For a touring band, life on the road can be strenuous, scary, and downright stressful. The trenches are no place for the faint of heart.
Cue Edmonton’s post-punk outfit, Slates. Getting set for the release of their third full length (double) LP and what will prove to be a healthy year of touring, drummer, Dallas Thompson took time out of his Sunday afternoon to chat with us here at The Region.
Their new album, Taiga, is out today. Recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago, engineered by Steve Albini (Nirvana: In Utero, The Pixies: Surfer Rosa) and mastered by Bob Weston, Slates practiced more than ever before stepping into the studio.
“We had maybe six or seven days there so we didn’t really have time to dink around in the studio. The six months leading up to it we rehearsed more than I think I’ve ever rehearsed with a band,” says Thompson.
In the words of ‘Sir’ Austin Danger Powers, this album is “toight” like a Taiga. Punchy drumbeats lay the foundation on tracks like “In Division,” “Metelko St.,” and the title track “Taiga.” Harmonizing guitar licks compliment brash vocals on “Molina Blues,”and “Vérité.”
Taiga has somewhat of an alternate direction than previous albums. “At this stage we’re kind of writing music to satisfy ourselves and I know we want to try and take it out further than we have before,” explains Thompson. “The songs are a lot different than songs we were writing five years ago so maybe people will stick with us. Maybe more people will get into it.” The song writing process hasn’t changed for the band, but recording at Electric Audio influenced some of the song writing. “He doesn’t use any compression so that kind of opens up a lot of doors to do a lot of stuff on the toms that wouldn’t really be as noticeable,” the drummer notes.
Having gone in a different direction than previous albums the band is excited to see how their fans will react this time around.
“People might like it. People might not. I’m more interested to see how people will react to it than hoping that everybody will like it,” Thompson admits.
Upon the release of Taiga, Slates are already into their first couple weeks of touring. Veterans of the touring game, Slates are preparing for a fairly hefty year of tour dates for the DIY Canadians. “We’ve always been the type of band who don’t wait for opportunities to come to us but rather make them happen for ourselves,” asserts Thompson. This first leg of touring takes them through the prairies and western Canada ending in Calgary on April 19. “We’ll do the rest of Canada in July [for] four weeks and then we’re going to go back to Europe in the fall. We’d really like to make it into the states at some point before the end of the year,” details the Edmontonian.
Buckling down last year for the sake of recording left the band only 20 out-of-town shows last year. Needless to say these troubadours are ready to hit the road. “We’ve got cabin fever at this point and we’re pretty stoked to get on the road and test the songs out. The majority of these songs we haven’t played in front of anybody before so it’ll be fun,” he notes.
Although touring is a good chance for the Edmonton boys to showcase their new material and spend some quality time travelling the country with good friends, it’s not all fun and games. Thompson recalls problems at the Bosnian border, “We didn’t have the proper paperwork to get in there and we kind of had to bribe our way over the border.” Guitarist and singer James Stewart had some “ibuprofen or something” and the border guards thought he was trying to smuggle something into the country. “I can’t really remember how exactly it went down but I just remember being super stressed out. Not only not knowing if we were going to make the show but not knowing if they were going to decide to keep us there,” recalls Thompson.
This time around, there will be less sketchy border crossings and with the addition of an Econoline van to replace the “soccer mom van” the band has been touring in for the past few years. “You can’t stuff four 30 year old dudes into a small space. When we toured Europe we had this amazing 15 passenger Mercedes van that was built for touring. It was really hard to come back to Canada and go back to the soccer van, so we started looking for alternatives. After we finished our last big tour we were like, ‘that’s it,’” says Thompson.
Feature image provided by Listen Harder.