The Slackers came to town! If you don’t know this band, checkout the event details to learn more about the show at eBar on May 8th. We caught up with Dave Hillyard from the band to learn more about the history of the band.
Music Lives: How did The Slackers originally form as a band? How has the band and music changed over the years?
Dave Hillyard: The band started in 1991. I’ve been in the band from 1993. Well, we started out as a band playing around little bars in NYC. Trying to get peoples attention and trying to make music that was fun for us to play.
Over time, music stayed fun for me cause I look at it like a craft. I’m always trying to play the saxophone better. But I also have been trying to play better as part of a group. That is probably the hardest part. Keeping a working, functional team together. That when you hit the stage, everyone is on the same side and has the same goals.
For the last 10 years we have had the same lineup. Its a real road tested one. We have played everything from little bars to 20 people to festivals where that was 20,000. Literally.That’s no exaggeration.
The music the Slackers play is a mix of music that has come from Jamaica like Reggae, Rocksteady, and Ska and music that has come from the States like RnB, Soul, and Rock N Roll. It usually has a combination of moods. The upbeat tunes have a laid back side to them. The reggae can be edgy. The minor key songs can have happy lyrics and the happy sounding songs can have sad lyrics. I guess we are just contrary people and that comes out in the tunes.
ML: The Slackers have a pretty impressive list of live shows you’ve played over the last 20 years! Do you have any really memorable stories from the road from the early years when you were just starting out?
DH: The early years seem like someone elses life at times. I think we must have played several thousand of them by now. Literally. I still get excited before each one and I try to play as well as I can cause you never know which one is gonna be your last.
I don’t know what I can remember from “back in the day” but I can remember a couple weeks ago from when we played in Kansas City. It was our first gig ever in Kansas City. That was the last city of over 400,000 people that we had never played in the states.
So it was a packed out show. People had been waiting a while to see us.They were really packed into this little bar. They sang along to the tunes as we played them. They were so close together they couldn’t properly dance but more like they swayed along. It was really hot. I sweat a lot. There wasn’t that much air and I went into a delirious state. I couldn’t really think properly but I could still play the tunes.
I was just happy. And I felt lucky that I got to share our music with such nice people.
ML: Your show at the eBar part of a very busy world wide tour. What keeps you going on the road?
DH: We like playing live shows. Its been the foundation of what we do since the beginning. Guelph has been a real nice place for us in the past and hopefully it will be so again. Its been 4 years since we have been in town.
The nice thing about being on the road as much as us, is that we start to have a lot of friends out on the road. So its not just a tour but a chance for us to get out and reconnect with our friends as we travel around.
ML: Do you have any plans for the future? What can we expect from The Slackers after your tour?
DH: Well, besides more touring? We are booked through the end of the year playing Europe, Western Canada, the West Coast of the USA, Puerto Rico, and more.
I think we realize we are a ‘cult band’ and our main long term plan is to grow the cult. Something like what the Grateful Dead did but with nice suits instead of tie-dye.
In terms of new music. We just put out an EP called, MY BED IS A BOAT. We also have more tunes that we are in the process of recording. We are working with Ticklah aka Vic Axelrod who has worked with Antebalas and the Dap Kings.
ML: Where can people go to learn more about The Slackers?
DH: Well, besides coming to our shows? Hehehe. I think our live shows are the most representative of who we are. If you want hear our tunes its pretty easy to do so nowadays. Just go to Spotify or Pandora and put in “The Slackers” and we will come up. We have around 12 albums of stuff that’s up on those kind of services.