If it werenâ€™t for skateboarding, James Stewart might be making a very different kind of music. The vocalist for Edmonton punk band Slates said the sport was crucial in helping him learn how to be a bit of a bad ass and introducing him to lots of new sounds.
â€œWhen I grew up, my gateway into Metallica and punk rock and SNFU was through skateboarders and through old Thrasher magazines,â€? he said. â€œA lot of the music I listened to I discovered through old skateboarding videos.â€?
Itâ€™s appropriate, then, that the band is playing a Right to Skate fundraiser. The Saskatoon non-profit provides skateboard equipment to less fortunate children.
Slates is currently on a Canadian tour in support of its third album Taiga, which was released in February. Stewart said itâ€™s a gruelling experience because Canada is such a huge country, but itâ€™s been great to catch up with old friends along the way. Theyâ€™ve also had unique experiences, like getting to play in a studio/pinball arcade, playing a sold-out show in Thunder Bay and jumping in the Atlantic Ocean.
â€œThat was pretty awesome coming from the Prairies. But there were jellyfish everywhere, it was kind of terrifying,â€? said Stewart.
Luckily, no one got stung.
â€œWe kind of just wimped around and shrieked a lot.â€?
Slates started in late 2008 from the remains of several other Edmonton bands. Recently, the bandâ€™s original guitarist left to pursue his other passion kung fu. Lee Klippenstein joined the band on bass and original member Stefan Duret switched to guitar.
â€œThat changed the dynamic a ton. We all got super excited by having that switch,â€? said Stewart.
They did an intense month-long tour of Europe just after Klippenstein joined the band. It was good experience, but it was difficult for the new member to take ownership of songs he had no part in creating. When they got back, all four members got together to write Taiga, which Stewart calls a dark, wintertime record. Creating the record was an immersive experience for the bandmates, who spent 10 months writing its 10 songs. Slates recorded Taiga on analog tape over six days in Chicago with engineer Steve Albini, who has worked with Nirvana and The Stooges. Stewart said there was a unique pressure working with Albini, but it got more relaxed as they got to know him.
When Slates finished the album it was like waking up from a dream, Stewart said, because the whole process was so intense.
â€œWe were like â€˜What the hell did we just do? Was this a huge mistake? Are these songs even good?â€™â€?
Now that the band is on the road, Slates has time to really enjoy the music. Stewart said itâ€™s so much fun to play the new songs, especially now that all four members feel a connection to the music.Saturday, 8 p.m.
The Underground Cafe
Box office: Riversdale Delicatessen, Underground Cafe and at the door