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"Long on Division"

While the entertainment industry is building a buzz for a 'Joy Division revival' Guelph's Slowking have been big fans of the legendary group for years

December 06, 2007


It's no secret that success in the music business often depends on timing, and even though Guelph rockers Slowking have just released their debut album, Rival Cities, after barely over a year together, their sound is in line with the recent flurry of renewed interest in British new wave pioneers Joy Division.

One of Slowking's standout tracks, Vicinity, even contains direct quotes from Joy Division's song Transmission. However, Slowking singer-guitarist Luke Michielsen says that he and his band mates, guitarist Anthony Ferreira, bassist Marco Avolio, drummer Matthew Comper, and keyboardist Joel Fulford, never had any intention of jumping on a bandwagon.

"We've already been accused of playing off this Joy Division craze," Michielsen says. "But I had no idea there was going to be movies about them coming out when I wrote that song. I've been listening to Joy Division for the past 10 years, and they've always been one of my prime musical influences. I think that that music fits in with the vibe in Guelph too, where bands seem committed to getting people to dance. That's certainly something we try to do."

Actually, the members of Slowking hail from the smaller towns of Keswick and Holland Landing and have been friends since high school.

They congregated in Guelph in the fall of 2006 after finishing their respective university degrees, and quickly assembled the songs for the album, recorded in Toronto this past summer. While the title Rival Cities refers in part to their continued loyalty to their hometowns, Michielsen adds that it was also chosen for deeper reasons.

"It seems like there's a lot of division between cities on a global scale," he says. "It would be nice if we could all try to work together a bit more, but there's still a lot of one-upping going on, regardless of what the situations are in other cities. The do-it-yourself attitude in Guelph really inspired me once I got here.

"I mean, I've been writing music since I was 13, but coming to a place where I've gotten exposed to so many great people and shows has really shaped me."

Although it will undoubtedly take some time for Slowking to shake the Joy Division comparisons, their obvious roots in new wave give them a sharper edge compared to other bands who may have started out playing punk or classic rock.

"I guess you'd say that it's the lyricism of that music that's always appealed to me," Michielsen says. "For some reason I've always felt that it's given me more of a sense of empowerment. I get that feeling from bands like Depeche Mode, Blur, and Radiohead too. I suppose I'm partial to most bands that come from Britain."

With their album now having put Slowking at the forefront of the Guelph scene, Michielsen says that he's eager to have the band start becoming a bit more experimental with its sound.

"It's my hope that now that we've got the first album out, we won't have to do the same thing again. I think all of the songs on the album have their unique qualities, but I'd definitely like to see us keep moving in new directions."

- K/W Record

"Slowking's Members May Be Diverse, But They're Not Rivals"

Though officially based in the hip university town of Guelph, Ont., the five gents who make up rising indie rockers Slowking also variously call big city Toronto and smalltown Keswick home. Rival Cities, then, seems an appropriate name for their impressive debut album. Especially so, given that singer/guitarist Luke Michielsen, guitarist Anthony Ferreira, drummer Matthew Comper, synth player Joel Fulford and bassist Marco Avolio have been scattered around southern Ontario throughout the band's existence.

Not that the distance between them has held the group back. They recorded their album in three months of weekends and evenings last summer in Toronto and released it independently in October, just 12 months after forming.

Rival Cities has so far invited frequent comparisons to Interpol and Joy Division. Though "Vicinity" contains a line from the latter band's "Transmission," it's an assessment with which Michielsen doesn't necessarily agree.

"I don't really think too much about that comparison. I don't really think that we sound like Joy Division just because I said one of the lyrics. I certainly didn't set out to sound like Joy Division or Interpol. People want to put you into some category and relate you to a band so that they have something to say."

Other influences are apparent on Rival Cities. The breakneck melody and nostalgic lyrics of "AfterSchool," for example, recall both Sonic Youth's anthemic "Teenage Riot" and the early Sloan classic, "500 Up." Atmospheric album closer "Mouth Of A Lion," which Michielsen describes as "really loud and grungy," showcases a more experimental Slowking sound.

"I like it as a closing finale," Michielsen adds, "because I think it's kind of hopeful for the next album."

Though Rival Cities has only been out for a few months, Michielsen says the band are already kicking around ideas for a follow-up and will perhaps release a mini-DVD or EP to keep momentum going.

"I see us going in a different direction. I don't want to make the same album again. I would like to get more experimental and get more clearly into social issues — I don't like to use the word 'political' — and go deeper into ourselves. At the same time, we still want to keep it accessible. Rival Cities is quite intensely produced compared to our live shows, which are more raw. [For Rival Cities], we decided that we wanted something that was accessible to everybody."

If any of this sounds contradictory — the three hometowns, the competing influences, the desire to be experimental while remaining accessible — consider this quote from Michielsen as the final word for now, a phrase that should probably serve as a motto for every budding rock 'n' roll band, everywhere:

"We're young and trying to understand what we're about."

You can see Slowking here:

Jan. 17 Toronto, ON @ Silver Dollar
Jan. 26 Peterborough, ON @ The Spill w/Sleepless Nights
Feb. 10 Guelph, ON @ Vinyl
Feb. 29 Toronto, ON @ Mitzi's Sister

—Neil McDonald

"Slowking "Rival Cities" Review"

Rival Cities
By Scott A. Gray

This is the sound of many years worth of absorbing the classic Can-rock of the Tragically Hip and 54-40, mixed with an increasing diet of contemporary influences from the British dance rock invasion. There’s definitely an Interpol influence at the core of opening track “In My Bones.” Chugging away at mid-tempo rockers with spry bass lines occupies a good portion of Rival Cities. Standard adolescent sentiments litter the lyrics, adding to the sense of facelessness permeating the album. And that’s the main problem: as competent as they are, Slowking are unable to define a sound of their own. Utterly inoffensive and a cut above your average radio schlock rock, songs like “Afterschool,” with its simple, stomping beat and sunny Foo Fighters-esque melody, could quite innocuously fill some play list space on a modern rock fan’s next spring mix. (Independent)
- Exclaim! Magazine



Track Listing:
1. In My Bones
2. Vicinity
3. The general population
4. You were there
5. Homes
6. Cargo
7. Whitewash
8. Afterschool
9. Offshoots
10. Mouth of a lion

Preview songs online at:

The single "Vicinity" from Slowking's debut CD "Rival Cities" has charted:
#1 CFBX 92.5 FM - Kamloops, BC
#1 CFOU 89.1 - Trois-Rivieres
#1 CKMS 100.3 - Waterloo, ON

Additional Radio Play:
CFRU 93.3 - Guelph
CFMU 93.3 - Hamilton
CKXU 88.3 - Lethbridge
CKUT 90.3 - Montreal
CHUO 89.1 - Ottawa
CJAM - 91.5 - Windsor



Slowking was formed in October 2006 when four childhood friends (Luke Michielsen, Anthony Ferreira, Matthew Comper, Marco Avolio) inadvertently reunited during an open mic night in a small bar in Guelph, Ontario. Confining themselves to a basement that retained the ambience and sweaty excitement of a few too many parties, the four friends began crafting a sound that is often described as Broken Social Scene meets Interpol.

A year after Slowking formed, they began recording their debut album, ‘Rival Cities’ at The Pocket Studios in Toronto. Produced by Michael Langford and mastered by Joao Carvalho (Sloan, Matthew Good, Stars), ‘Rival Cities’ plays like a complex musical narrative tracing the range and sophistication of the band’s influences and personality.

Adding keyboardist Joel Fulford of the ambient rock quintet, Tin, and building momentum from the release of their debut album, Slowking has developed a considerable fan base throughout Southern Ontario. They have established a reputation for delivering energetic, dance-friendly live performances, and have taken the stage at some of the province’s most exciting venues, including Toronto’s Silver Dollar Room, The Mod Club Theatre and Guelph’s Club Vinyl.

Slowking’s live following has created a buzz that college radio stations across the country have picked up on. ‘Rival Cities’ has charted #1 in stations nation-wide, from CFOU (Trois-Rivieres), to CKMS (Waterloo), to CFBX (Kamloops). Slowking has also cracked the top ten on many other stations, including CJAM (Windsor) and CHOU (Ottawa). In December, Slowking charted #31 on the nation wide college radio listings.

Slowking’s danceable hooks, blistering guitars and anthemic choruses will capture your interest, while their musical depth will make you want to keep their debut album ‘Rival Cities’ on repeat.