Slick Shoes - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Slick Shoes. We discussed the band’s new album, Rotation And Frequency, the album art and vinyl variants, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

Thanks for having us!

Your new album ‘Rotation And Frequency’ came out September 25th. Fans are excited. What’s it like to finally have a new album finished and out?

After nearly a year since we started the project, it’s nice to finally see the final product and get to hear what our fans have to say about it. The response has been great, so seeing posts on social media and hearing things like “this is Slick Shoes best record ever” has made the journey very fulfilling.

What was the writing process like for this album? Has the process changed from those original albums to this new album?

The writing process was similar from the past. Typically, someone, usually Jackson, comes in with an idea, maybe just a riff or maybe more, and we jam on it for a while. Once we get the one part down, we work together to fill out the song, and see what feels natural, and we continue until we feel like the song is complete. Then Ryan typically works out the vocals, sometimes with a little help with lyrics and melodies.

I really like the song “Visitors”. Can you tell me about writing that song specifically?

Visitors was an idea Jackson came in with. He had the intro already together, and Joe and I came in and played what seemed appropriate. We worked out the verses, and when it came to what became the pre-chorus, we had tried a few things, and when Joe did that drum roll on the snare throughout that part, we all looked at each other like, “yeah, that’s the part for sure.” And we just continued. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like, other than to say we vibe off each other. We have written together long enough that we have the same style, and we just work together for that goal. And sometimes it gets spelled out- “play this.” It’s different for every song, but similar process.

The guitar work on these new songs sound great. I really like the way they were produced and the sound. What went into recording the guitars for this album and how long did you work on them?

Thank you... Keep in mind, I’m the bassist answering this question, so I’ll explain what I saw from the cheap seats. We came into the studio already knowing what sound we were looking for, and we had the gear to get the tones we wanted. The hard part is sometimes conveying that to a producer, or the mixing engineer. Because we knew what we wanted the album to sound like, it took some layering and using various amps- from Splawn, to vintage Marshall, to maybe even a Fender Bassman. Lots of effects. You can check our Jackson’s (@jahkayson) Instagram to see some of the effects he used. I know he used his own Fender Strat, and a couple of his Gibson SG’s, and I think he used producer Steve Kravac’s telecaster, and maybe another Gibson for octaves. For bass, I tracked with a Steve Harris Signature P bass, used a New Vintage Undertow 300 bass head for lows, a 70’s Vintage Ampeg SVT for mids and highs, and on a couple songs used a Fender Bassman for some grit.

The first pressing of the vinyl completely sold out and you have put a second pressing up. How did you guys feel when that sold out? Were you surprised at all? Did you plan for multiple pressings? 

Initially, there were two variants of vinyl for pre-order. The first variant sold out in 24 hours. It took a week for the other variant to sell out, which was a shock to us that it went so fast. The day before the 2nd variant sold out, the label told us they were planning to press another 500, and to pick two more variants from a few ideas they had, of which they would press 250 copies each. So it certainly wasn’t planned but it’s awesome that people had confidence after hearing the first single Whispers that they were willing to buy a hard copy of it on vinyl.

The picture for the album artwork is really interesting. Why did you pick it and who is in the photo?

We had the name “Rotation and Frequency” pretty much as the solid title before we came up with the art concept. We started looking at pics of vintage military airplanes, and Joe and Jackson worked together to mock up what our cover might look like. We even reached out to a couple of photographers to try to acquire the rights to a picture of theirs we liked. It just seemed like we were going to have to needlessly pay someone a bunch of money when we had other options.

The picture we ended up using was a picture of our singer Ryan’s grandpa standing in front of the P-38 Lightning he flew in WWII! Suddenly the concept became more personal and we all fell in love with the idea. UFO’s were added as a thing some of us have been interested in. And looking at that cover, I think we are left with the thought that despite the overwhelming things happening around us that we maybe aren’t equipped to overcome, we still use the tools we have to face those challenges. I hope that makes sense.

The thing I really like about these new songs is they have that vintage Slick Shoes sound, but they also sound new and exciting. How did you guys balance managing fan expectations with presenting the band’s sound in 2020?

When we started writing, initially we were pulling from the music we had been into listening to for the past few years. While we thought the songs were good, they certainly weren’t that signature Slick Shoes sound. We recognized that early in the process and we actually scrapped a few songs we knew weren’t cutting it. And then we got back to our roots. Started listening to the influences that we listened to back in the late 90’s. And then the writing started to come more naturally and we knew that we were on the right track. Some of the effects and layered parts were things maybe we didn’t do in the past, and that’s where I think some of our more modern influences come through in our music. After recording we still felt like the mix we walked away with wasn’t quite up to modern standards. So a guy, Heath Ripplinger, who had helped work on mixing our live album made us an offer to mix our new album to give it a more full, complete sound, and I think that helped bring us to the modern standards of what a punk album should sound like in 2020.

Tooth And Nail has been rebuilding for this new era with a lot of new and classic artists. What has been one of your favorite artists or releases from this new era?

Honestly, we haven’t really listened to too much of T&N’s newer artists. Back in the 90’s, it was more like a family, and many of the bands were similar in style, and we toured together. We used to get copies of all the new CDs they released delivered to our houses without asking for them. We always knew who was coming out with new music. And today, it’s hard to even know who is on the roster. There isn’t any bad blood or anything, it’s just hard to answer that question because things were just different back then.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks for the continued support! I hope everyone enjoys the new album! We hope to continue releasing new music, because we love to do it!

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