Sloan’s Chris Murphy Believes In: Bands That Stay Together

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: Our band Sloan has released our 10th record. It took us 20 years. A band might stay together that long for a number of reasons. The fans demand it, the money is too big to pass up, or they just love hanging out with each other. Well, none of those reasons applies to Sloan, but we are determined to join the ranks of bands with long careers, complete with “eras.” Because more than individual songs or records, I am a fan of careers, particularly the careers of bands. Of course, I like songs, but I really like context. I like to know about the band that wrote and recorded the song. I like knowing what song comes before and after it on the record and what record comes before and after this one. David Bowie, Willie Nelson and Joni Mitchell are great, but I always prefer a band to a solo artist. As ridiculous as it may sound, I would love the records of solo artists more if they had been made by a band.

I like to put my trust in a band and follow them through their hits and misses. I have likened a band with multiple writers (the best kind) to a mutual fund. You’re not just investing in a stock, which can fluctuate wildly. You have pooled several stocks so that if one guy happens to write some stinkers, hopefully another guy will have written some gems. It is the safer long-term investment. I’d like to think people are still invested in our band.

Just off the top of my head, one pet peeve of mine is when a band decides multiple records in that they’re ready to make their eponymous album. It has to be the first, in my view. I love the Velvet Underground, but they did make this mistake.

The biggest turn-off for me is the change in the lineup. I know in some bands there are certain members who just get on the other guys’ nerves; they’re drug addicts and fuck-ups who simply have to go. But as a fan, it’s not the same. My band has been lucky in this regard, and we’re still intact. Chemistry is everything to me, and once that’s spoiled, it’s over. Oh, I know in my mind the ways things would run more smoothly depending on which guy in my band were to leave. It’s a perverse fantasy, but were it to happen, it would break my heart. I’m so happy about the fact that we’re still together after all these years. I’m reluctant to say “proud” the same way I’m reluctant to say, “I’m proud to be Canadian.” In both cases, I’m just lucky.

For reference sake, here are some career bands “competing” with Sloan in the “race” for best band ever/discography supremacy. Sadly, I had to disqualify a lot of them because of my strict rules.

• The Beatles did it perfectly. They have 12 amazing studio albums in seven years with the same lineup. It’s perfect. The Beatles definitely beat Sloan.
• The Beach Boys have seemingly more than 25 studio albums. I’m sure they have at least 10 good ones. Their beards kept me from becoming a real expert, but I may make the commitment before I die.
• The Rolling Stones are great, but they had several personnel changes so they are disqualified, but I still like all the stuff you like.
• The Kinks have more than 20 records. They lost a few original members, but they have a great story and rock’s best lyricist. They are technically run by one or sometimes two guys, but they rule.
• The Who had 10 records if you don’t count the last one, and no one does. Nine were with Keith Moon and one was with Kenney Jones, but I can’t disqualify them for that.
• The Velvet Underground are faves of mine, but they had personnel changes and not enough records.
• Led Zeppelin had nine records including Coda, but they did everything right including stopping.
• Black Sabbath had a good thing going but went on after Ozzy. Disqualified.
• Queen did it right except that they keep doing it.
• ABBA are pretty perfect.
• Rush had a personnel change for the second record, but that’s forgivable. They’re an excellent model.
• Kiss are the best example of how no one cares once you’ve ruined your chemistry. Disqualified.
• AC/DC continued after the death of Bon Scott, splitting their career into two eras. This is the perfect example of a band never being able to compete with its former self even though they were still making solid records.
• The Ramones had some personnel changes and were probably run by Johnny with Joey, but they had a movie. They probably didn’t need a 14th album, but who am I to say?
• The Clash had some trouble keeping Topper, but he was a drug addict. They were pretty perfect, though. They only had a half dozen records, but one was triple vinyl.
• Cheap Trick have 17 albums and are still going. They lost Tom Petersson for a while, but I love them too much to disqualify them. They’re still great. I saw them a few years back. Apparently, Bun E. Carlos is out, but I don’t want to hear it.
• The Police are a perfect model, but they don’t have that many records.
• Van Halen split their career into two eras upon exchanging DLR for Sammy Hagar, so they’re disqualified.
• U2 are a perfect model. A tad humorless.
• The Smiths have a small, perfect discography.
• Sonic Youth have had a pretty great career. They had a few drummers, but Steve Shelley has been with them since the mid-’80s so I forgive them. (See Rush.)
• R.E.M. did a lot before they lost Bill Berry, but he left, so they’re disqualified. Plus, I was a U2 guy in the early ’80s, and at the time, I feel you were either into U2 or R.E.M.
• The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not exactly my cup of tea, but they keep it together; however, they have two guys running the show, so they are disqualified.
• The Beastie Boys did everything right and are a great model. They are cool and funny, which is difficult to pull off. Don’t ask me how I do it.
• Guided By Voices changed members and were still great, but they spoiled their chemistry, so they’re disqualified.
• Teenage Fanclub are like Sloan in a lot of ways, but their succession of drummers disqualifies them.
• Stereolab are perfect. Sadly, they lost a member who was killed in a bicycle accident.
• Sloan are perfect.
• Radiohead have a really recognizable guy, a kind of recognizable guy, a bald guy and two other guys, but you can’t really knock them.
• The Flaming Lips, Weezer, Oasis, Foo Fighters, Wilco, the White Stripes and Spoon are great, but they all seem to be run by a lead guy, so they too are disqualified.

One reply on “Sloan’s Chris Murphy Believes In: Bands That Stay Together”

By your standards (and mine) I think The Church have to make the list. 20+ albums in 30 years (and yes the newer stuff stands up very very well to the catalog).
And yes they did change drummers in the 90’s but the “new” guy has been in the band 17 years.

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