As most things start, this starts in a bar. Tabac on Bold St is SLOPES’ second home. After brief introductions and pleasantries are out of the way we kick off our muso-warbling: Jules (Bass) and I start banging on about the label Bella Union and their clientele (John Grant and Midlake getting some well deserved attention); Neil Young’s ‘70s canon gets a dissection; Dennis Wilson’s long unreleased Bambu even gets a glass raised. As we go on Chris Jones (Vocals) jumps in with “anyone like The Stone Roses’ first album?” And herein lies the contradiction that is Slopes. They understand lad-rock/Britpop of the last 20 years, they grew up listening to Oasis, queuing outside Woolies, waiting on the Gallaghers’ releases. Some people will probably stop reading now as they will think that this genre has had its day. It’s not an unreasonable assumption. But Slopes carry this burden well, a subtle but permanently knowing glint lying in Chris Jones’ eyes. They are well aware. Plus, this three-piece are not quite what they initially appear.
Inviting me in to their grotty rehearsal space, the band run through a quick selection of songs from the variety of EPs they’ve cooked up in their short two years together. They are self-proclaimed Beatles fans but they are certainly not chained to any notion of the North West’s musical heritage like some swaggering, mop-top bands. In fact there isn’t a swagger, just a charming slice of conviction, with a dash of self doubt. “We don’t proclaim to be brilliant but we do know we are better than a lot of bands out there, and anyway, it’s either this or sit in my house playing my guitar on my own,” explains Chris. Delivered with no cockiness, no bluster.
In Anything Looks Up From Here an almost early Tim Burgess pines ‘words don’t fail me now,’ but the music in general belies this comparison: bits of American rock shine through, with power pop also on the agenda. More and more they build upon their own foundations. Drummer Richy really hits too, at times turning into Matt Barrick from the Walkmen – tinnitus inducing.
We have ourselves a breather and a chat and their focus turns to how they are adjusting to a world of music with diminishing returns. The big guns of the record industry are shrinking daily and the cavalry isn’t coming waving cheques. Slopes have equipped themselves to get on with it. A small unit they are but they get keen outside help with artwork from Philip Marsden and music production/mastering from producer Klutz. This leaves them to focus on solely creating and recording the bare, unadulterated songs to disc before passing them on, to receive a touch of polish. “We’d love to use vintage analogue gear but we’ll leave that to the millionaire Jack White,” Chris states. Affordability is a normal issue for any band that has grasped the DIY ethic. The results are solid and they act as a good barometer of what this band may grow into. If they did ever get a few weeks in an analogue kitted out, big fuck off expensive studio, I get the feeling their sound would be huge. With bits of Nirvana and The Foo Fighters already present in their songs, it wouldn’t take much.
They have not yet decided on the album but say they have over thirty completed songs to choose from. Along with the three EPs already completed, it leaves them with a variety to ponder over for what will eventually be their debut long player. Loose Lips Talk was the track they put forward for the recent Payper Tiger compilation, and when they play it tonight it comes across as their most immediate and best work yet. Chrissy and Jules do a slick job fashioning an intertwining bass/guitar in a jangly C86 style. Ghosts of The Smiths abound as well, but not vocally; the vocals look elsewhere, even at times across the pond. What at first appears simple then turns into a strange hybrid of influences. This, their own formula, is serving them well.
Slopes can be regularly seen around Liverpool, especially in their favourite gaff The Zanzibar at the Company Store nights. They are definitely worth a look and once you scratch beneath the surface, the layers within this three piece become more and more evident. The Slopes album awaits in 2011. If they stick to the plan things could prove very fruitful indeed.