By Nicole Fitzgerald
Slackstring who? would have been the sentiments towards the California band three years ago, when they were relatively unknown to listeners outside of the Santa Barbara music scene.
But when Jamie Houssian sought out their chill vibe for the soundtrack of The Collective 2004 mountain bike film, Slackstring’s song Sunday Jen rocking out the film’s Hawaii segment landed the Americans on the mountain music scene — and it’s been building ever since, from the wild West Coast to the peaks of Vermont.
Slackstring returns live to Whistler with new music (most likely to dress the newest The Collective film in the works) on Friday, April 20 at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC); Saturday, April 21 after Big Air at the Kokanee Freeride Series at the Longhorn Saloon; and Sunday afternoon, April 22 at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival Outdoor Concert Series mainstage in Skier’s Plaza.
“I always tell Jamie he saved the band,” said Slackstring vocalist Eric Lyman. “We were trying to figure out our next move when he contacted us.”
But as the name suggests, Slackstring, who once pursued their ambitions with the laidback stance of the surfers they were, is beginning to build and getting ready to break.
The moniker is gleaned from Robert Hunter’s poem The Slackstring Quartet, which spins a tale of a ramshackle band on the cusp of chaos that always manages to have a good time.
Good times are well on their way, with Slackstring just wrapping up mixing on their new independently-produced album, Lay Back , set for release later this summer.
“I am sure Quincy Jones might cringe at the stuff, but we kind of like it because it embodies the casual vibe our band seems to represent,” Lyman said of producing the album in a home studio. “The industry is really changing with technology.”
Guest musicians really pumped out the sound, with everything from a string quartet to flute and trumpet making their way onto the album.
While the Manhattan Beach foursome of Lyman, Gavin Heaney, Matt Muir and Brett Thomas may be deeply rooted in an ocean lifestyle, don’t expect songs toting California girls and catching a wave.
“We were blown away with how many people thought our music matches up to single track and freeriding,” Lyman said. “We don’t try and project that surfer California lifestyle so overtly in our music. It’s more about the vibe and flow of the beat itself. It has that groove to what you might experience when riding a wave.”
Lyrics touch on more universal experiences fared on land or sea: love lost, love gained; sitting alone in a bar of strangers; dreams people wish they had followed.
“Focusing on those things of the human condition allows our audiences to connect more to the band,” he said.
Jamie Houssian of The Collective, who is hosting the Teeks Tekniques’ presented show, attributed that connection to Slackstring’s success.
“They’ve got a sound that is laid back, but has good energy behind it; kind of like our films,” he said.
Houssian recently returned from shooting The Collective’s newest mountain bike flick in the United Kingdom, California and B.C. Mum’s the word on this year’s theme, but Slackstring’s chill yet energized vibe is something to be expected from the soundtrack.
“We are helping getting their music out there,” Houssian said. “They are helping with our films. It’s a two-way relationship.”
One that’s music to our ears.
Advance $10 tickets available at the GLC for the GLC show. Otherwise $10 at the door. The festival mainstage show is free.