Sloan celebrates 20 years

Twenty years is a rather significant amount of time to be invested in anything, let alone a band. Yet Halifax natives Sloan can claim having reached this impressive milestone this past year. So far, the band has celebrated its twentieth anniversary in a rather understated way. The band, writers of radio hits including Money City Maniacs, The Good In Everyone and The Other Man, will be performing a free show in Downtown Moncton tomorrow evening as a part of the Lotto Max Touchdown Downtown Street Festival, presented by the Times & Transcript.

Asked what he feels has kept the band together for two decades, guitarist Jay Ferguson says that he believes there are a couple of different factors that have contributed to their collective longevity.

“It is hard to say what exactly has kept us going,” Ferguson explains from a recent tour stop in Boston. “We like doing it; it is a nice lifestyle, and we are fortunate enough to keep doing this as well as being involved in some other things too. The joke I always tell people is that we split the songwriting money four ways and that is what has kept the band together.”

Sloan’s democratic approach to songwriting and letting each of their members actively contribute to making their records has been a cornerstone of the band’s existence. Aside from Sloan, only a handful of other bands can rightfully claim that their members have each had hit singles under the umbrella of the group.

Ferguson notes that while the arrangement of having four active songwriters in the band might not be unique, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard on each record has effectively eliminated the need of Sloan’s members pursing solo projects outside of the band.

“The fact that our band is an outlet for every one of us means that if you want to write songs, you can and if you want to sing them, you can do that too.”

Sloan’s tenth full-length studio record, The Double Cross, was released this past spring to excellent reviews right across the board with many calling the record one of the group’s strongest of its career. Ferguson says that despite feeling “kind of lost” during the making of The Double Cross, he is incredibly happy with the end result.

“When we were making our record Never Hear The End Of It, I could sort of imagine the way that the record was going to turn out but for The Double Cross, I just couldn’t picture it,” he explains. “I think some of that stemmed from the fact I had been frustrated with my own songs. I had two or three that I hadn’t finished and was indecisive about which ones I liked and that I wanted to include on the record. I felt as though I was second-guessing a lot of my songs and was seeing some frustration set in. So for me, The Double Cross wasn’t the easiest record to make but incidentally, I feel that it is probably one of our best records.”

When discussion turns towards how the group has been celebrating their 20 years in existence, Ferguson says that the group had discussed at length how to best celebrate the milestone.

The overwhelmingly positive response to The Double Cross saw their anniversary celebrations take an inadvertent backseat, however. Not that Ferguson or his band mates Chris Murphy, Andrew Scott or Patrick Pentland are ones to complain.

“At the outset of this year, it certainly seemed like the year was going to be mostly about the band’s twentieth anniversary. Our friend Catherine Stockhausen made some vignettes on the band that we posted to YouTube where a lot of fellow musicians said some really kind things about us. But then a lot of the press from this year ended up being about the new record and how people liked it so the whole anniversary thing kind of took a backseat to the new record, which really isn’t a bad thing no matter how you look at it.”

With such a humble attitude, it shouldn’t be surprising that Sloan has managed to last 20 years as a band. Ferguson acknowledges that while the group has managed to maintain a dedicated fan base over the past two decades, he anxiously looks to the future, saying that he would like to see the band undertake a series of concerts where they would perform one of their past records in its entirety. Sloan has already treaded into this territory, having played its 1994 record Twice Removed in its entirety last October during a performance in Halifax.

While the idea of a band playing a record from start to finish may strike some as being a current fad among bands trying to recapture their glory days, Ferguson says that he sees a great deal of value in the idea.

“I am very happy with the music that we are making now but I personally see a great deal of value in performing shows where we play a specific album,” he says. “There are probably a lot of people who might have liked us 14 or 15 years ago that have gone on to careers and kids that might not necessarily be caught up to us in terms of where we are at in our career. Playing one of our older records just might bring some of those folks out to a show if we were to do something like that.”

Article published in September 23, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript

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