Aron Moxley, vocals, Simon Young, bass, Tyler Chen, drums, Thai Dao, guitar and keyboards, and William Moore, guitar.
AAP staff report
PORTLAND, Ore. — The all-Asian American dance rock band, The Slants released their “Yellow Album” on Nov. 28, 2012. It is the band’s third full-length album, and arguably its most polished, but with the same intensity that the touring band has used to gain a wide and diverse fan base.
The band members say they are confident enough in their sound to keep branching out musically. The Yellow Album is a blend of dark undertones and the thrills of new love.
The album title is a playful approach to the idea of ethnic pride. “We’ve actually been sitting on the idea for a few years,” says lead vocalist Aaron Moxley. “The Beatles had The White Album, Metallica and Jay Z had The Black Album, so we wanted to have The Yellow Album.”
With a foundation in 80s synth-pop music, The Slants blend in dance rock and their hard guitar and vocals. All of their albums have original lyrics and explore the personal lives and experiences of the band members.
The Slant’s 2010 album “Pageantry” was a return to basic guitar charged rock. Their 2007 debut “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts” was a synthesizer driven exploration of their 80s alternative music roots. “The Yellow Album” is more transparent and sincere.
“It came from a faulty, but true short love story that ended in numbness fueled by booze and tears,” said lead vocalist Aaron Moxley. “But, ultimately back to a rescue of my own heart.”
Moxley said the album is deeply personal in terms of the songs. They are about hitting rock bottom, about redemption, picking up the pieces and moving forward.
The Slants are a touring band and relationships always suffer when they try to balance a rigorous touring schedule
Based in Portland, Oregon, the all-Asian American dance rock band took its influence from 80s synth-pop music with a blend of modern dance rock sensibilities they call “Chinatown Dance Rock.” The band members include Aron Moxley, vocals, Simon Young, bass, Tyler Chen, drums, Thai Dao, guitar and keyboards, and William Moore, guitar.
Most of the songs for The Yellow Album were complete by the time the Slants went on a 2011 USO tour in Europe. They performed at least two of them in various stages of completion, and it helped the band polish them up before the finished product was recording in the studio.
The first track, “Introduction” begins with a clip of Bruce Lee reciting his “be water my friend” quote. This was designed to help create a bigger and slower mood to start the album, Simon said.
“Bruce Lee is an incredible iconic figure for Asian Americans,” Simon said. “He was confident, strong, and wasn’t afraid to take on or defy stereotypes. We wanted to emulate that kind of vibe on this album.”
The first song, “Con Kids” rings out like a youth anthem. It was sort of an tribute to the anime con kids that are some of the Slants biggest fans from playing their conventions all over the world.
“Love Letters From Andromeda” follows with a sort of dreamy sound.
“It was inspired by the idea of lonely astronauts in love and how love can make you feel out of this world,” said Aron.
The next track, “Adopted” has a sense of longing that might be familiar to the international adoptees as they often face an identity crisis in their teen and college years.
Frontman Aron Moxley’s was born in Saigon during the Vietnam War and adopted without ever knowing his birth mother. The song “Adopted” is about the void and abandonment issues he dealt with growing up.
“Sometimes, it can feel like a huge hole,” Aron said. “I used to write my mom a diary of sorts when I was in junior high, asking her why, why she let me go. Then I grew up and stopped with the self-pity — for the most part.”
Thai said the lyrics from Adopted are his favorite from the album.
“There’s something very touching about Aron’s story and the way he sings it,” he said. “Seriously, when he sings ‘I just want to feel her’, it’s probably the most touching lyric on the entire album for me.”
Simon agreed, saying it is a very personal song about an adopted child searching for his identity.
The song, “Misery” seems to be about choices in life, and following your own path or the one you think is expected of you.
“Sometimes, we get the wool pulled over our eyes,” Aron said. “But other times, there’s someone there who can help you find peace again.”
Simon said the song is about facing tough choices in life and having to let go.
“Whether it is a relationship, a career, or anything else that you’re passionate about, those things can create so much pain,” he said.
“Unconventional Ways” seems to be a song about a traveling band and having to deal with the temptations on the road.
Simon said its more of a fun, straight up rock n’ roll song.
“It kind of pays homage to the glamorized life as a touring musician,” he said. “The reality is much different.”
“Let The Right One In” is a song about relationships, and the complications of love.
Thai said the lyrics are inspired by the Swedish movie and book “Let The Right One In”, and remade in the U.S. as “Let Me In”, about the relationship between two 11-year old neighbors — one, a boy who is bullied in school, and the other, a vampire who viciously kills to feed and stay alive.
“The song is written in her point of view at the point where he realizes she’s this monster, but that she cares for him and wants him to still care for her and to trust her even though she’s who she is,” Thai said. “Metaphorically, it’s a sentiment that I’ve been able to relate to in a real relationship.”
It is one of Simon’s favorite songs from the album.
“It’s first time that we’ve ever used strings on any of our songs,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to produce.”
“Just One Kiss” has a synthesizer introduction that Thai said was inspired by Deadmau5.
“It obviously took a life of it’s own, but the RHCP connection never occurred to any of us until after the song was recorded and we played it for our friends,” he said.
Simon said they remember talking about trying to find a darker, dance vibe. In some ways, the song changed completely from the original but he said it wraps around and fits together.
Female vocalist Lacey Ames is featured on “Rescue Me From My Own Heart”. She came in to help lift the original chorus and melody for the song, Simon said. They created some variations of a call and response melody and Ames did some improvising as well.
Watch how it all unfolded at the studio blog at http://tiny.cc/slantsyelllowstudioblog.
“Been Through Hell” is about making sense of the past and finding a sense of completeness. Its about the torture of relationships but also about strength and wisdom that only comes from experience.
“The past is nasty. It’s sometimes ugly,” Aron said. “I am not saying the future is perfect but a little attitude change sure helps spilt milk look more like a circus of elephants.”
The song “Sew Hearts” seems to be about being there for someone through thick and thin. It about sew the heart together and get past self loathing, according to Aron. By sewing hearts together you find a place to move on and commit.
“Indeed, you have to fight for the people that you love,” Simon said.
Sour Love is a beautiful song that presents a range and intimacy not heard before with Aron’s voice.
“I went through a hard break up last year,” Aron said. “But alas, I pulled my boots back on and discovered life is short. We had real love, just a short love story.”
During the vocal tracking of this song Tyler said he told Aron to imagine that he was singing into his lover’s ear as she was about to go to sleep.
“He showed all of us a phenomenal new side of his voice,” Tyler said.
The title track, “Yellow” is also the concluding song of the album. The band said it fits there nicely, and its one of those songs that interprets differently to anyone’s own experience.
“For me, it represented a lot of different things,” Simon said. “When I first wrote about it, it was a process of overcoming shame, self-doubt, and uncertainty to a point where one felt comfortable in their own skin.”
Find the album at most online music sites and visit the band at www.theslants.com.