Formed from the remains of four Edmonton bands past, like Fractal Pattern,The Last Deal and From the Streets to the Hills, SLATES is a phoenix that has emerged from still-burning ashes. Their music oozes with the influence of early ’90s and ’80s punk rock and fuses that sound with their proud prairie roots. It is no wonder that SLATES has been dubbed Edmonton’s answer to the Replacements — a powerful fusion of post-punk and analog rock. “SLATES is actually a band called Secret Fires, we played for a couple years,” drummer Dallas Thompson clarifies. “We’ve known each other, we’ve all been playing in Edmonton for the last 10 or 15 years with different bands. I mean it’s the same story it is with any other band comprised of dudes who are in their 30s: an old band breaks up and everyone else who sticks around and likes just playing form another band.
“Well, actually if we go way back, right before Secret Fires, we played a benefit for the battered women’s shelter as a Hot Snakes tribute band,” Thompson chuckles, “in like ’06, and that was right after all our bands had broken up, and after that we were like, ‘We should start like writing tunes together.’ So, Stef [Duret, gutiars/vox,] James [Stewart, guitar/vox] and I went on to form Secret Fires with Travis who later left the band… When our singer left the Secret Fires, we kind of started writing different material.”
Thompson continues, “It’s been evolving naturally for the last five years. It’s one of those things where you stick around and you keep playing music with other people who keep playing music — your song writing gets better, your playing inevitably gets better. The songs will be better. Sonically it will be better… Any band that has been around for 20 years is fantastic at what they do, you know? We’re getting to a point now where I think that we are getting really good.”
This summer, SLATES will be recording their third LP with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago. This will be the band’s first time recording out of the country and they couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming experience. “We’re hitting Whitehorse in June and that’s basically our last show before we go and record in Chicago. [It’s] something that we’ve always wanted to do, I guess. Like, independently, as musicians, everybody’s always enjoyed the sound that he is able to capture,” Thompson confesses in reference to Albini’s long catalogue of recorded music. “We’re just kind of in a period in our lives where we’re able to make more of a realistic thing. We’re all fans of all those Albini records and, of course, we’re all fans of analog tape and the sound that comes from that. As a drummer, I can’t wait to get into that studio and hear what my drums will sounds like in that room.”
Before hitting the studio, SLATES will be hitting the open road this May, travelling across the Western Canadian prairies once more. On their last cross-Canada tour, SLATES fought against the band’s image the East Coast seemed to assume. “As we went across Canada, we talked to lots of Eastern media just about being a Petro-State band and a lot of East Coast papers or radio folk would have this weird impression of us,” Thompson expresses with some apparent resentment. “Like, we embodied this kinda backwoods stereotype that seems to be propagated out of the East there. Whereas, I think there is a lot of forward-thinking people out in this province trying to do good things, you know? Not everyone is trying’ to make the most money as quickly as possible.”
Catch SLATES at Broken City (Calgary) on May 17.
By Lori MeyersAB, Alberta