BY ROBYN MEADOWS
PHOTO BY DAVID SCHROTT
Sitting on a worn hand-me-down-pea-green-and-yellow plaid couch inside an old warehouse, a part of me feels intoxicated (naturally) hanging with the Lancaster-based band The Slackwater News.
It’s because when these guys rehearse, it’s obvious they like each other, and they like the music they make. It feels easy to like them too. They rib each other (and me). The sort of youthful energy they possess – and the sense that anything remains possible – sinks into your skin. It’s contagious.
The members of Slackwater are all in their 20s. Matt Johnson plays the guitar, flute, and tambourine. There’s a second Matt. His last name is Blank. He plays the drums – and wears gym shorts to practice when it’s warm. Then there is lead guitarist and singer Dan Zdilla, a.k.a Goldilocks because of his wavy blond tresses. The other Dan – Dan Ramirez- plays the organ and electric piano; and last, but never least, is Hans Wheelersburg on bass. He does not look old enough to be out of the house past 10 p.m.
I ask the guys to tell me about themselves and their music. They don’t say much, and what they do say, I’m not sure is the truth, so I’ll rely on an old journalism adage, “When in doubt, leave it out.” I think they prefer it that way. The story lives in the music, not them, Ramirez tells me.
Let’s get to it then: I asked the band members to describe their sound. They banter a bit about this and proclaim that they do not like labels. “Genres suck,” Blank says.
You could call their music psychedelic pop. A few of the band’s influences are The Beatles and The Kinks.
WE JUST MAKE THE MUSIC THAT IS INSIDE OF US.
“I don’t really know what to say about the type of music we play because I am not really sure what that means,” Ramirez says. “We just make the music that is inside of us. I do know that as we record, the music becomes deeply personal to us, and we really try to channel something that does the songs justice and makes the process worthwhile and the music compelling. Although I’m not really sure what it is or what to call it; some sort of magic or beauty or glimpse into the ether or something.”
Ramirez told me that some might think this view is pompous. If I could interject, I don’t think so. Music can be a journey for the artist, and for that artist, if he or she loves what they are doing, it is magic. And that’s what Ramirez feels when he plays when he sees the audience dancing.
Blank says the band members leave their egos at the door. “There are no virtuosos in the group, and that has played to our advantage. It is also genre bending, and I think we could be loved by all types of music fans, as long as they’re open-minded and interested in original music.”
The band’s EP is called All You Creatures. The tracks are “Overseas,” “Taxidermy,” “Fish in a Bowl,” “Hard Labor,” and “If the World Goes Mad.” Like the band members, the songs have wit and verve. When I listen to the songs on the band’s EP, I hear traces of Blue Oyster Cult and The Moody Blues. “Fish in a Bowl” is, for me, like a big bowl of Captain Crunch – delicious:
Listen/all of you creatures, that live in the trees./Listen all you monkeys and manatees, that live in the sea./I’m a fish in a bowl, and a fish in a bowl is happy./ I’m a fish in a bowl, and a fish in a bowl is not like it seems.
Johnson says this of The Slackwater News: “It seems to flow out of us unconsciously but with lots of concentration… unnaturally in the sense that it’s not quite what you hear everyday. As soon as you think you have a handle on one of our songs, it darts down the alley unexpectedly.”
Zdilla, who is the songwriter, says his lyrics and melodies come from everyday life. The songs vary from quirky to melancholic.
For access to the full article, reference page 25 of Issue 13 pdf.