by Ian Anderson
The Slats are a Midwest-spanning power-trio—giving new meaning to the term “separation anxiety”—destined for garage-rock stardom. Based in both Iowa and Minnesota, with band members split up due to various school and work commitments, the Slats have managed to come together as a cohesive unit of noise-rock, with a sound tight enough you could be forgiven for thinking they cohabitate rather than cross state lines to cook up their racket.
Download an mp3 of the Slats’ song Teena.
most recent album, Pick It Up, released last spring off of Latest Flame
Records, is by far their most ambitious effort, putting them on the map of lo-fi
garage rock outfits and keeping things interesting by employing a pop sensibility.
The Slats are raw and abrasive, with a swaggering feel reminiscent of Electric
Jet Set-era Sonic Youth countered by a whiff of closeted fascination with
mid-80s new wave (the Cars in particular seem a prominent influence). Lead singer
and four-string guitarist Brian Cox’s vocals possess a cut-the-shit attitude
that simply oozes charisma. Pick It Up is a 13-track onslaught of catchy
hook after catchy hook, signifying a potent transition of writing style from
their earlier home-recorded efforts. This pop awareness is clearly a direct
influence of the band’s more-than-passing resemblance to early Guided
“Teena” is the highlight of the record, showing what the band is
truly capable of. Comprised of a classic chorus chanting “Teena”
repeatedly in a triumphant manner following a four-chord staccato movement that
Rick Springfield would envy, the song proves to be surprisingly radio friendly,
and may be the manner by which the band breaks out of the garage-rock ghetto
and into broader recognition.
This is all possible due to the band’s transition out of the basement
and into the studio, providing higher audio fidelity without sacrificing the
exciting feel of live performance. Despite the improved production values, Cox
prefers the basement method, believing the rushed studio recording process left
something to be desired: “I think that was the biggest bummer about the
last one, I didn’t have as much time to fuck around as before. I really
like the idea of messing around at home and coming at it with the home recording
Cox, the founding member and original Slat, is a freelance graphic designer
living in Minneapolis. Jon Hansen, guitar player and back-up vocalist, is a
student currently attending the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Mark
Tietjen, the drummer, is in Cedar Falls, Iowa, attending the University of Northern
Iowa. This time apart has resulted in an independent writing process.
[originally] from Cedar Falls, but I moved up here a couple of years ago,”
explains Cox. “Basically, we started touring when I moved and once we
started doing that, it was just one more three-hour trip to get home.”
Ideally, they practice once a month in Cedar Falls, but it’s often difficult
to find the time or a catalyst for the creative process with such distance between
three creative members.
“It’s been kind of a pain in the ass for the creative process,”
admits Cox. “It’s a little slower now that I’m up here. But,
the last couple years we’ve been concentrating on writing our parts apart,
due to the distance.”
The band originated out of Cox’s basement in Cedar Falls where he recorded
most of the rock acts in the area—Hansen and Tietjen’s former bands
among them. The transition form basement buddies to intrastate band mates has
been difficult, but the Slats remain committed to making it work.
“We write about half of the songs [independently],” says Cox. “The
other half is stuff we write together. That’s the biggest bummer for me
because I’ve been in an apartment and haven’t been able to record
guitars loud, like they’re supposed to recorded—now that I’ll
have a house I can start pursuing recording more.”
The Slats have hit the road on three separate occasions so far in support of
Pick It Up, and plan to start recording a follow-up this fall. But for
now, they have adopted the ways of the weekend warrior: visiting close-by areas
working with their separation—especially between Iowa and Minnesota.
Limited practice time ensures that each time The Slats do get together it’s
a focused and cathartic musical experience. “Being three hours away really
sucks, because we can’t get together every week, but when we do, it’s
great,” claims Cox. “We don’t blow it off. When we get together,
we know we have to get shit done.”
Now, as Pick It Up approaches its first birthday, the Slats are looking
to the horizon—but they aren’t giving up on their current album
going to keep pushing this record out more often, but we’re beginning
to concentrate on writing the next record,” Cox said. “We’re
starting to do more shows, in support of this record, but we’re going
to start playing shows in support of our next record.”
The transition to the new album will probably push them into a new sensibility,
be it pop oriented or otherwise. The Slats plan on recording it in Cox’s
new home studio, moving back into the basement, but forward in experimentation.
“The next record will be different, because it will be more recording
based,” Cox said. “This past record, we had to run down and record
all in one rush. It’s going to be really different because we will have
more time to experiment and fuck around. Because we’ll be at home, instead
of under the gun trying to capture something in the studio.” ||
The Slats perform on Thu. Feb. 24 at the Triple Rock Social Club with
Kruddler, The Amino Acids. 10 p.m. 21+. TBA. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-333-7399.
Check out the Slats on their official website at TheSlats.com.
Download an mp3 of the Slats’ song Teena.