Patrick Pentland of Sloan reflects on last 20 years
They’re a notoriously democratic band, with each member contributing to the creative process and vocals, and their latest release is nothing if not a master class in their own unique style.
On Sept. 9 Sloan releases their 11th studio album Common Wealth via Yelp Records, and it’s already being described as one of the most unique and ambitious recordings of their 20-plus-year career span.
While the band has historically blurred creative lines to create the multi-faceted Sloan sound, this album gives each member the opportunity to take complete control of their suit in the double album.
Designated by the four playing-card suits, the four unique sides allow for all four members work to be heard as separate creations. While it breaks from the harmonious nature of previous Sloan albums, it gives listeners the opportunity to view the band through the prism of individual identity.
Sloan guitarist Patrick Pentland describes the band’s cohesiveness and ability to stay together as stemming from their ability to give each other space when needed.
Although he admits that a band with four song-writers is a mixed blessing, he’s quick to defend the benefits of their writing process.
“I think being in a band with four song-writers can be a good and bad thing,” said Pentland. “A lot of bands have one main guy, or one main song-writer. And I think that that may cause some of the other band members to want to leave. I think that because each of us has our own creative outlet within Sloan, it’s a bit easier for us to try and get past our differences.”
As with any band who have been around for over two decades, the question invariably arises as to how much Sloan’s sound has “changed,” but Pentland is quick to put that notion to rest.
“I don’t know if (our style) has changed that much and I don’t know if that’s important. I think it’s more a question of refining what you want to put across.”
He explains that the band has consistently tried to stick to its musical roots.
“Most people identify with music that they listen to in their mid to late teens. I think that’s what most bands are chasing after, and the band is kind of like that. Whether we’re trying to draw from punk-rock or pop or from the mid-80’s.”[Sloan – 1992]
When asked about the changes the music scene has gone through during the band’s tenure, Pentland expresses the same feelings that a lot of bands have.
“In some ways I’m surprised that people are still putting out albums, and I don’t know how they’re making money.” For us, it’s easy because we’re an established band, and can go out and play to people who know our work and will buy our merchandise.”
With so many hits over the years, it would be forgivable for a band like Sloan to become embittered with their older works. However, Pentland maintains the opposite, stating “I don’t know of any band that’s been around for 20 years and only play new material. That would be horrible for most fans.”
When pressed on the significance of Sloan’s older work in relation to their current popularity, Pentland is blunt about the subject.
“I think the reason we still have a fan-base is because they’re interested in our back catalogue…”
However, he goes on to define the balance the band has achieved in performing their works.
“…when we tour we don’t usually have an opening band, we just have two sets. People have fan favorites, and we’re not opposed to those at all. They do get a bit boring, but they’re still good songs, and we’re proud of them.”
With a lot of Canadian acts struggling to make it outside of our borders, Pentland offers an interesting take on the subject, “There are a lot of very successful Canadian acts in the States. For us, we did O.K. We can play the same sized audience in Minneapolis as we do in Calgary.”
He also maintains that the band is apathetic with their current success south of the border.
“At the same time, we sort of gave up caring about that about 10 years ago. We decided, we’re not going to become superstars, but we have a fan-base, so we’ll play to them. We get a lot of respect, press-wise in the States, so we’re happy.”
This attitude goes along with the band’s overall genuineness throughout what they do.
“We’ve never really tried to manufacture our sound to sell records, although there’s nothing wrong with that goal. We focused more on believing ourselves after a while, and not so much on believing labels or anybody else.”
“When we put out our second album, the label didn’t want to release it because it didn’t sound commercial enough. We decided way back then that we weren’t going to change it. So we’ve always sort of had that attitude of: This is who we are, and if we’re not going to be successful then that sucks but it’s the way it goes.”
Story by Brian Talmey