Sloan’s Chris Murphy Believes In: The Descendents

The 10th record (not including two EPs, a live album and a “greatest hits” collection) from stalwart Toronto band Sloan, The Double Cross (just released on Yep Roc) also serves to commemorate the quartet’s 20th anniversary as a versatile guitar-pop collective. Guitarists Patrick Pentland and Jay Ferguson, bassist Chris Murphy and drummer Andrew Scott—all four write and sing their own tunes and often switch instruments onstage—have successfully forged a productive two-decade career full of preternaturally catchy songs and beyond-entertaining live shows. Thankfully, they don’t appear to be slowing down; The Double Cross continues the group’s winning streak, particularly the seamless opening 1-2-3 of Murphy’s “Follow The Leader,” Ferguson’s “The Answer Was You” and Pentland’s “Unkind.” (Check out the band’s YouTube channel for a track-by-track discussion of the LP.) In their typically all-for-one, one-for-all fashion, the members of Sloan are guest-editing this week. Read our brand new Q&A with Pentland.

Murphy: Patrick Pentland sent me the link for the video after the jump of the Descendents. It’s from April of this year. He knew I was a big fan when I was a teenager. Milo Goes To College is still one of my favorite records. In the YouTube clip, they’re playing what appears to be a huge arena to thousands of fans. That’s pretty much what I was picturing, even hoping for, when I was on my way up to see them in Montreal in 1986. Some friends and I made the 14-hour drive from Halifax in a K-car I bought for $250. The club they played was called the Rising Sun, and it was pretty small. I don’t know why I imagined they would be playing huge places. I had seen other touring bands like the Asexuals and SNFU in Halifax, and they had to play at high schools or wherever they could. Of course, having seen them at a small place gave me a more memorable experience. Whenever my band plays in a small club now (more often than not), I get people telling me how happy they are that we’re playing small clubs, which I understand, but they even go on to say that they’re happy we chose to play the small place—as if playing a big place was an option that somehow wasn’t cool enough for us.

My friends and I saw a few other bands at the Rising Sun on that trip, including NoMeansNo. We had never heard of them, but they may have literally blown our minds. On another night, we saw a terrifying punk group called Capitalist Alienation. I remember their sticker was a cartoon of a punk cutting a police officer’s phallic nose off with a switchblade. I’ll take two! The Descendents’ opening band, much to our young, blowable minds, was Dag Nasty. I hadn’t heard of them, but it turned out to be Brian Baker’s band, and I was a huge Minor Threat fan. My friend taped the show on a crappy cassette recorder. We even went backstage to interview Brian using that cassette recorder under the guise of an interview for Halifax college radio station CKDU. I remember Brian saying how great the latest David Lee Roth solo record was. We thought he had to have been joking, but I don’t think he was. My brain would not have been able to compute the idea of someone so punk being so unpunk.

The Descendents were great, and I was so psyched to be there. Milo let me sing along, as I was right up front singing the entire time. Poor Bill Stevenson threw up all over his hi-hats while playing. He managed to finish the song, but they cut their set short. I’m sure the people from the YouTube clip from Long Beach Arena are having fun in the enormous pit I could only have dreamed of in 1986. The reunited Descendents are coming to Toronto in June, and I will go for sure, but it will be hard to beat essentially being on the stage singing with my favorite band at a small club.

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