Contemporary avant-rock trio The SLIP formed when bassist Marc Friedman and brothers Andrew and Brad Barr (drums and guitar/vox, respectively) moved to Boston together after graduating from high school, where they had met and first began playing music as a group.
In 1996, the trio of recent Berklee dropouts put out their first studio album as a self-release and began establishing a dedicated fan-base through relentless touring in and around the northeast. A late-nineties blend of extended roots pop compositions and experimental rhythmic approaches, the band developed and found their sound through an extremely supportive local scene of artists, musicians, and actors – coupled with a rigorous, and soon national, tour schedule. An eclectic new brand of exploratory roots psych-rock emerged; Van Morrison meets Coltrane meets Talking Heads.
By 2001, the band’s tour schedule had brought them to sold-out headlining shows at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom, successful tours in Japan, and a record deal with Rykodisc.
While the band’s line-up remained consistent throughout the next few years on the road, their sound developed considerably and the instrumentation expanded radically. The SLIP grew from young, earthy avant-gardes to strong, dynamic rock composers, creating a new sonic landscape that drew equally from CAN, U2, and new interests like Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, and Wilco.
By 2003, the trio’s non-stop touring produced Alivelectric and Aliveacoustic, a companion live set that also represented the inaugural release of their own independent record label, 216 records.
Aliveacoustic presents a rustic and intimate, voyeuristic snapshot of the band unplugged, on a rainy night at Club Helsinki in the Berkshire Mountains. Equal parts Let it Bleed, King Oliver, and 11 Golden Country Hits-era Ween, the album contains a tender honesty that carries through from tent-revival stomps to humble and dusty lyrical psalms.
Alivelectric, on the other hand, is almost exclusively instrumental, with a deep resonance and a wide breadth of analog and digital effects. Culled from an equally wide array of performances throughout the U.S. during the fall of 2002 and the summer and spring of 2003, Alivelectric gave 216 a chance to showcase the band at its grander, more expansive and ethereal live moments. The album presents an articulated side of The SLIP much closer to Explosions in The Sky, Tortoise, electric Bill Frisell and Squarepusher albums than the dusty americana present on its companion release.
These two records represent the most coherent articulation of the bands’ distinct sides to date, and have sold a combined 14,000 copies so far. The band has sold a total of over 50,000 albums to date.
The past couple of years have also seen The SLIP play long tours throughout the U.S. and Canada, including memorable runs with new friends Apollo Sunshine and Au Revoir Simone, as well as high-profile festival performances at Bonnaroo, SXSW, and Seattle’s Bumbershoot.
During this period the band additionally made what were now their 5th and 6th trips to Japan, where they continued to collaborate and perform with good friend and Japanese cult superstar UA – at one point playing for over 1,300 people from 3AM until dawn in Shibuya, Tokyo.
The spring of 2005 saw the band spin through the northeast accompanied by Nathan Moore on vocals and guitar as collective avant-folk band Surprise Me Mr. Davis; a modern alt-country supergroup combining the raw and intimate vocals of a Tom Waits or a Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen with the bluesy grit of the Black Keys or The Band – all layered with lush 3- and 4-part harmonies and shout choruses. Selections from a late summer Montreal recording session formed a well-received limited edition EP entitled Only in Montreal.
In the five years following their last SLIP studio release, the band also spent more and more of their time off the road in their home studios, gradually honing a new and innovative approach to recording and distilling an overall songwriting vision. So pervasive a transformation has occurred in their approach to recording and performing, in fact, that the three have even recently been accused – perhaps appropriately – of “changing everything short of their name”.
Coming out of this, their heaviest state of growth and development in years, the band entered Q-Division Studios in Boston and began six months of utterly focused work with co-producer Mathew Ellard. By the early summer of 2006, final tweaks were being made to the new LP and the band again stepped into the studio, this time Montreal’s venerable Studio Plateau, to record one last final track with good friend Drew Malamud (Stars, Metric, The Dears). Entitled “Airplane/Primitive” the track also features french horn laid down by Chris Seligman from Stars, and additional vocals were also recorded by UA during a late summer trip back to Japan for a special version of the song to be included with the Japanese release.
The result of all these efforts is EISENHOWER. Showcasing raw passion and accessible melodic songcraft combined, the record easily stands as the most cohesive and evocative work The SLIP has released to date.
The album kicks off with “Children of December” and right away you can tell that something new and truly powerful is happening. Percussive vocal delivery over just four punchy chords that erupts unexpectedly into far-flung choruses and then backs out just as quickly – it’s a holiday song for no season in particular, a jump-up generational anthem for the yesteryears of tomorrow.
“ïChildren of December’ is the song that hit me hardest,” says My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, “the way the guitar and the melody interlace, it’s incredible…It could even appeal to some kid who really likes punk rock. It’s really challenging.” (Sunday New York Times, July 2, 2006)
Immediately following this is “Even Rats” – a super-charged, arena-rock racecar for your impersonal post-apocalypse. Hook-laden, and complete with politically-charged and ambiguous lyrics, the track has already been featured in Sony Playstation’s top-selling “Guitar Hero” videogame, and in doing so has introduced the band to legions of new fans worldwide. (The first single officially released off of the album, this track was also chosen to be one of only ten songs preloaded on the new SanDisk mp3 player, millions of which shipped in mid-march 2006.)
From then on, the record only pulls you further and further in, ranging effortlessly from intimate and hushed vocals to thunderous, big-beat anthem sincerity – all the while telling a single intense and meaningful story. Massive Lennon-esque ballads give way to angular post-punk deconstructions and gently transition off into intimate acoustic lullabies. Virtuosic surf-rock intros drift seamlessly into dusty, epic, headphone Americana – all this, and yet somehow, the story is never lost, it all ends up making sense.
It is the work of a band at it’s finest: a new paradigm in wide-awake rock-realism.
In the months leading up to EISENHOWER’S release, The SLIP has garnered some remarkable press and attention. Write-ups in Rolling Stone Magazine, The New York Times, and Stereogum’s coveted tag of “Band to Watch” have all prompted legions of new music fans to find out more about the mysterious trio. In August, the band was also invited to spend a day at Manhattan’s Quad Studios filming 4 live in-studio videos of EISENHOWER songs for a “Rolling Stone Originals” Video EP to be made permanently available online.
Back in Boston, The SLIP returned to Q-Division to record a track with the acclaimed Natalie Merchant for a benefit album (Feels Like Home) and documentary film (Give Us Your Poor) intended to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness in the United States – and a few weeks later performed live onstage at the Boston Music Awards, where they were presented with the award for “Best Live Act 2006”. EISENHOWER Co-Producer Matthew Ellard also picked up his own for ïBest Producer 2006′ at the event. The band also did a live taping in early October for Public Radio’s Mountain Stage program, reaching the ears of millions of listeners worldwide.
In support of the album, The SLIP will be launching a US headline tour in late fall with support from Montreal’s critical darlings The Lovely Feathers and will also be doing a string of Eastern US shows opening for friends My Morning Jacket in late November.
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