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Mountain biking music to band’s ears

Get ready to Lay Back with new music from Slackstring for Crankworx concert mainstage



Who: Slackstring

When: July 21, 3:45 p.m.

Where: Crankworx Monster Mainstage

Admission: Free

How many bands can point to mountain bikers for their rise to international fame?

California’s Slackstring grew from their home turf of Santa Barbara to become recognized in all corners of the globe, from Russia to Australia, thanks to The Collective 2004 mountain bike film sporting Slackstring’s track Sunday Jen.

It was all flowing downhill from there, with a live show to mark the Canadian premier of Roam in Whistler, then a mainstage opener for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival and now, finally the kick off band for the Kokanee Crankworx Monster Mainstage Saturday, July 21 from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. in Skier’s Plaza.

“Because of the popularity of the film, it’s probably been our number one resource for fans internationally,” said frontman Eric Lyman. “We are really excited to play for our largest demographic fan base, which is the mountain bike community, at the festival.”

The Manhattan Beach foursome of Lyman, Gavin Heaney, Matt Muir and Brett Thomas may be surfers, but they understand, two-wheelers or not, how sport puts people in touch with nature and the nirvana that follows. Maybe that is why Slackstring’s easy coastal vibe fits so well with the biking crowd.

Slackstring’s new album, Lay Back , completed but not yet released, strums into that campfire acoustic feel the boys established in their first two albums: Van and Place to Be . But like the album’s first title track, Lay Back, that easy campfire guitar is ramped up this year with more time in the recording studio turning the once ruffian sound into a polished stone worn smooth by the waves they ride.

Like the mountain riders they underscore, amateurs may hit a trick out of fluke, but it takes a professional with experience to hit that trick over and over again, under pressure and throw in their own twist to make it truly their own.

Slackstring has done that with Lay Back , proving that these beach boys have got that coastal groovy vibe going on, but within the easy breezy sound, more layers are ripening their style into a sound with depth of soul. Lay Back tracks run the gamut.

Out of Place works in a road-house bar feel with steel guitar, then Latin beats bring you back to ocean-swept islands in People Look Around. And then Purgatory Stairs rocks out funky with piano and charging electric guitar solos that give way to a surprise violin string ending.

“It is so easy to get exposed to all these different types of music,” he said. “We’ve all been influenced by all kinds. When we get down to writing music, we can’t help but have those influences come out.”

The influence of dedicating two years to their recording of Lay Back is evident in the comparison between Sunday Jen recorded on their second album and their third — the songs are literally orchestras apart.

That is why the band is trying to square away a record label to release their new album rather than the previous do-it-yourself attitude of past records.

“I am really happy with it,” Lyman said. “Our last album was our first time recording for all of us so it had a real backyard feel to it. This album has great production quality and has a lot of different vibes in it. It really reflects what we are all about.”

From mountain bike film soundtracks to front row seats at Crankworx singletrack, Slackstring is ready to ride out their new music, proving sports and arts are a lot more in tune with each other than one might expect.

Other Monster Mainstage shows to listen for this week include Wassabi Collective July 21, Hey Ocean! And Los Rastrillos July 24, Cold Driven and Auto Switch July 25, and The Sessions and Velvet July 26.

For music samples of bands, visit crankworx.com.

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