Picture this. You’re in a band about to head-out a two-month tour across the country. It is three in morning and you have a gig in less than 36 hours down in Pittsburgh. You have played the last five consecutive nights trekking from Boston to Vermont back through a snowstorm to Boston out to Western Massachusetts back to Boston to New York and then back to Boston. Now, you have to get ready and leave for a two-month trek. You can barely think from all anticipation and excitement combined with exhaustion. So at three in the morning you remember one thing, your fans, you forgot to say goodbye. So you hop on-line and leave this:
Greetings all. Its 3am and I’m running around my house like a decapitated chicken, preparing for a two month voyage out West. I hope to see some of you kooky rockers out there, and I’m going to miss the energy of all back here. It’s been a great week and I’m really excited to travel around this nation with you all in my head and heart. I think that it is really special, and really open what we all have going around here, and your searching’s and discoveries, and all of your different paths and words and reactions and voices are constantly inspiring something in me and pushing me to practice, and to try to open the channels wider and wide. Have good time. Eat good food. Say hi to your mom for me. Grace~ Andrew
It is no underlying secret in the Jamband genre that strong communication with your fan base can translate into success. And as the above statement from drummer Andrew Barr can attest, The Slip know this.
The Slip, Marc Friedman and brothers Brad and Andrew Barr , began playing in and around the Providence/Boston area in 1994 and have been steadily building momentum since. This last year has seen them tour the Northeast constantly and brought their first venture outside the East trekking to Colorado and California’s High Sierra Music Festival.
The Slip’s constant touring and interactions have built a steady fan-base in the East. Their debut CD From the Gecko is the current Number One selling independent release in the Boston area and their two websites receive over 500 hits per week. They recently hit the road and are currently in the midst of their most extensive road venture to date. While the tour consists of many headlining slots, the band will also be opening several shows for the String Cheese Incident.
I caught up with The Slip drummer Andrew on Jan. 29 before soundcheck at Middle East in Boston-the Slip’s last local show before they hit the road.
SS: You guys are about to head out on your most ambitious tour to date, you have to be pretty excited. What’s going through your mind?
AB: Oh, I’m really amped. I like being out on the road and seeing new places and meeting new people. Like our tour last year through Colorado- an amazing experience. This tour is really going to take all over the place and hopefully expose our music to a variety of people.
SS: I know you really appreciate the local fan-base and all he support you have be given. You are going to be away for longer than ever-before, is tonight’s show kind of a send-off party?
AB: Definitely. I’m real excited for tonight’s show. Everybody that surrounds is great- we have something really special going on here. It may be tough to be away but I’ll carry all the energy from everyone with me.
SS: This tour has a lot of headlining slot but there are several dates you are opening for the SCI. They’re a pretty well-known band which should provide you guys with a great opportunity to expose your music to a bunch of new people. How did you hook-up with them?
AB: Well, we met them a couple of years ago in Boston- I think it was them and Dr. Didg. Anyway, we got to hanging with them and they are a kind bunch of folk and we just bonded. Then we saw them when we were out at the High Sierra this fall so when we decided we were heading West we just kind of decided to hook-up with our West Coast friends. They are a really talented group, I’m excited to play with them.
SS: Last year was a pretty busy year for you and certainly one that treated you pretty well. You have consistently packed places like the Middle East, Higher Ground and Lupo’s, did you ever think you would be where you are now a year ago?
AB: Actually I did. It just all seemed possible- in a weird way I think you have to set ideals for yourself, you have an image you have to set of yourself and you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe and know what you want especially in this business. Its dangerous and it is really easy to get burned or burned-out. But I love traveling and I love getting my music out to people. I feel really blessed it has turned out the way it has.
SS: I have always been amazed at the intricate “wall of sound” the three of you produce. I also find it hard to label your music since it transcends jazz, funk, rock, and lately a touch of African rhythm which I assume is directly related to the time you spent in Africa this past summer. How much of an impact did the trip have on you both musically and spiritually?
AB: It was amazing. Their culture is much different than ours but what struck me the most was seeing how everything they did was unified. Everybody was on an equal plain. Here, we classify people, but to use an example in Africa, a musician would be on the same level as a mechanic-there are no levels, everything is a necessity to them. There is no ego involved at all, and to see these people with so little- it is something I think we try to do with our shows.
SS: How so? I know I’ve noticed you tend to look out over the crowd during certain moments, are you trying to feed off it?
AB: When you play music you open all channels, sight, sound, feeling, and feed off the energy. It’s feeling you give to people who in turn give it back to you. If I look out and see a certain dancer I can feed off that. But I’m also listening to what Brad and Marc are laying down- it all just feeds off each other and evolves. It’s like we are all a big family at that moment.
SS: Let’s talk about your shows. The first impression I had of you guys was great groove, but they really don’t sing enough, not that it was a negative feeling. But by nature you are forced to listen more intently to what each individual is playing when they is no singing, it can get mentally exhausting. Brad has a really great voice, but its not uncommon for you to go a whole show without singing. How do determine when to sing?
AB: We never really know what we are going to play when we go out there, it just makes itself up as we go along. Sometimes it all comes together…in general, I’d say the singing is about 15% of the show. A lot of times Brad is just improving lyrics to serve as a break in the sense that, when you lay a voice over everything, it takes the focus off what each of us are doing- Brad doesn’t have to focus as hard on driving the groove. I’ll lay a second vocal over it at times and it creates a nice texture- everybody can then lay back a little more.
SS: You three certainly are not afraid to try things on stage. Aside from your normal set-up of guitar, bass and drums, you incorporate a lot of different elements in your music. Whether its Marc with a stand-up bass or you playing some Latin rhythms on a steel drum, it certainly change the dynamic of shows I think. My favorite has to be when Brad trades the guitar for the keys a la the tune The Weight of Solomon, he’s a pretty good keyboard player, but lately I’ve noticed the keys have been absent from the stage, have you phased it out?
AB: Yeah, it just kind of faded-out. We used to have an old Rhodes, which you can’t really take on the road. Then we got a Wurlitzer, can you tell we like old clunky stuff? Anyway, we had that for a while, but what would happen is it would constantly be out of tune or something would break on it. Plus, its kind of bulky to carry around all the time and given that we never know what we are going to play, there were nights when it would just sit off to the side of the stage without us ever touching it. That doesn’t mean it is gone for good though.
SS: I’m glad to hear that because there is a song you guys debuted about a year ago that had keys but it sort of disappeared-Julia’s Kitchen?
AB: Oh yeah, well, I guess that sort of fell victim to the keyboard problems. I like playing that song though, there is some nice harmony but also a lot of open room in it, I’d like to play it more. Its still around though, we are actually thinking about putting it on the next CD.
SS: I think you just answered my next question. When are you guys going to start recording?
AB: We’ll probably start recording when we return in the spring. We got about 40-50 originals in our song list right now, but we’ll probably write new material- hopefully this next disc will be more coherent as opposed to “Gecko” which was kind of schizo. We want to go in and let the music happen.
SS: So you think of “Gecko” as being “schizo?” How so, I think it sounds like a pretty coherent an fluid piece.
AB: Thanks. I suppose I’m being a little critical but I think the schizo feel comes from the way it was recorded. It seemed like every track on there was recorded in a different basement or whatever- we would lay something here and then something down somewhere else, it was just kind of hectic. We don’t want that this time around. Being on the road can be really great, you can focus on balancing writing and playing- seeing new places can be very inspiring. We’ll get back and start working on things.
The Slip are on road westward as we speak. They will be hitting many places for the first time. Check this trio out, they are a great ride.