Monday, 27 February 2012 11:15
Fresh off the release of their critically acclaimed album Killa Dilla, The Slims’ Travis Atria and Collin Whitlock are already planning their second. We recently got a chance to sit down with Collin, who also works with Travis (of Morningbell) in the Shoddy Beatles.
By Greg Allard
How’s the new record coming along and when is it due for release?
We’ve begun putting together some of the songs and the concepts, but we’re in the very early stages of production. We really have no idea when it will be released.
How might it differ from the first LP?
It will be much shorter. Killa Dilla is a 16-song album. Our goal is to keep this album down to nine.
The first album told a story; what will the second one do?
I’m not really ready to flesh out the entire concept just yet. This much I’ll say: Like Killa Dilla, the new album has a purpose behind its songs and the track order.
Fair enough. How did the name “The Slims” come about?
Our friends, Meg and Melissa, were having a cowboy-themed party; everybody was supposed to dress up. They went all out for it—set up games, got cowboy hats for people, the whole deal. The best part, however, were the invitations. Meg and Melissa went around to the houses of the guests and tacked custom “WANTED” posters on their front doors. Everybody got their own aliases, a rap sheet of past crimes (personalized for each of our vices), and a wad of funny money to bet with at the casino (pickpocketing was encouraged). Travis and his brother Eric “were” wanted train robbers known as “The Slims”—perfect name for a soul band.
So, from that, how did the band form?
Our first project was called Regular Size Tim. In about a week and a half during the summer of 2007 we wrote and recorded Coitus and the City, a 6-song EP that turned out to be a much better record than either of us could have hoped for. We figured that if we ever took the time to plan out the songs, we could make a damn good album. Separately, we’d both always wanted to create a modern-day Motown/soul band, so the style decision was already made for us. And like I said before, we already had the band name.
That brings us to the next question: What are your musical influences and where does Motown rank among them?
For both the Slims and our own personal projects, Travis and I rank Motown (Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) at the very top of our musical influences. Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Otis Redding also come through pretty strongly in most of our music. The Beatles obviously can’t go unmentioned, although I think the evidence of their influence is more noticeable in the music of Morningbell and Dark Horse.
What else moves you toward Motown?
Aside from the brilliant songwriting, I think what leads us in Motown’s direction (and Stax even more than Motown) most is our displeasure with the sound quality of so many modern albums. Too many of them sound like they were recorded by robots in a vacuum. In an attempt to sound perfect, they’ve taken away the warmth and comfort that should accompany the listener. There’s an old Persian proverb regarding the way they created such beautiful rugs, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect and precisely imprecise.” The Persians believed that attempting to create a perfectly symmetrical pattern or a flawless color scheme was an affront to God, since only God could hope to achieve perfection, so they would purposely blemish their designs. We have a similar mindset when we create our albums; a certain amount of imperfection makes the music better. An overproduced album is like a really clean bowling alley—it just doesn’t feel right if your feet don’t stick to the ground and the stench of stale beer and onion rings doesn’t follow you after you leave.
Travis: I’d say we actually gravitate more toward Stax, Al Green, Muscle Shoals—the Southern soul sound. There’s more bass in it, more grit. That’s what we like.
Who does what in the band?
Most of the drums and all of the horn parts are played by Travis. As for the rest, it’s a toss up as to who is playing what. It usually depends on who comes up with the part or who can play the part the way the songs needs it to be played. Obviously, Travis is the superior guitarist, however there were a few instances on Killa Dilla where the songs needed some dirty, noticeably imperfect guitar, so I played those parts.
Are you going to perform live anytime soon?
We will perform live, but putting together the band is a big task, so I can’t really say when it will happen. We want to be playing live long before the next album comes out.
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