Article by Jason Setnyk | Photo by Vanessa Heins
Ottawa, Ontario – Mill Street Brewery and Dine Alone Records are proud to announce the fourth annual Hopped & Confused™ festival on August 23rd and 24th at Mill Street’s Ottawa Brewpub. The lineup features Sloan, July Talk, Weaves, Born Ruffians, Cleopatrick, NOBRO, and Taylor Knox.
Sloan, who is a Juno award-winning Canadian rock band based out of Toronto and Halifax, will be headlining on August 24th. The band is comprised of guitarists Jay Ferguson and Patrick Pentland, bassist Chris Murphy, and drummer Andrew Scott – each of whom shares singing duties for the band.
From MuchMusic to FM radio to festivals, Sloan has been delighting Canadian music fans with their sweet rock tunes for 27 years now.
Sloan will be re-issuing their 1998 album Navy Blues and going on tour playing songs primarily from that album. Hopped & Confused will be among the last shows where Sloan plays their typical set before the Navy Blues tour starts in September.
“The first Navy Blues shows will be in September. We’re rehearsing our fourth album Navy Blues and playing it front to back on this tour in the fall. A lot of the songs we haven’t played in a long time, and we rehearsed some of them in the summer, so we could get up to speed. I think we need to rehearse them a little more before we play them in Ottawa. So it’s going to be a regular show at the festival in Ottawa this weekend,” Sloan guitarist and vocalist Jay Ferguson answered.
Sloan has also re-issued their second album Twice Removed, and their third album One Chord to Another. The re-issues have allowed members of Sloan to rediscover songs they wrote decades ago, and it draws out audiences who want to hear their favorite albums from yesteryear.
“A lot of the songs on those records that we’ve done and re-issued a boxset for, Twice Removed and One Chord to Another, are a lot of songs we still play live. To go back and play the ones we haven’t played much in twenty years or more, deeper album cuts, are fun to re-learn. It’s almost embarrassing, going back to your old records and re-learn something you wrote. It’s fun, and I enjoy it, the process of playing those songs live or playing the full albums live,” Jay Ferguson replied.
“It definitely brings out a certain section of the fanbase of ours that might have dropped off a long time ago. Maybe Sloan was their favorite band in University, and they use to see us play, but then they got a job, got married, had kids, and don’t go to shows much. When we played Twice Removed and One Chord to Another full album shows – those shows drew those fans out because it’s a bit more of a special event. That’s been an interesting and rewarding part of doing these types of shows, in that they re-energize a certain portion of your fan base that might have been a little bit dormant,” Jay Ferguson added.
In the 1990s music fans across Canada tuned into MuchMusic to watch the latest videos from their favorite bands including Sloan. Unlike social media today, that acts mostly as an echo chamber, traditional television media had the ability to reach wide audiences of potential new fans from coast to coast to coast.
“I’m grateful our band was able to build up enough of an audience in the days when we would be on MuchMusic regularly and attract new fans and maintain that fan base. From internet mailing list to social media, we’re able to tap into the web. I don’t know what it would be like trying to start that today. We are in some ways preaching to the converted on social media, but we’re lucky enough to be an independent band with a great fan base we can alert to things. There might be a lot of people who don’t know what we’re doing now, because of the lack of something like MuchMusic. We still do get played a lot on the radio in certain areas, and at times it’s our older songs. We still benefit from that kind of broadcasting. It’s a different age, but I’m glad we were able to bring our audience along and keep them interested via social media,” Jay Ferguson went on.
When Sloan debuted they signed to Geffen Records who released their first two albums. After that, Sloan self-released the album One Chord to Another on their own independent label called Murderecords. That record won a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album in 1997. It’s the bands first and only Juno Award to date.
“When we won the Juno, I don’t even think it was on the broadcast. I think we gave a Juno to Shania Twain that year. We took a selfie with her on stage with a disposable pocket camera. That was entertaining, she was very lovely. But the transition (from a major label to independent) was weird. We came from an independent do it yourself underground community of bands from Halifax. We did some recording in Halifax originally to put out on our own. By a series of fortunate circumstances, the tape caught the ear of someone who worked at Geffen Records in Los Angeles,” Jay Ferguson recalled.
“We signed to Geffen Records really early in our career. Our first two records were on Geffen. When that contract ended, we ended up on our own label Murderecords, for our third record One Chord to Another. We had a shot out of the canon to be on a major label, then we ended up back on our own independent label that had already been running for a couple of years releasing other bands from out east. We released One Chord to Another with no real expectations, but still made a music video and all that, and it became our most successful record. It was rewarding in a way that we had full control of our career and we owned our own records and making a success of it. That doesn’t happen to everybody, so I still feel very grateful to this day about that. Our records are basically always on Murderecords but sometimes distributed by a major label. We’ve had autonomy and control over our content throughout most of career, and I’ve always been super grateful about that,” Jay Ferguson remarked.
This DIY ethic of creating an independent record label is shared with punk bands like Minor Threat and Ian MacKaye who co-founded Dischord Records. In 2013, Sloan released a 7″ record and the cover paid homage to the legendary Washington, D.C. band.
“If you heard Sloan you probably would not guess that Minor Threat was an influence on our band. That would be more for Chris and Patrick – and definitely Chris. When he heard Minor Threat in the early to mid-80s it basically changed his life. Not only was the music exciting, but it also had a real do it yourself esthetic, they had their own label, they had a clubhouse where they rehearsed, and stored the records, and was a label office. Also, Ian MacKaye had the whole straight-edge outlook and positive mental attitude,” Jay Ferguson responded.
“I think all of that was a really big influence on Chris, and he even went down to the Dischord house in 1986, and 1987 as well, and knocked on the door and met Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat. Patrick loved Minor Threat growing up. I don’t know about Andrew, I think he probably likes them but didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t grow up with Minor Threat, but I knew who they were. I didn’t know much about their music. I think their outlook and their independent setup was a big influence on Sloan for sure, and even more, specifically had a big impact on Chris. That single that we released had two original hardcore punk songs, and on the sleeve, we decided to take a photo that was a homage to the Salad Days EP by Minor Threat. It was a nod to their influence for sure,” Jay Ferguson continued.
In 2018, Sloan released their twelfth studio album titled 12. What was the reasoning behind this album title?
“We had a bunch of names, one was called “Essential Services” which is a song on the album. I thought I was going to name the song Essential Services, and that was going to be the title of the album. I think Chris liked it, but there wasn’t a general consensus. We had a couple of other titles that nobody liked. The title 12 is fine, 12 was the only thing we could decide on. One of the deciding factors was that the 1 and the 2 looked so nice with the font we had chosen for the title on the record. If we choose 12 as the title, at least the 1 and the 2 looks really nice. There wasn’t any deep meaning, other than we had a hard time finding another title we could agree on,” Jay Ferguson explained.
One of the singles off their new album is called “The Day Will Be Mine”. The song features lyrics that are very optimistic and a belief that things will get better in time.
“Patrick wrote that song, so I can’t comment on it too much. I think he’s writing more from a personal perspective. I think it’s a nice notion to have positive lyrics during a bleak time, but I don’t think it’s required or necessary. People connect with songs in different ways. I agree during bleak times, sometimes people want to hear something positive. Other times people want to hear something they can connect to even if it’s melancholy. Just because a song is melancholy, doesn’t mean that it’s negative. I think people can connect on a level to those songs as well. I think everyone writes songs that are either melancholy or positive. I think there is room for both of them no matter the present world circumstances,” Jay Ferguson noted.
Aside from the new album, Sloan has continued to tour. They have had an exciting summer. For example, on June 29th Sloan played the Canada Rocks festival along with the Rolling Stones in Burl’s Creek, Ontario. This is the first time in over a decade Sloan have shared a bill with the legendary rock band.
“We’ve played with the Rolling Stones before, in 2006 we played 3 shows with them. This time we headlined the side stage, and we were on before the Rolling Stones show on the main stage. We shared the stage with them in Boston for a couple of shows, and one in Halifax when they played a big outdoor show. It’s wonderful, I’m a huge fan! It was so wonderful to be asked again to participate in a show of theirs. I don’t want to sound corny, but it’s fun to be in their presence. We got to meet them in 2006 and took a photo. It’s wonderful seeing them face to face, it’s outrageous, as some kid from Halifax who grew up loving the Rolling Stones,” Jay Ferguson disclosed.
“The other great part is getting to see them. We got to see their show for free, hang out and watch the show. Mick Jagger is pretty much a marvel of science for him to sing his ass off, dance, and run around for two hours at 75 is outrageous, to be honest. It’s inspiring that someone is that determined to put on that great a show at that age. He could retire, or do a lackluster show, but he’s giving it his all. You got to hand it to the guy for persevering like that in the face of age. I love seeing them, and hearing the songs they’re playing now, and they’re still continuing as a band when they don’t have to. I recognize they are paid a lot of money, but they have a lot of money and don’t need to do it. There has to be something that is pushing them, and I admire that for sure,” Jay Ferguson reflected.
Will Sloan share that same longevity and be a band for decades to come?
“I would like that. I like the idea of a band persevering and continuing. Almost all of our peers we’ve played with either in Halifax or even in Canada at the time, there are very few of those bands left, and very few of those bands left making current music. If I had my way, I would continue making music and continue playing shows, because we’re still a good quality show. It’s my job, and I like my job, and I’m happy to keep at it for sure,” Jay Ferguson replied.
Fans can see Sloan on Saturday, August 24th at Mill Street’s Ottawa Brewpub – on the second night of the 4th annual Hopped & Confused™ festival.
“I hope a lot of people come and enjoy the show,” Jay Ferguson concluded.
Tickets for Hopped & Confused are $40 for single-day passes and $65 for weekend passes (plus applicable fees). Tickets are available for purchase here.