The Slip smashes notions of genre at OC Fest

When asked to classify his music into one genre, bass player Marc Friedman of The Slip replied “It’s audible… you can hear it.” As nonchalant as this answer may seem, it might be the closest anyone can come to putting a label on the Boston natives’ musical style. Vocalist and front man Brad Barr, percussionist (and brother) Andrew Barr, and bassist Marc Friedman have been playing together since high school. The three attended Berklee School of Music, but left after a short stint to pursue their professional careers. The Slip has been defying classification since they’re first album, “From the Gecko,” debuted in 1997. What many would call a contemporary Jazz album, “Gecko” is rife with heavy bass lines, improvisational solos, and instrumental numbers. From there, the band has experimented with a plethora of styles, including an acoustic, back-porch style album in “Aliveacoustic,” and a diametrically opposed sister album of experimental and largely instrumental rock, “Aliveelectric.” The simultaneous release of these two albums left many fans wondering where The Slip would go next. Brad Barr feels that the release of these two albums defines, rather than contradicts, the sound his band is working towards. “This is a band that loves to stretch out, and be this sort of electric psychedelic rock band, but also is just as happy with acoustic instruments playing on a back porch,” he says. “And maybe the two are not so far apart from each other. The two are very capable of inspiring each other.” At Friday’s performance at the Outing Club Fest on CBW green, the band captivated fans with a mind-boggling mix of folk-sounding love ballads and twisted experimental rock. A twangy, folky song was interrupted by Brad running the microphone up and down the strings of his 1954 Gibson while his brother Andrew used a variety of household objects and homemade percussion instruments to produce truly unique sounds. Yet there is nothing arbitrary about the experimentation. The digital noises are well rehearsed, perfectly timed, and result in a symphony of dissonance that makes a Slip show unlike any other. It has been five years since The Slip’s last record release. Their new album is scheduled to drop “in between the scary masks and the turkeys,” according to Andrew. Due to contract agreement, the band was unable to disclose the title, release date, or label. The album will, however, be released on an independent label, and not the band’s own label, records.”Even Rats,” the first single from The Slip’s new album, has been met with wild success due to its status as a “bonus song” on the popular PlayStation 2 game “Guitar Hero.” When asked if the band ever plays their own song in the videogame, Andrew promptly retorted, “Is that a challenge?” Along with “Even Rats,” Friday’s set list also included several songs from the new album, which ranged from a beautiful love ballad to a faster song infused with wailing guitar solos and crashing percussion. The band is as happy with the new album as they’ve ever been with a finished product. Bassist Marc Friedman felt especially pleased with it, given the methodical nature of their most recent recording process: “We’ve been making it for like four, five years really; it’s kind of different. It’s a progression and it’s a maturity that we’re all pretty psyched about in our own songwriting and production skills. It’s very coherent, cohesive.”Whether or not the new album meets the expectations of fans will be determined with time. The fact remains that The Slip is on a quest, not for “their style,” but for a greater knowledge of music. Andrew traveled to Mali in 1997 to pursue this knowledge. The journey changed his life and had a vast influence on his musical style. “The trip definitely changed my worldview,” Barr says. “I learned what some of the basic elements, necessities of life are, and music is certainly one of them. Over there, next to food and staying healthy, there’s music.” These ideas of growth, a quest for knowledge, and staying open to new ideas are the backbone of the band’s ideology. When asked about their decision to leave Berklee, and the message that it might send to other aspiring musicians, the band emphasized that music is an individual choice; school is a great place for some people, but it is not the end-all. “Studying music is a really personal path, and the school that we went to is just a certain amount of lessons and studies that we did in a long path of lessons and studies that came before and after,” Andrew says. “It’s not like we stopped studying after, and its not like we started when we went there. It all depends on what you want to achieve.”To hear a band of thirty-something psychedelic/experimental rockers speak with such clarity and circumspection is truly refreshing. Friedman’s views on drugs and music convey a great deal of understanding about the music industry, saying, “Drugs and music? That’s like legal paper and Wall Street.” And while the band respects the decisions of artists to use substances either to enhance their own creativity or to maintain an unfortunate habit, they are amazingly frank about the effect of mind-alteration on performance. Brad will be the first to admit that “whiskey is nice for the voice, nice for loosening you up for a performance. For sitting at home creating, it’s pot. There’s probably not a better creative drug.” “You can achieve everything you want to in life without drugs,” Fiedman says with his band in agreement. “It’s totally possible. A lot of the people who are taking those drugs are inhibiting themselves in a bunch of ways too. There keeping themselves in a fucking box. If you take acid while you’re doing a solo… it keeps a lot of people in a lot of boxes.”Having been on the road for so many years, The Slip seems to have a strikingly grounded view of their own music and identity. Their performance at OC Fest was a veritable view into the soul of the band; with ups and downs, extreme pain and glorious triumph, the music conveyed the band members’ impressive take on life. The band expressed how closely music and life are tied together, especially in the political sphere. Yet they view the problems of the world as groups of people with internal struggle, not irresolvable conflicts between groups. In music and in life, Brad’s parting words serve as a maxim for anyone: “People should trust their imagination. People in the world are having a hard time coming up with stuff on their own, but it takes time for that. People should always remain open to new ideas.”