There are few bands that posses both the longevity and commitment to collective songwriting that Sloan does. Each member of the Halifax four-piece—consisting of rhythm guitarist/vocalist Jay Ferguson, bassist/vocalist Chris Murphy, lead guitarist/vocalist Patrick Pentland, and drummer Andrew Scott—has contributed significant material since the band’s debut in 1992. However, according to Ferguson, this process hasn’t always sat well with everyone.
“Maybe in the early days it was a bit of a detriment to us,” he said. “When we were signed to Geffen [Records], I think they were maybe pushing more for Chris to sing all the songs just so there was a frontman and it was easier to market, even though some of the the biggest bands in the world had multiple singers and songwriters.”
After 22 years and 11 albums, the formula has proven to be a winning one. Sloan has garnered both critical and commercial acclaim for its quintessential brand of power pop.
“Even before Sloan started we were all in bands where we were songwriters,” Ferguson explained. “So it kind of made sense for us, and especially for Andrew who’s a great drummer but also a great guitar player and a great singer. After a few albums […] it sort of became our identity. Everybody has an outlet, no one’s frustrated.”
Despite its experience, Sloan is intent on continuing to find new ways to provide this outlet. Ferguson suggests that this is the key to keeping the band honest and fun after so long.
“Challenging yourself always sounds so cheesy,” he said. “What could we do with our eleventh album? I mean, we could have just made a record where everyone sings and writes three or four songs and it’s sort of staggered. We decided on this record to just sort of carve it up and make it a real double record. Everybody kind of gets their own side to do what they want. I think that’s a new template for a new band like us. It’s a way to keep things fun and engaging.”
That 11th album, Commonwealth, marks yet another chapter in Sloan’s extensive history. Divided into four sides—Ferguson’s “Diamond”, Murphy’s “Heart”, Pentland’s “Shamrock,” and Scott’s “Spade”—the album gives each member a chance to express his individual ideas for a longer amount of time than the two to four minutes of a typical Sloan song. The band took different approaches to this challenge.
“Not all of us rose to the challenge of necessarily having to stream all our songs together on our particular side,” Ferguson explained. “Andrew took it to the extreme and made one giant song that is essentially six to seven mini-songs strung together. Patrick didn’t really stream his songs together at all—which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just what he chose to do. It’s about having your own side to do what you want. The actual recording of the songs wasn’t that different from a typical Sloan record. It was up to us to make our sides as interesting as we wanted.”
With Commonwealth, Sloan is a band looking to the future, but the group has also been looking to the past. Following this past year’s reissue and tour celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its 1994 classic Twice Removed, Ferguson hinted that Twice Removed won’t be the last Sloan album to be revisited.
“I think the next big thing we would do is plan another reissue box-set,” he said. “We might do it for our third album, One Chord to Another (1996). That will probably come out early 2016, ballpark anyhow.”
Between new albums, reissues, and constant touring, it’s a wonder how the band ever catches its breath. Maybe after 22 years, they don’t need to.
Sloan performs at La Sala Rosa (4848 Saint-Laurent) on Thursday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.50.