Written by Kevin Heffernan
Photos Courtesy Swimming Faith Records
“Hey you. It’s me. I’m back on the scene again.”
If we’re going to not just adapt to, but contribute to a new world order on the other side of COVID, we’ll need a locally-produced soundtrack to do it right. On March 13, as the pandemic storm was brewing across the country, Buffalo record label Swimming Faith was releasing an LP from Night Slaves. Now, at the end of May, its style and message are right on point as we see the world in its rawest form and think about how to move forward within it.
“Three and a Half” (bandcamp) is a soundtrack for rebirth and anarchy, laced with nostalgia for rock’s past.
The album opens with “Cage” (linked above). The kind of song meant for lowering your brow, stiffening your upper lip, and trudging forward without fear and to the beat, readying listeners for the rest of the album’s experimental electricity.
John Toohill (Vocals, Lyrics), who also performs as Science Man (No Boundaries mag issue 5) and founded Swimming Faith Records, fronts Night Slaves alongside David Kane (Keys, Arrangements), rounded out by Lucy Bell (Vocals), Kelly Mordaunt (Synth), and Ryan McMullen (Guitar).
Elsewhere on the album, “Disorder” spits in the face of those longing to return to a pre-COVID time with everything exactly the same as it was. “Disorder will set us free” is repeated throughout as a mantra alongside playful melodies, as if it is not to be feared, but embraced with delight.
The lo-fi production style with distorted voices, fuzzy overlapping of drums, synth, piano, and Toohill and Bell’s vocals pulls us back in time to remember the roots of alternative rock, the music of insurrection. The album was recorded in downtown Buffalo with Shaun Mullins at Propellerhead Studios before being mixed by both Mullins and Toohill.
In the opening of “Beast”, Night Slaves give nod to fellow garage rocker Bob Seger and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” before veering left and celebrating freedom and truth in their own way. This track, and many others in the LP flirt with Deerhunter or Ariel Pink, before the Toohill and Bell harmony brings listeners back to something fresh. “We can do as we please,” they proclaim on “Run.”
Learn more about Night Slaves on their bandcamp page where you can also purchase the album for $7 to support musicians who cannot currently make a living from touring and performing. When it’s safe to do so, get your ass back to some shows, pack our beloved venues and keep our music scene going.
David Kane : Keys + Arrangement
John Toohill : Vocals + Lyrics
Lucy Bell : Vocals
Kelly Mordaunt : Synth
Ryan McMullen : Guitar
Recorded by Shaun Mullins at Propellerhead Media
Buffalo, NY Summer/Fall 2019
Mixed and Produced by Night Slaves and Shaun Mullins
Mastered by John Angelo
Art + Design + Layout by John Toohill
All Songs written by Night Slaves
2020 Night Slaves, All rights reserved
Swimming Faith Records 003