This Friday, August 2nd GAIN Music and KronikNoise will host “Rock Extravaganza” at the A.N.A.F Club in Guelph. One of the bands on the bill is Toronto/Ottawa-based progressive metal band Slyde. But trying to pin one musical genre on Slyde is impossible. The band has a very unique sound that is entirely their own. They’re a combination high-energy, hair-swinging metal act blended with pop-y electronic keyboard sounds and some serious lyrical inspiration – and even then, that’s too simplifying. We reached out to Nathan Da Silva (vocalist/guitarist) and Sarah Westbrook (keyboardist) to bring you this Q&A to learn a bit more about the band and their unique sound. You’ll definitely want to check out their show on August 2nd and see what these guys have to offer, as trying to describe Slyde is best left for the band to show you themselves!
ML: Can you give us a brief history of the band and how it was formed?
ND: The band was formed in 2009, but our current lineup was formed in early 2011. Before 2011, we released two self-titled demos in 2009 and 2010, where we were still trying to find our sound and experiment with styles and sounds within the progressive, metal, and popular idioms of music. Our latest two records, Feed The Machine (2011) and New World Sympathy (2012), really helped us grow and evolve into the sound that we currently have. We’ve been 100 per cent independent since day one, self-booking and self-promoting our own shows and tours, with almost 150 gigs under our belts. We’ve shared the stage with many genres and played some awesome shows! Slyde is: Nathan Da Silva (guitar/vocals), Sarah Westbrook (keyboards), Nicholas Favretto (bass guitar) and Brendan Soares (drums, vocals).
ML: Your latest EP New World Sympathy was released about a year ago. How would you say it compares to your previous records?
ND: I think New World Sympathy is definitely a lot darker and heavier than our previous records before it, and much more in your face lyrically. Feed The Machine as an album was a little more metaphorical, but when you listen to the song “Lies” off of New World Sympathy, you know exactly what we’re singing about. We also wanted to focus more on making the instrumentation a little more technical on New World Symphony,more solos, more intricacies in the playing, and more badassery all around.
ML: What are the band’s plans for future recordings – is there a new EP or album in the works?
ND: We are working on new material for our new album, although when, where and how we record that next album in still to be determined. We’ve always released an EP every year since 2009, but since we’re skipping out on a 2013 release, we’ll be doing something extra to make up for it in 2014. Stylistically it’s in a similar vein as New World Sympathy, naturally, but we’re finding ways to make our next project one-up our previous efforts.
ML: The combination of the sometimes bubbly sounds of the keyboard and the heavier progressive riffs in your music is pretty unique. When putting the band together, did you aim to create this kind of sound, or was it something that sort of developed over time?
SW: The Slyde soundscape included keyboards from the beginning. The keyboard is able to take on different roles: solos with the guitar, comping with not just piano sounds but with altered strings sounds while simultaneously carrying the lead riffage on another keyboard. It also adds another dimension to bass riffs, and of course, arpeggiators and samples create even more uniqueness to the sound we are looking to create.
ML: Your lyrics often deal with political/environmental/social issues. Can you speak about why/how this came to be?
SW: We are not experts in politics; we are musicians and we live our lives that way. Some people say Art reflects Life, and yes, to some degree, what we see in life is reflected in our music. Oscar Wilde’s idea that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” is, we feel, more appropriate in Slyde’s case. Music is the medium we use to express our love for life, our anger about why and who has power over our lives, our fears about what will happen in the near future, and everything else we feel strongly about. We hope that the mainstream listeners that have never heard lyrics like ours will hear something eventually, and also agree with our sentiments. We do not imitate to create and probably this may be why we are not exactly a radio-friendly band. Many people say that because of our style, we are trying to create a market where there isn’t one. When Brendan joined Slyde, he was studying International Development in school and traveling to see how other parts of the world lived. He saw how Canadian mining companies were affecting indigenous communities, and experienced this first hand when traveling to Sibuyan Island – a remote island in The Philippines – and witnessed the severity and pain that these people were dealing with. I also studied with ecologist Dr. Ian Prattis and was very affected by his course. Feed the Machine was based on his writings. Generally, on a daily basis, we see apathy amongst our generation and younger ones. Apathy and mindless consumerism feeds the larger system at work, one that is controlled by financial greed and lust for money. This will not end well for any of us, so why not give a shit? We try to get people to think (and get enraged) about the careless treatment of the earth in order to make ridiculous amounts of money for the select few on the planet. When you become aware that right now is a very important time in human “progress”, how can you not write about it?
ML: Are any of you involved in other musical projects?
ND: As musicians, you’re always finding ways to stay busy and active, and collaborating with other artists is common. I am currently working with an Ottawa-based band called Ilvekyo, and I work as a cover musician in solo, duo, and full band settings. I also occasionally perform with Franco-Ontarian artist Paul Demers. Nicholas (Slyde bassist) plays with Montreal-based band Règlement 17. Brendan (Slyde drummer) performs with Toronto artist Justin Dubé – both of them used to be in the established independent pop rock band Everlea. Sarah collaborates with numerous classical singers, instrumentalists and choirs. The last choir she performed with was the Iranian National Choir for 2013 Tirgan Festival.
ML: You’ve done quite a bit of touring in Southern Ontario – where do you hope to branch out to next?
SW: We’ve been all over Ontario, Quebec, and visited the Maritimes a couple summers ago. We are currently looking for some support from the industry to help us reach out to new markets, particularly the European and Asian markets.
ML: For anyone who has never seen you live, what would you say to expect at a Slyde show?
SW: Expect nothing and keep an open mind. But be prepared to rock out – hard. We are a very high-energy band.
ML: You guys were recently involved in the Wacken Metal Battle Canada – a competition for a chance to play at the Wacken Open Air festival, which is a massive annual metal event attended by roughly 80,000 people. Can you tell us a bit about what that experience was like?
SW: It was a fantastic crowd of people to play to. Although we were very different from the other metal bands, we were happy to be chosen to perform to this audience and they seemed to love having us play for them.
ML: You’ve said that your music is partly inspired by video games from the 80s and 90s. Are any of you gamers, and if so, what are your favourite titles?
ND: I grew up playing NES and SNES games so it was difficult to not be inspired by the amazing music that accompanied these games. Some notable titles with influential music for me were the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, the Mega Man series, and the Castlevania series.
ML: If you had the power to change just one problem in the world, what would it be?
SW: The human mind.