. You listen to a lot
of live records that are made these daysthey're just so obviously
not recorded liveso much treatment is done to everything.
It's a humbling experience, in a way: You're listening to yourself,
and it's like, "Oh my God, I can't believe I sound like that." In
the studio you tend to get to do the vocals over and over again,
you double-track your voice so that it sounds a bit thicker, more
syrupy. Then you get this and it's like, "Do I really do that every
time, do I sound like that when I talk?" That's why we haven't been
that involvedI mean we have been quite involvedbut we
haven't been all over it, because I think we'd go in and start to
redo parts, and that's not the purpose of this live record. It's
not really like we're expecting it to be any sort of hit, it's for
fans who've seen us, or fans who haven't been able to hear us live.
CS: Will the album feature
mostly selections from "Navy Blues," or older songs as well?
I think it will be a healthy mix of all the records, including
some songs that we rarely play live, and aren't actually performed
that wellbut we decided to throw them on anyway. There is
something from all of our releasesquite a few from "Navy Blues."
I do have the record here, but I didn't really count them all out.
We used the same set list everywhere we went. We used to do a different
set list every night, like the five or six songs in the middle were
the same, but we'd change the beginning and the end. But ... we
kinda stumbled on this set list we thought worked really well, and
nobody ever suggested we make another set list. So, we just sorta
put the whole set in order on the album. But, it isn't from one
show; it's taken from a couple of different shows.
CS: Is touring the best
part of your job, or the worst part?
PP: Well, this
tour looks like it's going to be kinda fun. In the past it's been
sort of ... well, middle America tends to be boring; it's all the
same, and we don't do very well there. I mean it's fun, because
it tends to be a bit of a challenge because they don't really know
who you are. But if you're headlining a show and no one shows up
... by that point you've usually been on the road for three weeks,
missing home; it's like, "What am I doing here? I don't need to
do this." But for this tour, we're going to hit some major cities
that we haven't been to before, like Nashville.
CS: Do you have any time
off in New York?
PP: Yeah, actually
we do. We have the day before off, but we're mastering this live
CS: Do you like New York?
PP: We do; we like New York a lot. We recorded our second
record there, so we lived there for awhile. On tour for our last
record, "One Chord to Another," we played a ridiculous amount of
shows there. It's a great city; it's so huge ... I always used to
say it's like a country, but actually there is an overall feel that
I find in New Yorkyou always know you're in New York. We have
friends in New York from Halifax, from Canada, or just people we've
met in the music industry or whatever. I find people are always
really friendly therenot the mean, rough way they are portrayed
on TV. Plus, there is so much to do. We live in Toronto now, which
is a smaller version of New York, but there's not much to do these
days with all the snow and whatnot.
CS: You certainly have
a dedicated fan base here; it's almost a network. How do you feel
PP: Well, that's
sort of what we've worked at, the fan base, as opposed to working
at getting the "hit single." To us it's not that important. What's
more important to us, what we feel is successevery time we
come down we play to more people, or we play in a town that we haven't
been to before, and lots of people come. We find that you always
get that Canadian portion of your audience; with every city in America
there is a bunch of excited Canadians"Yeah, I saw your first
show in Calgary." What's also nice is if you play, and it's just
people from that city, who don't even know you're that big in Canada,
and just found your record. New York is a music industry center,
so people that work at labels or MTV who've become fans over the
years will come to our shows. I feel that New York is a big city
and there are a lot of gigs, so people coming to see you play is
nice. They don't have to go to that show; there is always something
else to do in New York.
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