MUSIC PROFILE | SLOAN

The first time ION tries contacting Sloan's Chris Murphy for an interview about the group's new album, 12, the bassist/vocalist texts back that he's in Thunder Bay seeking out a massage therapist for some sweet relief. It's just the second day of the band's 38-date spring tour, but his body has already been giving him grief. While the musician has been known to deliver a high kick or two during Sloan sets, when he answers a call the next day in Winnipeg, he explains that his muscle pain might not be a rock and roll injury, but rather a leftover from a recent hockey game. All the same, slotting in some professional handiwork between sound check and show time was a must.

"I was kind of in pain the last two shows," Murphy says on the line from inside the band van. "I was singing all right, which is my main fear on tour— that I'll lose my voice. So my voice is okay, but I had to hang the bass over my sore neck and shoulder....I feel better now."

Sloan's back at full power in more ways than one, with 12 being a return to form for Murphy, guitarists Patrick Pentland and Jay Ferguson, and drummer Andrew Scott. While ambitious in scope, 2014's Commonwealth , which gave each of the four songwriters a side of a record to do their own thing, was more of a team effort in name than in execution.  While not every song on 12 features performances from every member of Sloan, Murphy notes that the album sessions were much more collaborative this time around.

"Commonwealth was a record where we all retreated into our corners and made solo EPs, which we arranged as a double album. That was fun, but there's something un-Sloan about it because it doesn't have the juxtaposition, the compilation of styles careening into each other," Murphy says, adding of the three songs he penned for 12, "I wanted to do songs that the other guys had some input in."

Murphy credits Pentland for helping him helm album-opening anthem "Spin Our Wheels", as well as the admittedly AC/DC-channeling, power chord-cranking "Wish Upon a Satellite," on which Pentland was offered a verse to sing. The six-stringer, meanwhile, salutes the shoegazing roots of Sloan by smearing half-craned wah-wah leads onto his own "The Day Will Be Mine." The genre-jumping affair also finds Ferguson exploring grape-flavored bubblegum pop with "Right to Roam," while Scott takes things in a more esoteric, finger-picking folk-rock direction with pieces like "Gone for Good."

After reconnecting in the recording studio, the core four and longtime auxiliary pianist/percussionist Gregory Macdonald are now reconnecting with audiences. Set lists so far have been plugging the new material, as well as tracks from a fabled catalogue of CanCon classics like 1994's Twice Removed and 1998's Navy Blues; you could potentially hear a double-shot showcasing Marshall stack-cracking fist pumper "If It Feels Good Do It," from 2001's Pretty Together, and 12's self-referential boogie number,  "Don't Stop (If It Feels Good Do It)". 

Offstage, Murphy says he's been having fun with the fans. A longtime Sloan showgoer in Thunder Bay, for instance, once again approached the bassist with stories about seeing Kiss (Murphy was a fan in his youth). The group were also gifted a few dozen Sloan-boosting cupcakes, though many were scarfed down by the time they rolled into Winnipeg. "I don't drink and smoke, or smoke pot.  I'm pretty clean, but I feel like my addiction to sugar is probably the worst addiction of anybody's," Murphy says with a laugh of his tour vice. "I can't stop."

Some habits die hard. In the case of Sloan's egalitarian approach to songwriting, not to mention the sweet and hooky results, that's hardly a bad thing.

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