27 years is a hell of a run in a business that eats up and spits out so many young, naive and talented folks. To hit the near three decade mark with the same guys you started with – that’s near unheard of.
Yet Sloan remain one of the consistently excellent Canadian bands, buoyed by the fact that all four members – Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson and Andrew Scott – contribute to the creative process of the group, and have done so since day one.
“I think bands that are clearly a product of several minds are the ones that I like the best,” Murphy tells The Herald ahead of their St. John’s return this weekend. “Even when there’s tension it’s fun and kind of brings up the best in people and sometimes the worst. We’ve been doing it for 27 years, so there are definitely things that drive each other nuts about each other, but I think we are one of the best examples of a true democracy. It’s almost unheard of, even The Beatles for example, who are our blueprint, were really run more by two guys than the other two, and one guy more than anybody by the end.”
As opposed to the more disjointed yet adventurous approach to their 2014 album Commonwealth, Sloan opted for a more cohesive, yet still distinctly unique vision, on their twelfth studio album, aptly titled 12.
This one was more collaborative and concise than our sprawling double record which was more like four separate solo EPs sold as one thing,” with Murphy adding that creativity coming from multiple fronts has been a secret to success for the band, and has also helped bind them together.
“Making it a chance for everyone to contribute creatively was a way that we thought we could keep the band together,” he says. “I was in bands before where the band broke up and I didn’t care because I wasn’t the main guy. We really wanted to give everyone the chance to contribute creatively, which is selfless in sharing but at the same time I just wanted to keep the band together and keep everyone interested. That can be challenging at times. After five or ten years, and now 27 years, people change over time and when you have relationships with people that long it’s often family. Imagine being in a band with your siblings. It would be fun sometimes.”
Mixing up new material with deep dives into beloved early albums (the group plans to tour Navy Blues in 2019), Sloan still tours tirelessly in 2018, estimating that the 12 tour has already hit 70-plus performances, and those shows aren’t exactly cake walks.
“We do two sets, but we don’t dedicate one set to anything in particular,” Murphy says. “We’re a rock band that I think is more musical than a lot of loud rock bands. We are fatiguingly loud, so I do recommend bringing ear plugs.
“We’re always keenly aware of the spectrum between being an artist and being an entertainer. We do play songs from our new record, but we do make sure that we play enough recognizable songs for people who may not know the new ones. We’ve been around long enough and we do want to play for people who have seen us. There are people who have seen us 70 times and they keep coming back. We like to pepper it with weird album tracks that you might not have seen 20 times already. We have a large catalogue of over 200 songs, so we try to represent all the albums and all the songwriters, the stuff that everybody knows and brag about how good our new record is.”
And with 27 years and counting banked, Sloan are content with their lot in the music world. They’re keenly aware they’re probably not going to become crossover mainstream sensations at this stage – Murphy is cuttingly honest about who and what Sloan is – but they’re living the dream day by day, creating music each man loves, touring at a still-peek level where many contemporaries would have cashed their chips.
“Casual music fans might say ‘what have you guys done since 1998?’ Well, we’ve been working, making a living, which I call the Canadian dream,” Murphy laughs. “We’re having a fun time, and we have a pretty charmed life. We’re lucky guys.”
Tickets for Sloan on December 8th at Club One in St. John’s are available here and at select Orange Store etix Kiosks.