Photo courtesy of Janni McInnes
For many Canadians that grew up in the 1990s, the Halifax-bred, Toronto-based band Sloan played an intrinsic role in developing musical taste. Whether it was seeing their music videos on MuchMusic, hearing their melodically-inclined anthems rule rock radio, or even just catching them headlining a summer festival, Sloan were the most seminal band of their generation. Now in their 25th year, the four-piece are still going strong by releasing new material, but they also recognize that their fans—both new and old–can’t get enough of the golden oldies.
Sloan first acknowledged the nostalgia when they packaged and reissued 1994’s highly influential second album, Twice Removed, as an extensive vinyl box set in 2012. The celebration also included a tour that saw the band play the album in its entirety. Seeing as Sloan have a breadth of classic albums, they’ve gone and done it again with their Juno-winning, best-selling album, 1996’s One Chord To Another. Recorded in secret after the band had broken up, Sloan’s third album proved to be a pivotal moment in their career, both critically and commercially, but even more so, personally, inspiring them to get the band back together for the next 20 years and counting. Doing it as a proper 20th anniversary this time, Sloan have evacuated the vaults and given fans a remastered edition of the original album, a 32-page booklet containing an oral history of OCTA, the scarce Recorded "Live" at a Sloan Party faux live album, a 7” of demos and, best of all, a full LP of outtakes they’ve described as a “lost Sloan record.” And of course, Sloan have hit the road to play the album in full, all across Canada and parts of the U.S. Noisey caught guitarist/vocalist Jay Ferguson a few days into the OCTA tour to break down what went into commemorating their 20-year-old classic.
Noisey: Last year you told Noisey this was your favourite Sloan album. Does that make re-releasing and touring this album any sweeter for you?
Jay Ferguson: I know what you mean. It probably still is my favourite, and for reasons not just to do with the music but also the circumstances around its release: such as leaving Geffen, recording and financing the record on our own and it becoming our bestseller. It's sort of the beginning of the modern day Sloan operation, or at least it set the model. Yet still I'm a fan of all our albums, so even though this "favourited child" is getting some attention this time, I'm not sure it's much more sweeter than celebrating its other siblings. Still it's quite flattering that people are still interested in something we made 20 years ago.
How did compiling this box set compare to compiling the Twice Removed box set?
Not that different to be honest. It's not a super emotional thing going through the archives, other than joy. I mean it's fun finding stuff that you have forgotten about. I'm a fan of these kind of archive sets when other artists that I like issue them, so to have the option to make these for our fans (and ourselves) is really great. I appreciate that we have the fan base that's interested in these projects.
What is the biggest challenge of putting together such a comprehensive set like this?
The audio wasn't too difficult to whittle down this time. There was a bit of decision making whether we should include a whole "mirror" style LP of all the demo recordings to the songs on One Chord To Another, but we thought fans might enjoy the Party album more—and it would have a bit more fidelity than a full LP of –four-track (occasionally three-track) recordings. So we decided to include those recordings as a bonus download only with the box. Choosing the photographs to include in the booklet was a challenge, as there is so much nice stuff that Catherine Stockhausen took during that era. We'd have a much slimmer book without her awesome photos. There are other boring challenges like financing the whole thing ourselves and keeping our fingers crossed that the vinyl arrives on schedule, but thankfully it did this time.
Twice Removed also had an album of outtakes but this one has been described as a “lost Sloan record.” What can you tell me about these outtakes?
Chris had mentioned that fact. I honestly hadn't thought about it in those terms, but you could imagine it like that. It's not part of a planned album that was scrapped. It's mainly songs that were demoed on our own or in pairs, mostly during the time after Twice Removed and when it appeared we were likely not going to continue. Some were made once we knew we were going to make a third record, but just remained unfinished. There are a number of cool Andrew recordings on the Outtakes record that he made on his own in Toronto around 1995. There are also two songs on the LP—"Learn How To Play Dead" and "Pictures Now"—that were recorded in the studio during One Chord To Another, but we chose to not use them on the LP in the end.
Recorded “Live” at a Sloan Party isn’t really an actual live record. What is the story behind that one?
It's a bit of a fake live party album; an homage to the Beach Boys’ Party! album that was released in 1966. Our U.S. label at the time, the Enclave, had signed us after One Chord To Another had been released in Canada. They presumed that many U.S. Sloan fans would have bought the Canadian import already, so the Enclave wanted to include some kind of bonus with the U.S. release hoping to entice the customers south of the border to purchase OCTA for a second time. Originally they wanted to include a live concert recording, but upon thinking that might not be that exciting or original, we decided to mimic the Beach Boys LP and record covers and some of our own songs. We actually threw a big party in order to record crowd noise and take photos for the artwork, so that was a nice side product of the whole project.
You’ve started the tour where you play the album in full. How was the first show?
It was pretty good. There are a number of songs on One Chord To Another that we regularly play in our sets, so those aren't too stressful to play, but there are a few where you might see us (well, probably me) with serious study faces on as if I'm taking an exam.
What album do you think Sloan will package up as a box set next?
Ha! We've talked about it already. Probably Chris and I more so than the others. The reception from fans to these box sets has been very encouraging, so hopefully we can continue to make more. We have so much great documentation from the Smeared era, both prior to its release and the ensuing U.S. release and tour and all that. It would make for a pretty boss box set to create. Navy Blues would still make a nice box set, but would probably make for a better tour. We play live more like Navy Blues era then Smeared era for sure. Anyhow, there are lots still in the vault that both will be good I think. We'll see.
Catch Sloan on one of their One Chord To Another tour dates below:
4/9 Winnipeg, MB - The Pyramid
4/10 Saskatoon, SK - Broadway Theatre
4/11 Lethbridge, AB - Average Joe's
4/13 Grande Prairie, AB - Better Than Fred's
4/14 Red Deer, AB - Bo's Bar and Grill -
4/15 Edmonton, AB - The Needle Vinyl Tavern
4/16 Calgary, AB - The Marquee
4/18 Nelson, BC - Spirit Bar
4/19 Penticton, BC - The Mule
4/20 Vancouver, BC - Imperial Theatre
4/21 Victoria, BC - Sugar
4/22 Nanaimo, BC - The Queens
4/23 Seattle, WA - Barboza
4/24 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
4/26 San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop
5/5 Stratford, ON - Masonic Concert Hall
5/6 Peterborough, ON - Red Dog
5/7 Hamilton, ON - Dundas Valley Montessori School
5/8 Fort Erie, ON - Bell Tower Sanctuary
5/10 London, ON - London Music Hall
5/11 Waterloo, ON - Maxwell's
5/12 Detroit, MI - St. Andrew's Hall
5/13 Sarnia, ON - Station Music Hall
5/14 Toronto, ON - Phoenix Concert Theatre
6/19 Beaumont, AB – Beaumont Blues and Roots Festival
7/9 Dresden, ON – Dresden Kinsmen Club
7/22 Bengough, SK – Gateway Festival
7/30 Minnedosa, MB – Rockin’ the Fields
9/17 Prince Edward County, ON – Sandbanks Music Festival
Cam Lindsay is a writer from Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.