Sloan Parallel Play

Continuing the gradual downward spiral that began with 1999’s Between the Bridges, 2006’s (aptly named) Never Hear the End of It had many long-time fans losing faith in all things Sloan. Thankfully, redemption has finally come for the faithful. There is no unnecessary bloat or noodling on Parallel Play; the songs are saturated with harmonies and handclaps, and most clock in at the three-minute mark. Melodically, every last track offers instant gratification. The record runs the rock’n’roll gamut, toying with ’50s malt shop sweetness, amusingly self-aware garage rock, early rockabilly and ’60s Hammond jams. The musical variety is fitting, seeing as how the band function as a kind of rock’n’roll democracy. While the vocals sound over-processed at times, that’s a minor complaint that can be overlooked, especially considering Parallel Play is easily Sloan’s strongest and most consistent effort since Navy Blues. Welcome back, boys.

Tell me about the writing and recording process for this album.
Patrick Pentland: I wrote all of my songs by myself, with no real input from the rest. Sometimes I will have someone sit in and help out with a part, but I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to accomplish. As far as recording, we did most of the tracking at our practice space. I did a bit in my house, and I sang all my vocals and played some lead guitar at the mixing studio, the Orange Lounge here in Toronto.

What’s the significance of the album’s title?
Jay Ferguson: It’s a term that refers to the first stage of children learning to interact and play with other children. They sit next to each other, playing with a toy or whatever, but are not really interacting with each other yet. Kind of the way our band makes records.
Pentland: The album title reflects the way we recorded the record and the way that we behave as a band in general. We play together, but we’re also sort of separate. At times we’re sort of four solo acts and each other’s backing band.

Has fatherhood changed your musical outlook at all?
Pentland: Fatherhood hasn’t really changed my musical outlook at all. MySpace has. I find I listen to more music now through the internet than I ever have in my life. Hopefully my dids will have a lot more music to listen to as they grow up, and make their own.

What's your favourite song on the new album and why?
Ferguson: I have a number of favourites. I quite like "Living The Dream,” for no other reason than the lyrics are excellent and the bass guitar sounds like Rubber Soul. "Burn For It” has an interesting and unusual structure. "The Dogs” is heavy. I’m satisfied with all of my songs and the fact that they are all around or under two-and-a-half minutes long.
Pentland: I find it hard to pick a favourite. I’ll have a better idea when we start to play shows.

To what do you attribute Sloan’s longevity?
Ferguson: Fans.
Pentland: I think we all love doing it. We make a living doing something we’ve all wanted to do our whole lives. We’re not filthy rich, but we’re good and what we do and have a ball doing it.

On "All I Am Is All You’re Not,” you give a shout-out to long-time listeners. Is Parallel Play a bit of a valentine to old guard fans?
Ferguson: I was thinking it was more a half-price Halloween grab bag, but I like your suggestion better.
Pentland: Chris [Murphy] wrote that line, so you’d have to ask him. We have different types of old guard fans. Many are hugely supportive and keep us on the road, but some just want it to be 1994 forever and we’re not interested in that. (Murder)