Sloan’s Jay Ferguson reflects on his early record store days and the band’s ‘Cinderella story’ success
Jay Ferguson of Sloan still remembers running around dusty record stores in downtown Halifax, reading old rock ‘n roll magazines like Creem, and dreaming of one day being in a band. At age 12, Ferguson’s love for music exploded when he was offered a job at the now defunct Ol’ Dan’s Records.
“I used to hang out there all the time—probably being a pest—there a was guy working there who got fired as I was in the store,” says Ferguson, now 49. “So the owner turned to me —it’s like a total Almost Famous kind of story—and said ‘Do you want a job?’ He gave it to me at the age of 12 and I made $3.25 an hour. It was awesome.”
That was in 1981 and Ferguson, being a 12-year-old kid who could talk your ear off about obscure Kinks records and the life and times of The Velvet Underground, became something of a novelty for local media to enjoy.
“CBC and outlets like that would interview me about music ‘cause it was so bizarre hearing all this stuff from a child,” he says.
Ferguson eventually formed the band Kearney Lake Road with musician Chris Murphy, which became the foundation of Sloan after Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott joined in late 1991. All of the members could play multiple instruments and decided early on that everyone would contribute to lyrics and song writing. It became a Sloan trademark.
“I think by this point in our career we sort of parlayed that as part of our identity as this four-headed monster,” Ferguson says. “There’s not the disgruntled bass player who is not allowed to contribute his songs. Everybody sings and writes and we share everything. It’s always been very democratic. It’s kind of like The Beatles template. The money is split four ways and there’s not like a millionaire in the band or anything while three guys struggle to pay their mortgage.”
In the mid-1990s, Sloan was seen as the Canadian answer to the grunge movement that was consuming The United States. With their debut full-length Smeared, Sloan’s sound was angsty, but in a Canadian fashion with hints of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and My Bloody Valentine. It did well for them.
“It was a total Cinderella story for us in the beginning,” Ferguson says. “It was pretty outrageous being this kid from Halifax and then signing to Geffen in the States right away.”
Now Sloan has 12 albums under their belts and an impressive catalogue of songs that consistently crowned them kings of the Canadian radio singles charts.
“We never reached an an obnoxious amount of success you know?” Ferguson says. “Where you’re like: ‘OK I don’t have to do this again for a bit. I’m just going to go sit on my yacht for 30 years.’ It’s a real thing where we are constantly thinking what we are going to be doing months from now. A record, a reissue, what’s the next project?”
The band’s latest record 12, proves Sloan are still very much the kaisers of catchy rock tunes that they were in the 1990s. The single “The Day Will Be Mine,” has the same attitude as a past song like “Underwhelmed.”
“I like to think there’s a bit of inconsistent consistency to our records,” Ferguson says. “The Day Will Be Mine,” is actually from the Navy Blues era. Chris and I were doing some archiving and we found an old demo of that song that Patrick had made. The new album is a lot of brand new songs and some that have been kicking around for a number of years. It’s like ‘Oh, that didn’t work in 2010?’ Let’s dig it up now.”
The next projects Sloan will be working on are their Canadian tour and a reissue of Navy Blues which has the radio anthem “Money City Maniacs.” Come on … you know it. It’s the coke fizz song.
Thu., Apr. 12 (7 pm)
An Evening with Sloan
The Starlite Room