WHO doesn’t love Sloan? You know, those east coast dudes with the catchy choruses and shaggy hair who have had so many singles you’d be hard pressed to find a music lover who couldn’t sing along at least a few songs. Sloan are mighty Canadian indie-rock kings; they are also a Juno-Award winning, Toronto-based rock band from Halifax, N.S.
The band are credited as being a main instigator for the Canadian east coast alternative scene of the early ’90s.
Recently Sloan were named one of Canada’s top five bands of all time in a CBC critics poll, alongside Rush, The Band, Arcade Fire and the Tragically Hip. “It’s lovely and outrageous,” says guitarist Jay Ferguson of the accolade. “It’s nice to be recognized and I think longevity helps our body of work. I’m happy with all of our records, we have a good catalogue,”
Ferguson may be admittedly slightly deaf from decades of loud amplifier exposure but that just comes with the territory. Sloan return to familiar Northwestern Ontario territory, on Wednesday at famous live music venue, Crocks, in downtown Port Arthur and Ferguson recalls more than just his stays at the Prince Arthur Hotel, “I’m glad we’re playing. I’m looking forward to it.”
“We’ve played a number of venues in Thunder Bay over the years. I remember Crocks and Rolls from a million years ago. There are times when I recognize people from 20 years ago, it’s nice to see that there are people who come out and support a scene.”
An arts scene is nothing without the people who support. Sloan are currently embarking on a North American tour, encompassing well over 30 dates with more constantly being added to the itinerary. Now that’s a proper tour. Ferguson is humbled and at this point in his career, hitting the road is anything but daunting. In a nonchalant tone he explains, “I’m glad we have a lot of shows, it’s nice that promoters still want to have a band back and that people still want to come see your shows. I’m glad and grateful that there are people who still want to see a band who have made 12 records. We’ve been a band for 27 years at this point, it’s nice that we can still tour and make records.”
After decades of hitting the Trans-Canada Highway, Ferguson explains that the thrill is definitely not gone and the roar of the crowd never gets old, “I like getting up on stage and playing, that’s the easiest part of the job.
The travelling and healthy eating, that’s the stuff I’m getting paid for. It’s a great job. I’m grateful.”
The veteran rock and rollers make a raucous return with their 12th studio album, Sloan 12 (Murderecords/Universal Music Canada), the first since 2014’s Commonwealth. The record features three songs written by each member; Andrew Scott, Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland and Ferguson.
Each one a prolific songwriter and musician, with each song greatly emphasizing each member’s distinct personality. Sloan have remained a force to be reckoned with, with their original line-up still intact, a nearly miraculous feat in this day and age.
Snacking on something crunchy from the other end of the phone, a friendly and funny Ferguson explains why the Sloan chemistry is pure magic and sheds some light on the secret to their unique chemistry.
Sharing. “It’s democratic. If you take someone out of the equation it becomes different. I’m grateful that we continue to write good songs, that’s part of what makes it appealing to be in the band. It’s mutual for everyone, that’s the glue.
We split everything four ways and that keeps everyone on the same level. It’s a job where we earn our pay and have a creative outlet. By sharing it keeps everybody interested to work. I’m happy to work on any Sloan project.”
Fans at the show can expect two juicy sets of Sloan certified tunes, so get your dancing shoes ready. The format is a proven satisfaction guaranteed model.
With an impressive back catalogue of over 200 songs and 30 singles, comprising those perfect sets could prove challenging, especially when it involved re-learning songs from 15 years ago. “It’s a fun way to do a show,” explains Ferguson. “We also play for longer and two sets allows us to play more songs.
We’re trying to find songs that we haven’t played in a long time, which is fun. We’re still playing the singles and familiar songs.”
Sloan 12 is a colourful sonic soda pop, like pop rocks exploding on your tongue. The magenta and orange halftone cover image speaks volumes. “There’s nothing we’re trying to hide from.
We always either produced or co-produced our music so for better or for worse. We made our own decisions, and didn’t rely on someone else’s. Playing in a band was something I always wanted to do when I was a kid, and it worked out.”
Angie Valente is a freelance journalist based in Thunder Bay.