The Slants have today premiered their new single ‘The Band Plays On’ from their upcoming album of the same name dropping October 20th.
While some of the songs are new and some are classics, there is a fresh coat of paint when they are brought together collectively. You hear a legacy. An evolution of musical revolution. With the title track, you hear such fullness and freshness that you are pulled in wanting more from The Slants. Consider this a gateway drug.
Experience meets energy with the entertainment of finding your next favorite artist is what could very well happen when you hit play.
“This is an epic yet very personal track, so it was a challenge to edit it down to tell a compelling story within a compelling duration. It goes from a vulnerable dream sequence to an enthusiastic team anthem, which captures the biggest lesson I’ve learned about rallying support behind your vision: It’s only possible when you are wholeheartedly committed to your mission like The Slants had been throughout their years-long journey to a unanimous US Supreme Court victory.”
“I was staying at Simon’s house during a tour and got up one day to find a really long dream/story he had written that became the basis for this song. The music came pretty quickly as we were noodling on it and we always wanted to do a song with an endless chorus that would fade out, which is basically why the chorus could be sung as a never-ending loop. Once Bao got his hands on the song, it took off and became the anthem that it was meant to be.”
Joe X. Jiang
“This was the first song that we wrote for this album – in fact, we started on it before we even finished our self-titled EP. Joe and I were in the middle of writing for a musical about the band and we really wanted some kind of anthemic song that told the story of the band, from the experience of being bullied as children, to finding empowerment through our music. In an attempt to make sure that we really covered our bases, we wrote many alternate verses, choruses, and other parts that ended up on the cutting floor but I’m really proud of how it turned out. The journey has definitely been bittersweet, filled with many lessons that we picked up along the way, but the biggest one was that the band would continue to live on through the community of artists we helped to inspire. For me, that was the best music of all.”
About The Slants and ‘The Band Plays On’
In 2017, with Matal v. Tam, Portland, Oregon-based all Asian American dance-rock band The Slants took on the U.S. Supreme Court to trademark their name. In an unanimous ruling, 8-0, the Supreme Court decided that a federal law prohibiting trademark names that disparage others was unconstitutional because “speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend.”
The Slants’ final full-length album, the aptly titled The Band Plays On, is a fourteen track collection of the band’s melodic, highly-danceable synth-pop, which will be released digitally and on vinyl October 20, 2023. Unlike prior The Slants’ albums, The Band Plays On will feature a guest performer on each track, including a guest vocalist on almost every song. These guests are comprised of prominent, as well as up-and-coming, artists from the Asian American community.
- “The Band Plays On” – Feat. BAO (and nearly all former members of The Slants)
- “What Will People Say” – Feat. Mikara
- “Advocate” – Feat. Edson Choi (Talk Time)
- “Drifting Pages” – Feat. Lola Menthol
- “This is Who We Are” – Feat. Joe Kye
- “Will You Let Me Know” – Feat. Surrija
- “Family” – Feat. Aron Moxley (and nearly all former members of The Slants)
- “Ideas of You” – Feat. Darro
- “One Last Summer” – Feat. Katherine Ho
- “Crystal Lake” – Feat. Othertones/Iman Nadeem
- “Strangest Sound” – Feat. Alex Kade
- “Life Goes On” – Feat. Johnny Hi-Fi
- “Just Say Goodbye” – Feat. The Complements
- “Credits Roll” – Feat. Joe Kye
“The Band Plays On is a logical evolution for The Slants. There’s a mixture of old and new songs, many reflective of Simon’s and my own personal journeys into music and activism, but presented through collaborations with extremely talented Asian American singers, musicians and producers from across the country,” says Jiang on the new album. “When the band retired from touring in 2019, our focus was on our foundation and supporting/connecting marginalized artists. It made perfect sense to do the same with this album.”
“Even though we were exhausted from over thirteen years on the road, our timing of stepping down from touring as a band right before the pandemic was serendipitous; that down time allowed us to really focus on what mattered for the band. For me, it was focusing on telling our stories, both literally through publishing my memoir, as well creatively through our music,” recalls Tam on how the album came about. “For the first few years, we connected with hundreds of other Asian American artists through the work of our nonprofit, The Slants Foundation, and it really helped us rethink what was possible with our art.”
With The Band Plays On set for vinyl and digital release on October 20, 2023, this year has been a very busy year for The Slants. While it may seem they’ve been dormant, with their last release being 2017’s The Band Who Must Not Be Named EP, if you know Jiang and Tam, dormant is not a word they know. Earlier this year they debuted their rock opera, Slanted: An American Rock Opera, via the New Works Collective program at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
The story of The Slants’ Supreme Court battle hit the theater with the opera. Stage directed by Rajendra Moharaj (Factotum), the rock opera was presented alongside two other groundbreaking operas: Cook Shack and Madison Lodge. These stories whisked audiences from 1920s Harlem to the modern-day Supreme Court, and from the exuberance of drag ball culture to the empowerment of a young female inventor. The world premiere for Slanted: An American Rock Opera took place March 16th-18th at Catherine B. Berges Theatre at the Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis.
“In the Summer of 2022, we were invited to apply for the New Works Collective program at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Even though we had no experience with opera itself, we thought that it could be an interesting concept to share our Supreme Court story while bringing elements of synth-pop and rock n’ roll,” recalls Tam. “Evidently, the opera agreed and we began writing very quickly, incorporating actual quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the government, and me. Like our album, Joe and I mostly focused on behind-the-scenes work in writing and composing. Staying behind the curtain allowed us to leverage our strength of sharing ideas while allowing others to take center stage. Bass players are usually not considered the frontman but it was different with The Slants – I was often thrust into that position to talk about our activism, our legal case, or because I was the de facto original band member left. But whether it is the opera or our album, I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to for our community: create new roles that allow others to do what they do best. That’s my favorite kind of art.”
Adds Jiang, “The opera is definitely taking our band evolution to an extreme and it’s been as intense, challenging and exhilarating of a music experience I’ve ever had. Like the album, it’s telling very personal stories through collaboration, and it’s elevated by some of the best performers in the world. Just hearing my melodies sung by opera singers has been overwhelmingly exciting, and soon we’ll be seeing a fully staged production!”
Discussing the record and all the guests on The Band Plays On, Tam says the record was born out of the pandemic, and due to the pandemic, and not wanting to put another version of the band together, invited friends to guest on the album. The result is a record that redefines what The Slants are, as well as what constitutes a band.
“Through weekly Zoom calls and trading hundreds of emails, Joe and I began writing as much music as we could, without any real limits in mind. At first, we started seeing how it could become the basis of a new album. But with the many transitions and folks stepping down in The Slants, we knew we didn’t want to put together a new band in the middle of the pandemic. So, we started reaching out to other artists that we enjoyed working with. We brought Bao Vo (of Ming and Ping) on as a co-producer who really helped us shape the sound and we decided to feature different vocalists and performers on every track,” informs Tam. “It made me realize that in some ways, the idea of The Slants mattered more than the actual band itself – we could redefine what a band could be. For me, The Band Plays On is a literal title in that the work of our band continues because of this big community of artists finding expression through song.”
For a self-proclaimed troublemaker who took on the Supreme Court with his dance-rock band, The Slants’ Tam and bandmate Joe X. Jiang are ready to prove that yes, the band was about politics and reclaiming a racial term for empowerment, but that it was also always about the music.