Twenty years is a long time to do anything with anybody. So when the Chris Murphy, Andrew Scott, Jay Ferguson and Patrick Pentland – collectively known as Sloan – recently celebrated their 20th anniversary of being a band, there was good reason for music fans everywhere to rejoice.
The Halifax-founded, Toronto-based quartet first conquered the realm of shining indie-rock in the early 90’s with singles like “Underwhemed” and “Coax Me“, before moving toward infusing that sound with stadium rock heft on their turn of the decade singles “Money City Maniacs” and “If It Feels Good Do It“. On their latest, The Double Cross, the band continue down the path of exploring how to make 70’s AM-radio for the modern masses with their meaty new single “Unkind” which is already tearing up the charts in The Great White North.
Next week, the band return to the US for their 2nd East Coast tour this year with You Am I. In preparation, Rocker caught up with bespectacled bass player Chris Murphy for a chat about the band’s years together and what lies ahead.
Rocker: Since The Double Cross is sort of about celebrating 20 years of Sloan, I’m wondering if you remember the first time you met the other 3 guys and your initial thoughts about them, and if those impressions turned out to be true or untrue as time went on.
Chris: I met Jay in late 1986 or early 1987. He was “skateboarding” (gliding) on a banana board on his way to a record show. I must have been with a mutual friend who introduced us. He seemed cool though not as “punk” as me. He and I started a band in late 1987.
I met Andrew at the local venue for original music the Pub Flamingo. He was the DJ and I requested songs from him. It was usually Public Enemy. He was extremely cool like the Fonz.
I met Patrick when he was working at the magazine store. I also knew him peripherally through the hardcore scene. He had a band called The Convulsions. They were a bit metal for me.
I have made all of them into 2 dimensional cartoons, and they are all the same as the day I met them.
Rocker: Did you ever think in that first year or so, “I bet I will be creatively and professionally linked to these people for most of my adult life”?
Chris:There was no precedent for big time success for a band from Halifax Nova Scotia except April Wine who had moved to Montreal to make it. The success of Nirvana changed everything. It would make me look foolish to say that I thought we could last 20 years but we were careful to set up the band in a fair way in order to avoid imploding prematurely.
Rocker: Do you think there is something special about how you all work together that has allowed you to work together creatively and professionally for so long?
Chris: We have an unwritten agreement where we allow everyone to be in charge of their “real estate” (songs on the record) and that they cannot be vetoed off. This means that theoretically there could be songs that are not loved or even liked by some of the band members. In fact, this often happens but I still think it’s the best way to do it. You could say that this kind of democracy sucks but we think it is the best form of “government” considering the options.
Rocker: I was surprised to see in your tour diary (when you talked about going to the movies in Oregon) that you say the band rarely do things as a group. I think from the outside you always imagine that all bands are like The Monkees, you live in a big house, ride unicycles. So, that isn’t your life together?