Friends of P: Sly Roosevelt releases Old "P" at HMAF


Sly Roosevelt (L-R: Sean McDaniel, Alex & Megan Durand, Jyosh Sanders, Matt Marshall) release Old "P" Saturday at the Huntington Music and Arts Festival

One of the best things about doing what we do here is being pleasantly surprised how much we like a band that we hadn’t got into yet for whatever reason. Huntington’s Sly Roosevelt is a good example of this. Of course, we’d heard about the punk-infused indie rock five-piece in covering area shows, but didn’t really know how cool their sound was until getting their new four-song EP Old “P” sent to us.

In anticipation of their Saturday afternoon show at the Huntington Music and Arts Festival, and to find out more about the band, their sound, and their EP, we caught up with the band to learn more...

WVRockscene: You guys have been around since 2008, right? And now you have the new EP out in time for HMAF, how exciting a time is it for the band these days?

Sean McDaniel: This is just the beginning, and yes, it is exciting to see all of the hard work come together. I really didn’t stress too much. I have all of the confidence in the world in the band and our manager, Justin Kay. It’s great.

Jyosh Sanders: Things have changed in a way that makes me feel more confident, like what we are doing has more weight, but it feels very natural.

WVRockscene: The nucleus of the band was originally a three-piece right? Sean, Alexander and Matthew? How did you guys meet/know each other and how much of a chemistry has developed since welcoming Jyosh and Megan Durand on in 2009.

Sean McDaniel: We’ve met in random places at different times, so it may have been fate that I met [bassist] Alex [Durand]. I played an open mic and was terrified, and afterward Alex asked me to play music with him. We tried that for a month or so, and then he asked Matt [Marshall] to play the drums. Megan and Jyosh have made an incredible impact on the songs – fleshing them out and adding textures, sounds, ideas, input. They are great to be around and add a tremendous amount of creativity.

Jyosh Sanders: We’d all been playing music, finding ourselves you could say, when Sean and Alex met. Sean is the core of the music as he envisions and sketches out the notions to be hit upon. Alex was the common element that permitted the bonds between us that awkward social restraint might have never let happen.

Alexander Durand: The very first time I met Sean was at Ladybird show. The whole night I spoke to everyone with a British accent. Why? I don’t know. He actually gave me a sweet lighter in a gesture of American kindness. Month or two later we meet at a party and I explained my ruse and that I lost his lighter. The first time I saw Sean play, I was blown away. The music was original, yet familiar. He put his guts into it. I was very new to playing music and despite assuming a false persona and losing his awesome lighter, I had to ask him if I could be a part of it.

WVRockscene: 92.7 played “Lion” off the new EP last week, how exciting was that? Was that the first time getting your music on the radio?

Megan Durand: It was pretty exciting. We’ve been on the radio a couple of times before; we played a live acoustic set on 106.3, and 92.7 played a recording from one of our live shows to promote the first HMAF. This was the first time a track from the EP was exposed to the world, though, and it was really satisfying to hear the finished product – this thing that we spent so much time producing and fine-tuning – in that context.

WVRockscene: You recorded throughout June and July, is that right? How much of a mix of challenging, fun, sweat and maybe frustration went into the DIY recording sessions?

Sean McDaniel: The recording was really fun, and all of the other things you mentioned. The fact that we built it ourselves was gratifying. I have to say that Justin and Alex were the masterminds behind it. We all put an enormous amount of time, effort, money and love into it.

Megan Durand: There were lots of late nights and, of course, lots of retakes. But the whole process was really positive overall. Everyone was excited to be there and eager to get things done.

Alexander Durand: Before we had the studio, I looked into the recording process and worked on recording some songs I had written in hopes of getting better at recording with the band. I read up on recording setups, room treatment, and what sound is. The internet/universal consciousness is an amazing thing. I think the most challenging aspect was the coordination of everyone’s schedules. We made the most of anybody’s free time and for the most part recorded every day.

Matthew Marshall: About 5-6g’s and a whole lot of work and toil went into it, but totally worth it at ANY rate. Since we recorded in our own studio, we have had complete control over everything which is always nice to experiment with.

WVRockscene: Old “P” is self-produced, recorded by the bassist and the drummer, talking to bands, you can hear alternate theories re: pros and cons of DIY recording; pros include the freedom of not having someone nit pick, and a con can be that you start nit picking yourselves. How did the recording go? From tracking to taking it out for mixing and mastering?

Sean McDaniel: The recording actually went pretty well. I will defer technical talk to Alex, but I will tell an anecdote: Matt is crazy. For one take he laid down a drum track without a scratch, just the metronome. Not sure if he memorized it, but he nailed it beat for beat, crash for crash. It was nuts. I couldn’t believe it.

Jyosh Sanders: Putting it down was more a relief than anything. We’ve been playing these songs for years, and to finally have them actualized, and to be confident in every element of each person’s contribution is a freeing thing.

Alexander Durand: It was definitely freeing. It would have been nice to have had superb recording equipment and not have to second guess yourself, but during the process we learned so much about recording. There are so many different things you can try and we were able to experiment with of different sounds. We kinda knew what we wanted as a final product and took it step by step.

WVRockscene: With many bands the decision making process that goes into exactly what songs to record and put out are just as much aesthetic as they can be financial; was that the case with the four songs on Old “P,” do you wish you could’ve put more material on it or is less more in this case?

Sean McDaniel: Well, yeah, we would have liked to put more material on it, but with the songs we chose, I think the idea was more about getting variety – songs we thought had their own vibes that fit well together.

Megan Durand: We planned the EP as kind of a Sly Roosevelt sampler. We chose those four songs to represent the different aspects of our sound. You get some of our heaviness, some of the punkiness, a little bit of the spaciness. It was intended to be sort of an appetizer for the full-length album, which will of course be more comprehensive, but it’s also a nice whole unto itself.

Matthew Marshall: I feel that the number of songs and the length was just right for the EP, leaving fans wanting more but still giving them a taste of our music

WVRockscene: Dave Mistich had nothing but positive things to say about your live show in his review of your May 6 show at the V Club. Describing your songs as “strange yet inspired,” with “fresh” and “chaotic” structures that make liking Sly Roosevelt “adventurous” and “arduous,” it’s a real compliment from a real music critic. How cool is it to be able to win over such discerning ears, and how have you congealed around this nebulous style over the past few years?

Sean McDaniel: With our music, I want the impact to be moving. I want to take the listener somewhere, whether it’s somewhere dangerous or childish or whatever. I just want the performance to be honest and moving on some level. And if people enjoy it, that’s a bonus.

Jyosh Sanders: It makes me feel validated that others not making the music, sharing in the space, are able to get there. It gets in our head, and it grows there, from some power chord song Sean shamelessly bleats out in our living room one evening. We run with it until we feel that feeling and unclench our fists and nod with a stupid grin and giggles.

Alexander Durand: Dave is awesome.

WVRockscene: For me, it’s exciting getting into a new band whose sound and songs are new and exiting, how proud are you of the final product that is Old “P” and how excited are you for people to hear it?

Jyosh Sanders: It’s as close as I can imagine you can get to capturing the actual song that we play live. We are all pursuing this idea, and it’s just been so long without it really happening.

Alexander Durand: It’s hard not just giving them out to everyone.

WVRockscene: Over the three or four years you have been playing out in Huntington, how supportive of an atmosphere is it for a band that is said to be such a challenging, acquired taste?

Alexander Durand: I feel that there is so much support coming from fans, other local bands and the venues in Huntington. We have a really awesome community of musicians that play out here. Watching the crowd response grow from when we first starting playing has been amazing. People can dig it and that’s so awesome. I do remember though the first time I saw someone dancing my mind was blown.

Jyosh Sanders: I feel like we have a very wide appeal, and there’s something there for everyone. We relish in tenacity, though, redemption. If you don’t love us, we look forward to growing on you.

Matthew Marshall: It took some getting used to for people at first. For us as well, our music has gone through a lot of changes not just since we procured all five members but structurally as well. I feel our music has matured enough to start pushing it and getting it out there big time for people to hear and we hope to really start it with this EP.

WVRockscene: Can your fans expect anything like a full-length anytime in the near future?

Alexander Durand: Definitely. After the festival, we have a few shows lined up including a benefit for Monica Watts on September 4th, which is an honor to be a part of. We plan on recording any chance we can. We are not quite sure on the date, but we are hoping to have something early next year.

Jyosh Sanders: We are planning on working more with John Parsons, who withstood our backseat driving on the mixing The Old “P.” I’m very excited about that. It’s almost as if he acted as an interpreter as we sat there together all huddled up in our recording space around the monitors.

WVRockscene: And of course you’re playing the Huntington Music and Arts Fest, how cool is not only being a part of that fest, and what it means to Huntington, but making new fans?

Megan Durand: There’s so much exciting music in town, and in the area, and it’s great that there is this outlet for it. There are a lot of people who stay active in the local music scene, but I think there are also people who don’t realize that there’s such a variety of bands playing here every week. The HMAF exposes more people to that, and it’s really an honor to be one of the bands that benefits from that. It would be great to gain some new fans from it, but mostly I hope we surprise somebody. I would like someone to walk away saying, “I didn’t know this was happening here.”

Alexander Durand: The festival, in my opinion, is the best thing ever. It’s awesome having the opportunity to take part in a local festival. A festival that caters to different musical interests is brilliant and I think it is great that everyone in Huntington can catch a diverse mix of genres. In addition no one is restricted to bedtimes since the festival runs all day. We have a lot planned for next year including a substantial tour of the surrounding states. It would great if people were turned on to Sly Roosevelt at the festival and followed us as we grow.

--- Sly Roosevelt plays at 4:15 Saturday at Ritter Park as part of the Huntington Music and Arts Festival. For more info on HMAF, check out the site, check out the HMAF Facebook page, and check out the related posts and articles below.

Related: Sly Roosevelt ready to rock Shamrock's (Dec. 2009 H-D article) Non-Stop Music (8.25 Herald-Dispatch article on HMAF), Musicians Join For Cause (H-D article on Monica Watts), "This Is A Call" (Dave Mistich post on Ian Thornton & Monica Watts), The WVRockscene Toast of Ian Thornton, "Music For Monica" Facebook Page

video: Chris Harper/Tophu Photo

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