Last November, veteran Canadian rock group Sloan put out Is That All I Get?, a vinyl-only “bootleg” live album of a show they did back in 1993 — specifically, a Winnipeg show on September 20, 1993, which happens to be guitarist Patrick Pentland’s birthday. And on Sloan’s current tour, they’ll be hitting up Winnipeg –– again on September 20.
“The guys in the band would buy me a guitar, a shitty guitar to smash onstage, thinking that that would cheer me up,” says Pentland of touring back in the day on his birthday. “I don’t know why they thought that.
“They used to do that. Then, it was a cake, but I don’t eat cake. Then it just became, ‘Oh, is it your birthday? I didn’t even know.’ I don’t think that they care anymore.”
A lot has changed for Pentland and his bandmates –– Chris Murphy, Jay Ferguson and Andrew Scott –– over a 20-plus year history of making music. Following the release of 2011’s The Double Cross, they’ve spent some time looking back a bit. In addition to Is That All I Get?, they’ve released another vinyl-only bootleg, Australia 1999, whose title gives you a good idea what that involves.
The bigger bit of retrospection for the band, however, is the deluxe edition of Twice Removed. It’s more of a set than a rerelease, expanding the original single LP of material to three and including a 32-page booklet and all other sorts of nerd goodies. They’ll also be performing the album in its entirety at every show on this tour.
Sloan, of course, didn’t start off this grand. Their debut album, Smeared, was a major label release, coming out on Geffen Records in 1992, but as Pentland tells it, “We did at some guy’s house. We didn’t intend for it to make it an actual album. We were just making demos.”
The making of Twice Removed was a much different affair. They were feeling significant pressure leading up to the recording of the album, both due to transitioning into being full-time musicians, as well as being signed to Geffen.
“We did a ton of pre-production for that record. We wrote for months and we demoed songs over and over again. There was a lot of second-guessing and a lot of pressure from our A&R person at Geffen to come up with something that wasn’t Smeared: Part 2, but something that was bigger than that. I think we all felt that pressure.”
When the album came out in 1994, it was with no promotion from Geffen and indifferent and negative reviews. The experience left a bad taste in Pentland’s mouth for Twice Removed. It wasn’t until 1996, when Chart Magazine named it the Best Canadian Album of All Time that he started to consider Twice Removed again.
“We were beyond the Twice Removed sound at that time. It wasn’t really what we were about at that time, but then suddenly, it was what everybody was talking about, like, ‘Sloan’s the Canadian Beatles.’ No, we’re not! It sorta stuck after that.”
Right now, Pentland isn’t ruling out the possibility of future deluxe editions. For him, it all depends on what’s left in the Sloan vaults.
“Part of re-releasing things is just to release the extra stuff that we have, so some records we did, we didn’t do demos or have a lot of songs that didn’t get finished. One Chord to Another, there’s a good chunk of demos for that. Smeared as well. Navy Blues… yeah, there’s some demos for Navy Blues as well.”
So it looks like Sloan fans might need a bit more room on their record shelves in the future.
Sloan will be performing Twice Removed in its entirety, followed by other selected Sloan classics on Wednesday, September 12 at Republik (Calgary). They play the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver) on September 14.
By James Brotheridge
Photo: Lisa Mark