1981 to 1984
Ferguson has shown an early love for a wide spectrum of music and has started amassing his diverse vinyl collection ― ABBA, Kiss, the Grease soundtrack ― from the nearby department store. In 1981, 12 year-old Jay Ferguson is employed at Ol' Dan's Records in downtown Halifax after owner George Zimmerman fires an employee in front of him, and he's offered the job on the spot. He's interviewed about his job on CBC's youth centred television show, Switchback, and will continue to work there until 1985. Ferguson will continue to surround himself with records, and will later work at Sam The Record Man and host college radio shows. Murphy is still obsessed with Kiss, but has added Rush and punk into his collection. Pentland is also a fan of hard rock ― specifically AC/DC ― but also loves goth rock like the Cult and Bauhaus. In 1982, when Scott is 14, he is alone in his house when his father suffers a fatal heart attack. As Scott noted in Have Not Been The Same, his last words to him are, "Well, I guess you got yourself a drum kit." He doesn't pursue the instrument until adulthood, and focuses on learning the guitar instead. His musical tastes are all over the map ranging from British metal (Motörhead, Venom) to art punk (Joy Division, Swans) to rap (Beastie Boys, MC Shan). Though music is important to him, he focuses most of his junior high and high school time on a variety of sports, namely basketball.
1985 to 1986
All members have their first band experiences during this period. Murphy is inspired after seeing a punk rock band from Halifax West High School, Jellyfishbabies, release their own album in 1985. He plays guitar in a few punk bands culminating with a hardcore quartet named Spent. The quartet travel to Washington, DC to meet Fugazi/Minor Threat leader Ian MacKaye. MacKaye's straight-edge and community ideals are highly influential to Murphy, which will become clearer in the following decade. Ferguson plays in the Deluxe Boys with Matt Murphy [later of the Super Friendz/Flashing Lights], Pentland plays in a hardcore band, the Ripping Convulsions. Both this band and his post-high school band, Happy Co., feature future Thrush Hermit drummer and best friend Cliff Gibb.
1987 to 1989
All four members graduate from high school and start post-secondary education. Scott, an admitted poor student who struggled in public school, finally finds his place when he enrols at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) and will remain there until 1991. During the summer of 1986, Murphy meets Ferguson and Henri Sangalang through mutual friend Matt Murphy, who is working with Chris at the Victoria General Hospital as a message porter. Chris Murphy starts moonlighting from his hardcore band Spent, which will split in 1988, and forms Kearney Lake Rd. in 1987 with Ferguson and Sangalang. The trio carves out a strong following in their hometown with a sound that mixes Ferguson's R.E.M/Smiths influence with Sangalang's mod bass playing and Murphy's hardcore drumming style. They record two self-released tapes, and meet musical dreamer Peter Rowan [future Sloan, Eric's Trip and Hardship Post manager] who runs DTK records in Fredricton, NB. He's viewed as a big deal by the young band. They embark on an ill-fated tour that brings them to the Rivoli in Toronto, and they're interviewed by MuchMusic's Erica Ehm about the state of the music scene in the Maritimes. DTK plans to release the band's third tape on vinyl, but this will never happen. The final Kearney Lake Rd. tape of the unreleased DTK album places 4th on Dalhousie's CKDU year-end chart. Murphy admits he was part of the reason for the break-up because he wasn't willing to make a complete investment to take the band to the next level. The band officially splits after a final gig at King's College in 1990.
Murphy graduates from Dalhousie with a BA in English. Ferguson earns a BA in History, as will Pentland a year later from The University of King's College. By the spring, Murphy is the latest in a succession of bassists in Blackpool, a successful local roots rock band led by guitarists John Wesley Chisholm and Phil Sedore. Rounding out the band is drummer Chip Sutherland who will soon become Sloan's manager. Black Pool has the opportunity to record its second album with famed producer Terry Brown (Rush, Blue Rodeo) for a recording clinic that attendees pay $100 to watch Brown work. Murphy, a huge Rush fan, admits that the thrill of meeting Brown is soon lost when those in attendance are quick to point out his bass playing flaws to the producer throughout the session. Murphy spends two years at NSCAD, where Scott is studying. The two had met each other the previous year when Scott was a DJ at Club Flamingo. They become fast friends, and Scott is learning to play drums. They form a fun band, which they rename with every live performance. Among the best in a series of names is Furious George. While Scott is busy with school and playing drums in No Damn Fears with vocalist Jennifer Pierce and guitarist Dave Marsh, Murphy reconnects with Ferguson. Ferguson, who now hosts a show on CKDU, plays My Bloody Valentine's "You Made Me Realize" on his show, and Murphy is reborn. Both Scott and Murphy will drop out of NSCAD in the following year to fully commit to a band together with Ferguson.
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