Despite being on the cusp of celebrating their 25th anniversary, leave it to beloved Halifax natives Sloan, a group comprised of four individual singer-songwriters, to continue to innovate.
On previous Sloan efforts, the album’s songs, regardless of writer, were heard in a sequence that served the album as a whole. With Commonwealth, their latest studio effort released this past September, the band took a new-to-them approach to incorporating the contributions of each member.
Each member of the long-running group – Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott and Chris Murphy – were given an album “side” on which their respectively written material would appear.
Although it took until 2014 for the album’s concept to be followed through upon, guitarist-vocalist Patrick Pentland admits that Sloan – performing at Moncton’s Tide & Boar Ballroom on Thursday Mar. 5 – had considered pursuing the concept following the release of 2006’s sprawling effort Never Hear The End Of It.
“We began exploring the concept back then and had thought that each of us would go off and make a solo record, in the respect that it would be an album of material written by each member of the band,” he says. “When we realized that we would then be looking at upwards of 48 songs between the four solo records, it seemed a little ridiculous, having just released Never Hear The End Of It, which had 30 songs. Doing a double album, as we’ve done with Commonwealth, seemed to be the best solution.”
This isn’t to insinuate that Sloan have been dormant in the time between Never Hear The End Of It and Commonwealth. In 2008, the group released their ninth studio album, Parallel Play, following that up with the five-song Hit & Run EP the next year.
They celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2011 with what was arguably one of their strongest efforts, The Double Cross. The next year, Sloan undertook a deluxe reissue of their acclaimed 1994 release Twice Removed, while indulging their teenage selves with a 7-inch single of hardcore-inspired originals along with a collection of hardcore and punk cover songs in 2013.
Considering their latest album is the first time that Sloan fans have had the group’s songwriters “segregated” for a number of consecutive songs, Pentland says that reaction to Commonwealth has been, understandably, somewhat mixed.
“It’s not that I feel any of us really took any chances as far as breaking the mold from what each of us has done in the past. I think that this record helped people realize that a big part of what I feel helps make a Sloan record interesting is the fact that we don’t have just one sound. On our other albums, and typically when we play live, it’s more of a hodgepodge of material where I will sing a song, then Chris will sing one and so on.
“This album was probably the first time that listeners were hearing a string of songs from the same person in a row. It has even taken some getting used to when we play the new songs live. It’s not typical that I sing two songs in a row live; singing the four from Commonwealth just seems to take forever,” Pentland chuckles.
Sloan’s upcoming show in Moncton – Thursday, Mar. 5 at the Tide & Boar Ballroom – is one of four shows they will be performing in Atlantic Canada. Late last year, the group toured Western Canada while also dipping down to the United States for a number of shows.
Aside from their scheduled mid-April performances at the immensely popular Coachella Music Festival in California, and perhaps some additional festival appearances this coming summer, Pentland believes the band has completed the bulk of the expected touring commitments behind Commonwealth. Being one of Canada’s longest running bands, Sloan can afford to draw such lines in the sand.
The group hasn’t remained relevant these last two-plus decades by settling for the status quo and simply going through the motions of what people expect from them.
Sloan has remained a consistent live draw from coast to coast and with good reason: The band’s live show is one of their many strengths. The band recognizes this as well, and does their best to ensure that those taking the time and money to come see them perform leave the venue happy.
“We argue rather often about what songs we should play on any given night,” Pentland says. “From a crowd-pleasing point of view, there are some staples we come back to night after night. We want to make sure our set reflects everyone’s tastes and has a cross-section of songs from each of us so that the audience walks away feeling they got their money’s worth from coming to see us play.”
When: Thursday Mar. 5, 10:30 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $26.50. Advance tickets are available online at tideandboar.com/music