On Their Own
Some bands will do anything to get one new person to come out to their shows. The names of some are seen stickered on bathroom stalls, merch booths and light posts between Malcolm X and Good-Latimer more often than they're seen on club calendars. Then there are bands who hand out enough fliers to wallpaper the bedrooms of each person who actually walks through the door.
Not Slowride. It's not that the trio doesn't want people to come out. They do. They want people to hear their music, see them live. Buy a CD or a T-shirt or hand them a beer, and they'll be even happier. But the members of Slowride (singer-guitarist Dan Phillips, bassist Rob Marchant and drummer Steve Visneau) aren't biding their time until they become Deep Ellum's Next Big Thing. They're doing what they love and, for them, that's enough.
Still, this isn't a band that plays to the sound engineer, the door guy, a couple of bartenders and a smattering of friends, stuck in the unenviable first slot on a weekday night bill. Slowride's homecoming show after a six-week tour this spring with [DARYL] at Bar of Soap was so packed the staff were cramming people inside just far enough to close the door behind them, and the front row of listeners was bumping toes with the band. But it hasn't always been like this. "I think it took a long, long time for us to get shows in Dallas or for us to get anyone to come see us at all," Marchant says. "We're part of that whole punk-rock scene that doesn't exist in Dallas."
Phillips and Marchant started Slowride in 1998 with drummer Scott Brayfield, who was replaced by Visneau in October 1999. Since then they've toured extensively, released a few CD-Rs of demos and--as of last week--appeared on three Deep Elm releases, including an installment of the label's successful Emo Diaries series of compilations, the full-length As I Survived the Suicide Bomber (released February 5) and a new split CD with Dallasites and labelmates Red Animal War. Slowride's relationship with Deep Elm is a case of persistence paying off. "We sent them a demo about a thousand times," Phillips says. "We sent them one demo, and they put it on the Emo Diaries. And then we kept sending them demos for the course of a year."
Yet even with Deep Elm backing the band, Slowride is still working hard on its own. A 7-inch with Eniac, another area band, is due to be released on End Records on July 9, and they're writing songs for the next album and recording demos in preparation for recording with Matt Pence at the Echo Lab in fall. Between now and then, they're also doing several Texas dates with another Deep Elm band (Brandtson), a late summer tour with Milkwaukee's Wrecker and a European tour in September.
"We've always been more concerned with touring and building a fanbase nationwide, even worldwide, and not been too concerned about building one here in a scene that never has really supported us, never tried to help us out or given us shows," Marchant says.
Just because the members of Slowride call Dallas home and practice a stone's skip from the skyscrapers of Downtown hasn't made getting booked here any easier. But rather than being bitter or letting it beat them down, they've come to a new resolve. "I just think of Dallas as another night on tour," Visneau says. "That's how I look at it. It takes a while to build up your reputation whether it's your hometown or it's not your hometown. You only have X amount of friends who are going to come out and support you. The clubs are just as hard to get into. You shouldn't have the view that just because it's your hometown that you should automatically be popular there."
The recognition Slowride's finally receiving, however, doesn't come from just perseverance. Marchant says they're simply better than they used to be. "The songs are better," he says. "There's better delivery. Playing them live, there's a lot more confidence."
Part of the credit for this comes to having a lineup that works together well, which shows in the way they write songs together. "To me writing songs with this band has never been easier," Visneau says. "I've been in a lot of bands, and for us it's just second nature now. We get in there and we just read each other. It's not an elaborate, painstaking process like I hear so many bands go through. In my opinion, it shouldn't be that hard. If these three people play that well together, then it should flow."
Right now Slowride is capitalizing on that creative ease and writing new material. The songs on As I Survived the Suicide Bomber (which was named after a line in a song Phillips wrote about starting a new life, not a post-September 11 statement) were already old a year ago when they recorded them at Ed Rose's Red House studio in Lawrence, Kansas. The band recorded 14 songs during that session, 11 of which ended up on the full-length; the three leftovers are Slowride's contribution to the split CD. While they're glad to have a "new" release, they're ready to show what they can do now. "Our style has changed a lot since then," Marchant says.
What that sound actually is has been open to discussion. Their bio, Marchant says, reads "emotional punk." Usually, they prefer just "rock." Still, some people hear the Deep Elm connection and expect the stereotypical sweater-wearing shoe gazers. What they get is three guys playing so fast the tattoos that cover their arms smear into multi-colored blurs. "After the show, people are like, 'Fuck, you guys rock. It's awesome that you're not like all the other bands on that label,' Visneau says. "And I think Red Animal War is getting a lot of the same reaction. They're not typically what [Deep Elm owner] John [Szuch] would put out...I think he's trying to be a little more diverse."
But Deep Elm's business plan is irrelevant to Slowride's future. They just want to play. "We don't really have any expectations or limitations. We're just doing it," Phillips says. "Whatever happens, happens. Here we are. And if people stop coming, we'll just keep going because this is what we do."
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