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Sloan Interview
         
 
   

Sloan Interview

By: Morgan Y. Evans
September 09, 2014

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A Commonwealth Interview With Singer Chris Murphy


Sloan are a perfect model for a pop rock band with integrity. A deep passion for songcrafting, a love of great hooks without abusive commercial tendencies that ruin the really great and catchy human elements and years pursuing the Sloan musical muses, wherever they might be. It was a charmed life moment to talk to Chris about new album Commonwealth, one of their all time best.


SPACELAB - "Carried Away" starts Commonwealth with such fanfair. Love the string hits. Sloan has always been able to sound immediate and make it seem near-effortless to come up with great hooks. Do you think just plain enthusiasm for music gets you able to write song after song well?


CHRIS - I wouldn’t say Carried Away starts the record. Ideally, there is no order to the sides. We did not number them on the vinyl. They are just named after the suit associated with each guy. On the digital version we were forced to put things into an order because we didn’t want to seek the sides separately. Of course, in true democratic style, we opted to put them into alphabetical order. 1. Ferguson 2. Murphy 3. Pentland 4. Scott. This was fortuitous because Jay’s lead off song, We’ve Come This Far makes a nice beginning to the record and Andrew’s 18 minute opus is a hard act to follow so it closes out the record.


That said, I’m glad you like Carried Away. I wouldn’t say it was effortless. I have to work on music and really work to come up with lyrics. I accept and appreciate that hard work is required to do a good job and keep the band moving but luckily I like to work and it’s a great job.


SPACELAB - "Cleopatra" is such a strong single. Are there certain eras or records in minimal pop you tend to gravitate towards? Love your emphasis on backup vocals with this song.


CHRIS - Cleopatra is Jay’s song. You say minimal. I am working my ass off the entire song playing tons of bass lines and singing all over the place. I don’t know what era this would be lifted from. Maybe ancient Egypt mixed with early 60’s Hollywood? I like the clean guitars, which might be a nod to 70’s pub rock. I’m not sure.


SPACELAB - When you write, is there just a sense of trust between you all?


CHRIS -Yes and no. We don’t all agree on many things so we have created a system where we split the writing duties equally and each person is in charge of his own songs. People can suggest ideas for the other guys’ songs and we do but ultimately the writer has final say. This assures that no one will not have his ideas vetoed. It’s not exactly democracy but we think it’s the best way to keep everyone happy in the group and we hope that people continue to tune into our experiment.


SPACELAB - What about Commonwealth, in your estimation, serves to best represent where Sloan is at now in this phase of your lives


CHRIS -Giving ourselves an entire side of a double record is the culmination of the way we work. We could have each made a solo record but we thought it would be too much music to digest (not to mention to write/record and pay for). This amounts to 4 solo ep's in one package. The writing process is the same as what we do normally but with this record we were able to curate 15 - 17 minutes of music in the writing of the record instead of what normally occurs where songs randomly sequenced after the recording process amounting to a compilation style. I like the way we normally do it but this is a fun experiment for us and hopefully for people who follow our band.


SPACELAB - Do you think people fear change too much? And does that lead to war?


CHRIS - What?! I am not qualified to answer that one but I think religion and oil provide plenty of opportunities to kill poor people.


SPACELAB - "Misty's Beside Herself" joins a grand tradition of "story" songs. Were you always fans of this mode? Or the song "Jack & Dianne"?


CHRIS - I suppose "Misty’s Beside Herself" is a story song. Nothing against Mr. Cougar but "Jack & Dianne" was not an influence. The best lyricists by the way are maybe Ray Davies, Chuck Berry and Morrissey? Discuss.


SPACELAB - Hmmm, I pick Billie Holiday. What is the best way to set your mind at peace or brace yourself for a long sequence of recording or writing? Or even being in public and letting people have access to your energy?


CHRIS - As of Friday, I will have 2 kids in school full-time and I am looking forward to having more time to write songs. I have found it difficult to have enough time to write music during the last 7 years.


As for people having “access to my energy”. The most draining people for that are my 2 (awesome) kids. Other than them, Sloan never got so famous that I felt like the public were demanding too much of me. I can easily make time for people who want to tell me Sloan’s music is important to them.


SPACELAB - How does Commonwealth rest in conjunction to The Double Cross? Is there a relationship there?


CHRIS -  The Double Cross was succinct and perhaps more easily digestible. This is sprawling and perhaps difficult to digest but may I suggest listening to it in 4 separate parts? As a small business, we feel like each album needs to have a story. This record is the one where we each got a side so it had to be long. The Double Cross was released as the band turned 20 so it didn’t really need to be anything specific. Not sure what else connects them except proximity.


SPACELAB - Is there anything from the Smeared-era you learned that still serves you well today as a musician or person, not that musicians aren't people - haha -?


CHRIS -  I was in the position of being the principal songwriter and the person who brought the guys in the band together. I feel like when we got signed, I could have made a play to be the boss and write all the songs, call the shots and make the majority of the money. I’m glad I invested in the writing of the rest of the guys because having the 4 of us write has made us last. My songs haven’t generated the most money, I would have been out of ideas about 3 records in and the guys would have certainly left a situation where someone was making more money than they are. I am thrilled to still be doing it with the same guys.

   
   
 
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