With their second EP “Graveyard Mates” the Slackwater News lets fly another batch of restless songs that walk that thin line between indie-rock and freak-folk; memorable for their melodies, sweet in their harmonies, and cleverly arresting in their lyrics.
The group—Matt Blank (drums), JJ Gammache (bass, vocals), Matt Johnson (guitar), Daniel Ramirez (organ/piano/keyboards), and Dan Zdilla (vocals, guitar)—proudly hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where a healthy modern arts and music community thrive alongside badly lit retail outlets, tourist buffets, and horse-drawn agriculture.
Their debut disc, “All You Creatures” earned significant regional notice as well as airplay on WXPN and other radio outlets in 2010. It drew comparisons to the likes of Dr. Dog, The Black Keys, Band of Bees, Spoon, Avett Brothers, Lumineers, and The Beatles.
This time around the group presents six songs about things like international phone calls, sharing house with polite ghosts, the oddly comforting certainty of entropy, and the equally comforting notion of spending that eternity in the ground with someone you love. “Graveyard Mates” is available for physical and digital sale on Halloween 2012.
JJ Gammache - Electric Bass and Voice
Dan Zdilla - Electric Guitar and Voice
Matt Blank - Drums
Matt Johnson - Electric Guitar and Voice
Daniel Ramirez - Electric Piano, Organ and Voice
"All You Creatures" - EP 2009
"Graveyard Mates" - LP 2012
Airplay on public and commercial terrestrial radio (WXPN, WRVV) and several inernet radio stations, including Pandora.
Swimming through the Strange and Wonderous Fishbowl of The Slackwater News
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Some bands spend untold hours in search of a distinctive sound, something that will set them apart a...Some bands spend untold hours in search of a distinctive sound, something that will set them apart and give their music a reason to be heard. Then there are those that don't bother and somehow end up selling a decent amount of records while sounding like a thousand other bands.
And then there are the truly lucky, like the five guys in The Slackwater News, a group barely three years old who have founded their sound through on more than the band members own collective curiosity and individual weirdness.
Blur the odder moments of The Band's Music from Big Pink with the "let's just splice everything in there" approach of Abbey Road, then add a little of The Move and Dr. Dog, and you have the basic aesthetic of The Slackwater News.
Their sound may be a deliberate mashup of indie folk and psychedelic garage rock, but to this mix, they add snippets of parlor songs, ragtime, electro-funk and Americana. It's the sound of purely democratic songwriting. Everybody brings something to the table, and whether each addition seems appropriate or not, it somehow all makes sense in the end.
In the musty world of Slackwater's North Queen Street rehearsal space, often a song doesn't become clear until they "huddle together in a windowless room and chip away at it with wooden axes and dissolve its tough outer shell with contemporary elixirs," as the band's website notes. As a result, they have wrestled themselves around a sound that, while based on well-established traditions, is still refreshing.
"I think all of us have an A.D.D. effect on the songs," explains guitarist and chief songwriter, Dan Zdilla. "Sometimes I think it would be great to have a chorus that goes with the way the verse sounds. But I think we would just end up getting bored with that."
Sipping cold adult beverages at Lancaster's Belvedere Inn, four of the group's five members - Zdilla, guitarist Matt Johnson, drummer Matt Blank and keyboardist Dan Ramirez (bassist Hans Wheelersburg was unavailable) - ruminate on all things Slackwater.
As the drinks continue to flow, conversation turns to how baseball relates to genetic evolution, the moral vagaries of Twitter and other such important issues of the day. But mostly, they try to give a good account of their unique sound, mirthful and serious all at once.
The group's All You Creatures EP from 2009 includes five songs - most of which feature unpredictable changes in rhythm, key or timbre - and gave the first glimpse of the band's process.
Zdilla and Johnson chug away on plunking acoustic guitars and fuzzy electrics. Wheelersburg and Blank supply sharp, reflexive grooves behind the numerous changes. Ramirez's wheezing Hammond organ and Wurlitzer bubble underneath everything, adding carnival colors and a horror film pastiche.
"If The World Goes Mad" bounces between verse and chorus sketches before adding a third, unrelated riff just for good measure at the end. "Taxidermy" contemplates the simultaneously cool and creepy basement displays at Lancaster's North Museum by alternating between funky soul and loping dirge feels.
On "Fish in a Bowl" the band cribs from Steve Miller and the Beach Boys to make a dance-worthy song about how awesome it is to be a goldfish. It's a hit your 7-year-old will love. Then there's the low-fi "Dr. McGillicuddy's," a digital-only single recorded as an ode to the boutique schnapps masked as an old-time patent medicine advert. It's a nifty little number, extolling the virtues of a substance that can cure everything from scoliosis, to nipple sclerosis and premature ejaculation.
While Zdilla comes up with the spine for most songs, Johnson, like the others, is used to throwing ideas into the pot, never quite sure how they'll end up. "We all kind of know what Dan's looking for when we sit down to come up with what to play," Johnson says. "
But in the end, it becomes something very different than what he might have thought of."
"There's sometimes a completely predictable trajectory to a song and we don't want that," Zdilla says. "I may have something in mind but it's always other people's ideas that make it better."
Sometimes it can be a long and circuitous route, they admit. But as long as someone really believes in an idea, it usually gets through in the end, with the band molding it and remolding it until it works.
"I was really proud of the fact that I wrote a song recently that has only four chords," Zdilla says with a laugh.
And if listeners have finally become accustomed to the sounds of All You Creatures and all its odd angles, a sneak peak of the group's forthcoming full-length, Graveyard Mares, reveals that while Slackwater may be stepping into less of a patchwork approach to their tunes, their fascination with the strange "what ifs" of songcraft has not wavered.
"The Blister," a soulful number, stays in the same key and tempo for its entire length - downright revolutionary for these guys - but it doesn't sacrifice a bit of the wit. Zdilla says it comes from something his mother used to say about him. "She said, 'You only show up when the work is done.'"
Equally conventional-sounding is "Decay," an ode to entropy - the reality that all things grow old and fall away, but that is sometimes when they're at their best. "Fruit is often its sweetest just as it's starting to go bad," reasons Johnson. "That might sound kind of morbid, but when you listen to it, you'll hear a really sweet song."
Similarly, the album's title track is about dying, specifically about spending eternity in the ground. "I wrote that song because my grandmother used to take me to see the burial plot where she and my grandfather were going to be buried," recalls Zdilla. "And now that they're gone and buried in that spot, it makes it much more clear how special a thing that is for two people to share that."
Currently, the band is mixing the 10 tracks of Graveyard Mates for a fall release. And while the band members may seek to find slightly more traditional musical ground, Slackwater insist they'll never lose their Ritalin-averse ways of crafting tunes.
"It's about being true to yourself," says Zdilla. "What may seem weird to other people doesn't seem weird to us. We feel like we're playing classic rock. It's only when you take a step back and hear someone else's perspective that you sense this whole other weird thing going on."
The Slackwater News now on Pandora Radio!
You can now find our debut ep 'All You Creatures' on Pandora Radio!
Feature article in Feb 2010 Fine Living Lancaster Mag!
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Download the complete issue here: http://www.finelivinglancaster.com/Magazine/ Issue 13 (Root 222...Download the complete issue here: http://www.finelivinglancaster.com/Magazine/
Issue 13 (Root 222 Crew cover) > Page 22.
XPN 88.5 Philly Now feat. The Slackwater News
Songs from our Debut EP 'All You Creatures' are now in rotation on XPN in Philly!
MyRuralRadio.com Artist of the Month Dec 2009
We were selected by the staff of MyRuralRadio.com as the Artist of the Month for December 2009.
"All You Creatures" Review - 4 Stars
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"All You Creatures" is peculiar, chaotic and somehow infectious. The Beatles are a clear and present..."All You Creatures" is peculiar, chaotic and somehow infectious. The Beatles are a clear and present influence. Fuzzed-out, dissonant guitars noodle and sleepy vocals sometimes float through what sounds like an old rotating organ speaker. However, the melodies are memorable in the way that Lennon and McCartney perfected, clever and sweet enough to rise above the out-and-out weirdness surrounding them. By themselves, the Pavement-like circus of random timing shifts, quirky voicings and vintage organ sounds create something interesting, but not necessarily listenable. In the end, though, they make a warm analog blanket for Slackwater News' addictive melodies.
FLLBuzzRadio.com Now Featuring The Slackwater News!
Check us out on FLLBuzzRadio.com alongside some of Central PA's best bands!
The Slackwater News Now on MyRuralRadio.com
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Music from The Slackwater News can now be heard on the internet radio station My Rural Radio. You ca...Music from The Slackwater News can now be heard on the internet radio station My Rural Radio. You can check us and all of the other great artists out at www.myruralradio.com!
The Slackwater News on HomeGrown Radio NJ
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The song 'Taxidermy' from our EP "All You Creatures" is receiving airplay on HomeGrown Radio NJ duri...The song 'Taxidermy' from our EP "All You Creatures" is receiving airplay on HomeGrown Radio NJ during their Sher Delight show. DJ Sher highlights 'imports, indie and cutting edge new music' on her weekly show.
You can view the playlists here:
'Overseas' selected for Music For Everyone Benefit CD!
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Our song 'Overseas' was 1 of 15 selections (of over 70 entries) for the Music For Everyone Volume 2 ...Our song 'Overseas' was 1 of 15 selections (of over 70 entries) for the Music For Everyone Volume 2 Benefit CD! Their mission is to cultivate the power of music for education and community building, through fundraising and by bringing awareness to this growing problem. All profits from this CD will benefit Lancaster Music Programs.
From their site:
"Since April 2006, Music for Everyone has awarded over $75,000 in grants to schools and community groups in Lancaster County. Please come join us as we continue to cultivate the power of music in our schools and communities!"
The Slackwater News on The River 97.3 FM Harrisburg
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The song 'Taxidermy' from our EP "All You Creatures" recently received play on Open Mike Night. D...The song 'Taxidermy' from our EP "All You Creatures" recently received play on Open Mike Night.
DJ Michael Anthony Smith hosts the show. From the website: "Open Mike Night is the longest running local music program in Central Pennsylvania. Every Sunday Night at 10 pm, Michael Anthony Smith brings you the best in local and regional bands and solo performers."
Originals (list is ever-growing):
Less In A Day
If The World Goes Mad
I'll See You There
I Can't Forget
Fish In A Bowl
Rock & Roll Revival
Victims of History
It's A Mystery
Nothing Comes for Free
Select covers from artists such as: The Band, The Steve Miller Band, The Beatles and The Kinks.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.