Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, power pop maestros Sloan have never made a huge dent in America, but it seems the people who know Sloan adore them.
Formed in 1991 with musical comparisons to Cheap Trick, Sonic Youth and Kiss, Chris Murphy,
Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson and Andrew Scott have produced a dozen albums, a live album and a singles compilation.
They are much more popular in their native Canada, but that hasn’t stopped them from venturing over the border and playing America every once in a while. Yet when they play the States, it’s usually a big town like New York or Boston, but Dallas (and Texas in general) usually doesn’t make the list of dates.
Speaking from his home, Ferguson says he can’t remember when or where the last time his band played Dallas. (Setlist.fm says it was Trees in 2004.) He even admits he doesn’t remember playing Dallas that much in the 1990s, when the band was frequently touring and recording.
“It wasn’t part of our regular routine, only because it was so far, and there wasn’t a lot in between,” he says. “To be honest, we really didn’t feel like we had much of a foothold there to return on a regular basis.”
The irony of many bands in the power pop grouping is that no band has truly made a huge impact on the album charts worldwide. Despite its user-friendly sound, these bands tend to be critically acclaimed with a devoted audience, whether it’s Teenage Fanclub or the Posies.
“We’re happy to have any audience anywhere,” Ferguson says. “We’re also fortunate enough to have a larger audience in Canada that can support going to states where we don’t make a lot of money.”
Sloan hears all the time about how they should have had big hits in the United States, but they’re not bitter.
“I think our band is high enough quality to have songs on the radio in the United States ... but we never really had that half-a-million dollar radio campaign behind us,” Ferguson says. “Nor did we tour the United States like madmen for six months out of the year.”
The band understands that Sloan fans in America, though not a large number, are well-versed in the band’s back catalog. Thus, the band feels free to play deep album cuts rather than songs that have been on the radio. Whether it’s songs from their latest album, 12, or older nuggets from Action Pact or One Chord to Another, fans are ready. And Sloan is happy to deliver.
Since 2012, the band has played two sets rather than play with an opening act. Starting in that year, they played their second album, Twice Removed, from front to back, then came out to play a whole other set. They’ve decided to keep going with that model, but with playing two different sets each night. Longer shows in towns they haven’t been to in a blue moon make for happier fans.
“It’s also easier, on the behind-the-scenes front, on our crew,” Ferguson says. “They can just set up all the gear and they don’t have to move it.”
Though they are still promoting 12, Ferguson says they are already preparing an deluxe reissue of their 1998 album, Navy Blues, next year. Like the reissues of Twice Removed and One Chord to Another, it will be a box set with plenty of rare and unreleased material as a bonus.
As to what keeps Sloan together, it helps they all sing lead and sometimes switch instruments onstage and in the studio.
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“It’s a creative outlet for everyone in the band,” Ferguson says. “Everybody gets the chance to contribute and perform. I think that’s what our band is about and we continue to do that. The money is split four ways, so everyone’s in the same boat. All the songwriting royalties and the money that comes in is shared four ways ... It’s kind of our bread and butter. It’s our job, as well ... It’s a job that affords us an income and a lot of time off.”
There isn’t an expiration date on this band or their sound.
“It’s a great creative endeavor and outlet, and I love it,” Ferguson says. “I would keep going for as long as we could.”
Sloan plays Saturday, Sept. 15 at Three Links. Tickets are $20.