Canadian rock staples Sloan have been on the verge of success for the better part of their career. The shaggy-haired quartet have a cult following north of the border, but have consistently come up short in their attempts to break into the American mainstream. With their ninth release, Parallel Play, Sloan is proving that even though they may not be topping the international charts, they are still having their share of fun.
"I'm really happy [the members of the band] are contributing to the same goal," says bassist Chris Murphy. "I'm not as interested in making a solo record as keeping the band going. As we pass 160 or so recorded songs, I think, 'I want to pass 200!' "
A good chunk of Sloan's 160-song catalogue can be traced back to 2006's 30-song opus, Never Hear the End of It. The album was well-received by critics, drawing many comparisons to the Beatles' Abbey Road due to its continuous structure and short songs that connect large sections of the album. Though Sloan may have followed up their longest album with their shortest, the style of Parallel Play picks up where Never Hear the End of It left off.
"We were thinking, 'What is the most obnoxious thing we could do? Put out another 30-song record?' " says Murphy. "The last record was a little relentless, so we wanted to go short. I wanted it even shorter, but there was a 13th song on there."
Just as the title Never Hear the End of It was somewhat of a joke on the length of the album, Parallel Play is an extension of the same joke. Sloan commonly injects humour into their music, whether through lyrical content or album titles alone. Their record Action Pact, for instance, refers to a "pact" the band made to write a commercially successful album. At the moment, the band is creating laughs by touring with a fictitious radio personality named Skip Lowe, who does fake broadcasts during their shows.
"Skip Lowe is going to be from a fictitious radio station called MRCH," explains Murphy. "He broadcasts live from the merch booth at the show. Most people either love it or hate it, but it's been generating some big laughs for me."
At this point, the most important thing to Sloan is to have a good time doing what they are doing. Their commercial success has its limits, but Murphy is grateful he can support himself playing in the band and wants to keep the band going as long as he can.
"I must say, I was never so much of a genius," says Murphy. "I really need those guys and as a music fan, I grew up as a fan of bands. At some point you do need to sell some records, but we do make enough to survive. We're just on the tip of people's tongues."