Interview: Chris Murphy of Sloan

Chris Murphy and Andrew Scott met at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where they both attended in 1991. A year later Sloan released their full-length album “Smeared” on Geffen Records. They followed it up with the critically acclaimed “Twice Removed,” a bunch of Juno nominations and a steadily growing fan-base that hasn’t left their side. Songs like “The Good in Everyone” assured them of that. Last year, they released “12” their twelfth full album and despite apprehensions, bassist and frontman Chris Murphy told me, he was glad they did. I caught up to him as he was returning to Canada after spending time in the land of cheese….

Mb: Hello Chris.
Chris: I think I’m late. On my list of apologies is, I’m sort of approaching the border, so I don’t know if you can hear me? If it gets spotty or screwy, I can call you back, but I wouldn’t be guessing that you would be just waiting around, just to talk to me.
Mb: No, no it’s all good. So you are still in Canada, you’re heading into Wisconsin and then cutting thru, is that the idea?
Chris: We just played and had a day off in Green Bay after Saint Paul Minneapolis. We had the day off and stayed in the States and now we are heading to Sault Ste Marie.
Mb: So you are on the road and I see you have six dates in a row coming up?
Chris: Ya. We usually do, often times, like 12 shows in 13 days. So things can get pretty raw. (laughs)
Mb: I was going to ask, after 30 years of this life, how does the road treat you?
Chris: It’s fine because really that sounds like a grueling schedule but, it’s not like we’ve been doing 12 shows every 13 days since 1992. It sounds crazy but, we’re home a lot and we have a pretty good life. So, right now since April, if you figure out how many shows we’ve done since April, it gives us a lot of shows to promote but, we didn’t tour a lot before then. We have been active throughout the whole time but, on the one side, you are mindful of being family guys and stuff, so we’re not road pigs. Also our world has become smaller, we could go overseas but we really wouldn’t make any money, so we don’t do it. So you know, our world is basically in Canada, and then a bunch of shows in the States, but not many. In fact, this year into September, we’re going down to play in Texas. We haven’t done that in years. There are some of us, maybe myself included, wondering the value. But whatever, I like playing in places other than the places we play all the time. It’s fun for morale but… I think we do get people who expect us… They say, well you know you never come to Phoenix, so I’m gonna fly to Minneapolis. So there are people down there that care about us, enough to justify the way that we tour. We tour fairly extensively on a bus and all that kinda stuff. It will be fun.
Mb: How is America? Being down there, are you noticing a kind of climate change?
Chris: I personally don’t look at the news or Twitter or anything. I talk to some people in the States who say, “Jeez, it’s pretty bleak down here or it’s bleak these days.” We crossed into Wisconsin from Canada the night that Trump was elected and Wisconsin was basically blamed. When we played the next night in Madison, I said, “ We don’t normally play these Red States!” You know, people were not laughing. So it is true we don’t… when we look at a map of the States, we look at a politicized map of The States. It really is the blues states that we play, Wisconsin which is blue, well, Madison is blue anyway.
Mb: So you are out touring the new record “12”?
Chris: Yes, we have a record, came out in April and that’s our 12th record. I went in to it wondering what the value of our music was for a group like us, you know?
Mb: What do you mean?
Chris: Just the time, the money and the energy versus the amount of interest we would get, or the amount of songs we could play or are we really gonna play. How many of these songs are immediately going to go into the garbage for a band that has 200 songs? We have 15 songs that we’re required to play, or 10 anyways, or 8. Then we got album tracks and we have a new record. How many are we going to play? Like, are we going to record 12 songs? How many new songs got played when the Rolling Stones made Voodoo Lounge? How many should be played? What was the last Stones record where they played more than five songs? Was it Tattoo You? Or was it Undercover? Anyways. So we did, sort of against my better judgement, but we did it anyway… and I’m glad we did. We’ve been playing two sets, and play five songs per set, so we play like 10 new songs. We do not have an opener, but we play two sets. We play lots of old ones. Some weird ones too, for people who have seen us over 20 times… like I talked to a guy recently and he said it was his 75th show! Crazy.
Mb: Does he get a celebrity backstage pass?
Chris: Well, people who tell me that they have seen us 10 times, I’m like, “Oh that’s great!” People that have seen us like 75 times, I’m nervous. (laughs) Crazy, I feel as if they are going to assassinate me or something. (laughs)
Mb: Stalkers?
Chris: Yep.
Mb: Spin Magazine named your early album “Twice Removed” as one of the best albums you didn’t hear!” Unique review.
Chris: Ya, in ’94. A dubious honour, but I will take it!
Mb: Well, I think you know, given the number of releases that you had over the years, 12 albums, singles and pioneering web downloads in the beginning, you’ve worked hard.
Chris: We were definitely given a lucky break but, we took that and tried to keep it going. It’s hard. You have to put up with each other, and you gotta play some shitty shows. You gotta do a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do or whatever, but we do our records exactly how we want and when we look back whether it was a shitty show that was sponsored by Du Maurier, oh it was fucking 20 years ago, I can barely remember but I was pissed at the time, but I look back at our records and our discography and I don’t feel that any of it has been sullied by the song we had to write about Kentucky Fried Chicken or something like that. We didn’t have to listen to anybody. We’re lucky.
Mb: Almost 30 years later, you guys all still friends?
Chris: (laughs) Sure.
Mb: You’re on the bus together, did you look around the bus when you answered that?
Chris: Ya, I’m getting the finger, in a loving way I think. No, we’re pretty much as good as you can be. You know you fall in love with people, like what we’re experiencing right now. We have chosen to… we have the same 4 guys as we’ve had since the beginning… still here. We wanted to make it and we made it a place where everyone can contribute creativity and split the money. So, it’s not like somebody is really rich and the other guys are out supporting him. You know, when Patrick has a song that does well at radio, we all benefit the same, so that there is no jealousy. People always end up in the same boat in good times and bad. There’s a flip side to it. If you’ve written all the songs that are hits, and you’ve given three quarters of the money away…. We’ve done our best to set the band up to remain friends this long, as most bands by now have given up or people have given up on them. We’ve been lucky enough to have people come and see us and we’re still intact. I personally like to work hard, I like to go on tour and I like to come home too, but mostly just out with my friends. We surround ourselves with our friends. Our crew of buddies and we’re laughing our heads off pretty much every day.So we’re pretty lucky.
Mb: So, you roll back into Peterborough in August. You’ve been here lots of times, always draw, people love you here. This must be a good market for you. Happy to return?
Chris: Ya, we always do well there. The last time we did a summer show there it was a show that didn’t happen. We came, set up, and the wind was blowing hard so we didn’t get to play… so we owe you the show.
We have to be really good that night!

Sloan headlines 2018 Hootenanny on Hunter Saturday August 11, 2018 9pm