Chris Murphy and Jay Ferguson are conflicted. The two Sloan members just want to get on with making a new record, but 2005 is gearing up to be a year of nostalgic re-evaluation for the Canadian quartet.
Having spent almost 15 years as a band, Murphy and Ferguson (along with guitarist Patrick Pentland and drummer Andrew Scott) are now grappling with a mid-career greatest-hits release and reissues of their classic discs.
Still alive and kicking, Sloan want you to know that their compilation, A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005, due May 10, is not their death knell.
"I'm always nervous to put out a greatest-hit [disc]. It looks [to those on the outside] that we don't have any more songs. I have tons of songs," bassist and lead mouthpiece Chris Murphy declared.
For guitarist Ferguson, the idea of a best-of compilation makes him feel old, but it's not without its benefits. "It does feel awkward. I guess we've been around for a long time, but it should jumpstart the next record — rally the masses," he said optimistically.
The democratic group, whose members all write and sing their own songs, recently reconvened in the band's Toronto studio to record two new tracks for the compilation: the Pentland-penned rocker "All Used Up" and the Murphy song "Try to Make It."
The bonus disc of the best-of set will be a DVD containing all of Sloan's videos, a documentary on the making of the videos and live performances of those same singles. Tackling the big picture, however, seemed daunting. "The idea of doing the definitive history of Sloan was overwhelming," Ferguson said. "It's not the right time to do it — we're still going. The documentary on the videos was manageable."
"It's not like somebody's dead," Murphy sarcastically observed.
Sloan have had bad U.S. label luck over their career, so to ensure that fans have access to everything they need, the band's current label, Koch Entertainment, will begin rolling out reissues of its studio albums, minus the 2004 release Action Pact — Smeared, Twice Removed, One Chord to Another, Navy Blues, Between the Bridges and Pretty Together — with new packaging, liner notes and photos.
Smeared and Twice Removed will kick off the re-releases in late summer, and the rest will follow a few months after. Each disc will be accompanied by B-sides and demos, and there's an extensive amount of material to exhume.
"With Twice Removed, there are a lot of demos that sound way different from how the record turned out. Some of [the reissues] could be two CDs ... another 75 minutes of music," said Ferguson, who cites "Summer's My Season" as the B-side he's most excited for fans to hear.
The well-respected band — whose devotees include Death Cab for Cutie, the Donnas, comedian David Cross and multiplatinum Aussie rockers Jet (who formed around their mutual affection for the Canadian quartet) — have become a Canuck institution, but in the U.S., the band still remains a cult phenomenon.
"There's some radio station ... that wanted to give us some lifetime achievement award, which just sounds beyond retarded," Murphy said, not at all ready to rest on any laurels.
But underground U.S. status has its perks, such as being asked to play the Coachella festival in May alongside their idols in New Order and native compatriots like the Arcade Fire and k-os (see "Coachella Snags Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Bright Eyes, Wilco"). "The other years [we didn't play], I was jealous," said Ferguson. "I was like, 'Damn, I wish we could [play] there.' "
With that wish coming true, the band is eager to get on with making new records.
What direction a new LP might take all depends on what member of the four-headed hydra you're speaking to that day. Murph, for one, could use a change of pace. "We've been playing a fairly hard rock thing for what seems like two years now," he said. "My ears could use the rest — though, I almost feel safer going louder. If we get too folk-y, it might seem like we're really old."
"I've been trying to write really simple songs that you can apply a Plastic Ono Band/ T-Rex style to," Ferguson said. "Almost like '50s rock and roll, but layered with Fleetwood Mac harmonies. Whatever happens, I think the next record will have more variety."
A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 track list, according to Sloan's management:
- "500 Up"
- "Coax Me"
- "People of the Sky"
- "The Good in Everyone"
- "Everything You've Done Wrong"
- "The Lines You Amend"
- "Money City Maniacs"
- "She Says What She Means"
- "Losing California"
- "If It Feels Good Do It"
- "The Other Man"
- "The Rest of My Life"
- "All Used Up"
- "Try to Make It"
Sloan tour dates, according to their management:
- 5/1 - Indio, California @ Empire Polo Grounds
- 5/3 - San Francisco, CA @ Slim's
- 5/6 - Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Cafe
- 5/7 - Portland, OR @ Dante's
- 5/13 - Regina, SK @ The State