AND THEIR CD
'SLANTED EYES, SLANTED HEARTS'
JULY 12, 2008
A SECOND TIME AROUND:
ABOUT THE BANDS FORTHCOMING CD GIG MICHAELS OF SWAMPDAWAMP TALKS TO ROCKWIRED GOING OUT ON THE ROAD AGAINAND WHERE HE'S AT IN LIFE
A PERSONAL JOURNEY:
ALYSSA GRAHAM TALKS TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT HER LATEST CD 'ECHO'TAKING THE LISTENER ON A MUSICAL JOURNEY AND FILLING PEOPLE WITH A SENSE OF HOPE
LIKE FLOWERS THROUGH THE CONCRETE:
MARC PANNI OF LOS BLANCOS TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THEIR LATEST CD 'JUST THIS ONCE' REELING IN THE AUDIENCE AT MAKING FOLKS RECONSIDER MUSICIANSHIP(READ MORE)
LOVE LIKE THIS:
MIKE ZITO TALKS TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT HIS LATEST CD 'TODAY' GROWING AS A SONGWRITER
AND MAKING THE ALBUM HE'S ALWAYS DREAMED OF (READ MORE)
SOUND AND VISION:
JEFF SHAPIRO ON CIAM TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THEIR CD 'ANONYMOUS' MERGING ART AND MUSIC
AND APPEALING TO OTHER SENSES (READ MORE)
|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS THE SLANTS|
WE WILL NEVER DIE!Portland Oregon-based dance rock band THE SLANTS have released their self-produced debut CD 'SLANTED EYES, SLANTED HEARTS' to wide acclaim, enthusiastic audiences, and maybe even a few raised eyebrows and double takes. When I mentioned to a friend that I had run into at Trader Joe's that I was going to be interviewing this band called THE SLANTS, suddenly there was a pause and a few shoppers passing by, turned around and looked my way. I immediately found myself having to announce to the universe that it was an Asian band. It was a strange situation to be in.
SIMON YOUNG OF THE SLANTS
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THE BAND'S DEBUT CD
'SLANTED EYES, SLANTED HEARTS'
THEIR SUCCESS ON THE ANIME CIRCUIT
AND TAKING OWNERSHIP OF A STEREOTYPE
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
Why would a band led by Asian Americans insist on being called THE SLANTS? "We kind of wanted to do something where we could take ownership of a stereotype." Says bassist and founder SIMON YOUNG. "We wanted to wear these things like a badge of honor as opposed to being something that we're ashamed of."
'SLANTED EYES, SLANTED HEARTS' is a huge slice of electro-rock heaven, from it's anthemic opener 'SAKURA, SAKURA' to hypnotically pulsing tracks such as 'STRANGLEHOLD' and 'CAPTURE ME BURNING'. I've saved a place for this CD somewhere in between DEBORAH HARRY's 'NECESSARY EVIL' and JOY DIVISION's 'UNKNOWN PLEASURES'. Given the bands heavy electronic sound,
-which easily conjures up cyberpunk imagery in one's head- it is little wonder that THE SLANTS have managed to appeal to a most curious demographic; anime fans. "I always wanted to play the anime convention circuit and I knew that this band would be a part of it but I never expected things to take off this quickly. So, it's been quite an amazing experience for us." says YOUNG. "They're not exactly the coolest, or the hippest kids in school but they're taking hold of the songs and can really relate to them."
The band was a week and a half into it's tour of the country when ROCKWIRED spoke with SIMON YOUNG. Here is how it went.
Where am calling you at?
We're in Dallas, Texas.
Do you have a show there tonight?
We had a show here last night. We're just about to hit the road and head for Houston in just a few minutes and from there, we'll be working our way up the east coast. Eventually, we're going to be hitting Portland, Maine and then, we'll work our way back to Portland Oregon and then we'll go out on the road again after we get a few days to recuperate a little.
How far are you into this tour now? Obviously not far.
We've been on the road for about a week and a half now. We started going down the west coast and then cutting across to Texas.
You've got a great CD here! It's really a lot of fun to listen to.
Well thank you! I appreciate that very much.
Now that the CD is out there, how do you feel about it now that all of the writing and the work that has gone into it is behind you? Do you feel that it says everything that you want the band to say?
You know, I'm really proud of the work, especially considering how it all came along. We recorded the whole album in my garage in my house. We basically turned my garage into a studio. That being said, we're just really focused on writing and recording another album already. I think that I'm really happy with this first album, but I think that we have a long way to go as far as how we want to develop our songwriting and things like that, but I still stand behind the album. I'm very proud of it.
Before THE SLANTS, I read that you were in other bands.
Right before THE SLANTS, I was in a band called THE STIVZ and that was where I did alot of my touring and everything. Most of us came from other bands actually. ARON, our lead singer was in another old school punk band called EVENING AT THE BLACK HOUSE and our keyboardist and the other members came from various other indie-rock projects.
I also read that it was always a dream of yours to be in an all-Asian band, but you also say that if you totaled the ethnicities of all of the members, you would get one Asian.
Our drummer and our guitar player are part Asian. I'm actaully half Taiwanese and half Chinese. Our keyboardist is Korean. So yeah, It's been something that I've wanted to do for a while. A couple of years ago, I thought it would be a cool idea to have a band like this because it would be diferent.
A couple of the tracks stood out for me. The first track 'SAKURA, SAKURA', has the lines 'Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees', would you like to talk about that?
That lyrics came from growing up on school playgrounds and hearing a lot of kids saying it. It was something that happened to myself quite a bit. It especially happened to our lead singer who decided to change that rhyme into something that we could take ownership of . It was a way of letting people know that we're not afraid of what people say about us. Most of us (members of the band) have instances as children where people would be constantly threatening us. I had a bunch of kids in elementary school who would throw rocks at me just because I was Asian. And this was in San Diego, where there is a lot of ethnic diversity. ARON, the lead singer, had similar experiences. We kind of wanted to have something there where we could take ownership of a stereotype, just like our band's name THE SLANTS. We want to wear these things like a badge of honor as opposed to being something that we're ashamed of.
What drew you to music initially as an individual.
I honestly don't really remember. I've loved music ever since I was a kid, probably because my dad appreciated music. There are actually home videos of me picking up his guitar, jumping up on the coffee table and playing it and trying to sing, from before I could barely talk. When I was five and six years old I would pretend that I was in a band with my sister and my cousins and we would just play on our toys. Wanting to perform and write songs was just something that I always wanted to do. I love every aspect from sitting down and writing sings to the actual performance of it in front of an audience.
How does THE SLANTS experience equate with other bands that you've been in?
In a lot of ways it's similar. We still play a lot of rock clubs and try to get the music out to as many people as possible. In other ways, it's different than anything that I have ever been involved in simply due to the fact that we play anime conventions and Asian cultural festivals, so that makes it different in that regard. Other than that, I started the band based off of experiences in other bands as far as recruiting people. I used a lot of craigslist.org and I used a lot of weekly papers around town and I started auditioning people. With this band in particular, from the beginning I wanted to have it different When I was auditioning musicians, I was a lot more upfront about who I wanted. I would meet with them several times before they auditioned. I wanted to make sure that they were on the same page as far as business goes. I wanted them to have similar ideas and values. I wanted something that would last. I've been doing music for about seventeen years now and when bands break up after a few months or in a year or two, it always comes down to a difference of opinion and values and not being on the same page or not having the same goals. So, I'm treating THE SLANTS a lot differently than my last few projects.
Who are the band members and what do you think each of them brings to the table musically, creatively and personality wise?
ARON is the front man of the band. He writes all of the lyrics and vocal melodies. Tp me he is definitely a frontman. He's got that charisma and swagger that alot of great lead singers have. He's very in your face. He and I have very similar music backgrounds because he comes from more punk rock and harder edged bands, so he has that more aggressive side to him which I like alot. It brings a certain edge to our live performances. Me and GAIJIN do most of the songwriting. He's really into electronics and production work,and he works with me to arrange songs and everything. He is the complete opposite of ARON. He's a little more sensitive and calm. He has that musical creative side to him that helps quite a bit. Our keyboardist JEN CHO is the only female in the band, so she's kind of the little sister. We all watch out for her. She's probably the most talented in the band. She's classically trained. Before THE SLANTS, she was playing things like BEETHOVEN, and BACH and performing conciertos. She's actually a music major as well. Our guitar player JOHNNY is a someone I've been friends with since the third grade. He's probably the most reserved and quiet person in the band but on stage, he transforms into a completely different person. He has a lot of great energy. A.C. was the drummer on the album and - drummer's a kind of weird actually. He'd be quiet most of the time but on stage he was a very powerful drummer and brings an energetic vibe to the show.
From this CD, are there any tracks that sort of stand out for you personally?
For me, it would probably be the song 'KOKORU'. I've never really written ballads before but it's probably my favorite track onthe album because I really love the vocal harmonies and hooks in that song. On the actual recording, there is no bass guitar. We translated everything I wrote on the bass to the synthesizer and I really love the way that it came across. Musically, it's very simple but I like how catchy it is. My second favorite song would be 'SAKURA SAKURA'. That song has kind of become an anthem for the band in a lot of ways. The more we are performing it, the more I see people singing the lyrics and I've had a lot of people come up and talk to me about it and say that becuase of that song , they had actually found an Asian artist that they can identify with. It's not just kids of Asian descent. It's other kids in general who know what it feels like to be rejected. It's kids like these that are a large part of our crowd. Especially anime conventions. They're not exactly the coolest, hip kids in school but they're taking hold of the song and can really relate to it.
In being with this band since it's inception, has there been anything that has surprised you?
How do you mean?
Has something happened as a result of getting this band going that you didn't quite expect?
The whole experience has been quite a bit of a surprise for me. For one thing, I never thought that after being in a band for less than a year that we'd be playing for fifteen thousand people a night. I always wanted to play the anime convention circuit and I knew that this band would be a part of it, but I never expected things to take off this quickly. So, it's been quite an amazing experience for us.
Are there any plans to make a music video? A lot of these songs lend themselves very well to visual interpretation.
We actaully filmed a music video but it's still in the finishing stages right now. We're hoping have it come out in the next couple of months. When we get done with this tour, we would love the chance to work on the visual aspect of this band a little more.
What do you want a person to come away with after hearing this CD?
Ultimately, I'd hope that a person would come away being a fan of the music and appreciate it. We're not really a socio-political band or anything, but I think I'd like people to walk with an understanding of where we're coming from.