By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
The Portland Oregon based band The Slants have released a second CD, “Pageantry”, which contains much of the bands original sound in a much tighter package with more solid guitar than the “Asian synth-pop” 2007 CD “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts.”
The band seems as comfortable with its hard rock oriented guitar, that band co-founder and bassist, Simon Young, calls a “face melting” direction – as it was with the former alternative blend.
“Ever since we released Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts, we wanted to showcase a much more rock-oriented sound that was more indicative of the band’s live show,” said Young.
If necessity is the mother of invention, The Slants change must be in part from the departure of keyboardist Jen Cho (Korean American) who gave the band its great synthesizer pop sound and her female vocals served as back up on songs in the first CD. The classical pianist left the band in September 2008 to focus on her academic studies, according to Young.
The synthesizer work on Pageantry was performed by Cory Gray and Lance Riley along with some minor contributions from the band members.
“Gaijin (Michael Pacheco – a Portuguese), our former keyboardist, also did some programming for the song ‘How the Wicked Live’,” said Young. “The female vocals on Pageantry were from a number of our friends, Krista Herring, Jamie Harris, and Lauren Knowles.”
Without Cho, the songwriting for the new CD returned to core roots of melody and chord structure, said Young.
“We started adding electronic elements again towards the end of production, using synthesizers for ornamentation rather than relying on the sounds for the songs,” Young added. “The next album will probably be more along the lines of Pageantry: straight rock with synth-pop sensibilities, and of course, music that makes you want to dance!”
Most of the audio-engineering work was done by the band members and engineering friends helped them get the studio sound they wanted with this album. IT was an amazing feat for a band without a record label backing the project, and it helped that the band members have quite a bit of experience in the studio and in audio engineering.
“We combined that with the talents and equipment of Tom Van Riper and Brandon Eggleston, who have worked with quite a few high profile artists,” he added.
Lead vocalist, Aron Moxley, the Vietnamese member of the group, was a child refugee raised in Astoria, Oregon, which is the focus of ‘Asoria’ on the CD, also a song where the guitar really takes off – a contrast to songs past where Moxley’s voice seems to echo above it all.
“Aron grew up in Astoria, OR and wanted a song that reflected the times he had while growing up and working fishing boats there,” said Young.
While the first CD seemed to focus on the experience of living two cultures, Pageantry has its fair share of relationship or love songs, ‘Every Chance I Get’, ‘You Make Me Alive’, ‘I Wanna Break You Down’, with other songs based on life in general, ‘Luck Strike’, ‘Who Shot The Radio?’, “The Pageantry’, ‘Running With The Dead’, ‘Fight For Future’, and ‘How The Wicked Live’.
“Like Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts, most of these songs are about love and lost, with some metaphorical references to life experiences,” said Young.
The Slants are more famous for its live performances as a club and large venue band that for its polished studio sound – which deserves a good listen as its only possible to find live performances online.
Young said the band has a common experience in that they are children of immigrants or adoptees and were all raised in the skateboarding punk rock culture of the 80s and 90s.
Simon Young (Siu-Lung – Taiwanese-Chinese) began as a jazz and blues bassist. He and Gaijin have been playing since the 1980s, and have at times performed live with “Information Society,” the late Joey Ramone of The Ramones, Nine Inch Nails, and members of Social Distortion, NOFX, and Bad Religion.
The band was founded in 2005 when vocalist Simon Young departed “The Stivs”, for a synth-rock direction to blend his Asian American background with 80s and 90s alternative rock influences.
Then came Aron Moxley (Vietnamese) formerly of Evening at the Black House, and drummer, AC (Filipino), formerly of The Gentry.
Tyler Chen (Chinese) is the new drummer and Johnny Fontanilla (Filipino-Mexican) is the man behind the hard guitar.
The band gained fame for winning battle of the band competitions in the Pacific Northwest and California. They also made news for getting a show shutdown for using pyrotechnics.
The Slants also reportedly turned down a big contract after winning a national Battle of the Bands competition produced by a music label. Just before the finals, he said the record said they had to agree to a record contract before proceeding to the finals.
“The deal was so shady and stripped away our creative control, so we decided it would be best to turn it down and leave the competition altogether,” said Young.
These days The Slants continue touring a few weeks every year and performing almost every weekend somewhere in the Northwest. They are a favorite at anime conventions and Asian cultural celebrations all over North America.
“We’re hoping for a stop in Minnesota soon,” said Young.
After the spring tour The Slants plant to begins writing their third album with plans to complete it by 2011. Fin out more about The Slants online at http://theslants.com. They can also be found on iTunes and Facebook.