Freewheelin’ – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Breaks The Cycle

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

While the business might often seem like an exercise in organized chaos, in fact there is often some very rigid methodology as well as a few time-honored conventions set deep within the madness of the music industry which all help to make it run smoothly and be exciting to watch. One of the oldest and most universally followed traditions revolves around what is known as (in industry parlance) the 'album cycle.' The concept of an album cycle is so simple that it's almost laughable, but it's spelled out about like this: band records new album, band releases new album, band tours to promote new album. Almost everyone who listens to music is familiar with the concept of an album cycle, and understands the psychology and marketing behind it; most bands make the lion's share of their money on the strength of their live show so they want to be on the road as much as possible and, in order to entice their fans to come to those shows, they record and release new music so that it won't necessarily be the exact same show over and over, and fans who have come before will come again.

The concept of an album cycle is simple, and the fact that it is almost universally adhered to by bands males it easy enough to expect – but that makes the groups who don't play by the rules that much more interesting.

What do they do to inspire audiences to buy a ticket to come to their shows? How do they go against the grain so confidently? Don't they worry that they'll lose money on a tour? Singer/guitarist Slim Cessna doesn't worry about those questions; after twenty years, he and his band, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, have worked out a schedule and working tradition which works perfectly for them. “We tend not to tour around albums,” explains the singer – just nights before leaving for the band's current North American tour, “Although sometimes it works out that we'll have released one and we'll be on tour. That's sort of what's going to happen on this tour, in fact; we recently put out a new compilation in Europe. It's not coming out in the U.S. or Canada, but we'll have copies of it with us on the merch table on this tour, so it will be an opportunity to buy the set if they want. It's not as easy to get a copy of it ordered into a record store, so it would definitely be cheaper and easier to get a copy of it this way, if they want one. The reason we're playing this tour doesn't really have anything to do with a release at all though; we haven't been up to Canada in a while, so we're going. That's how we work; we only put out a new record every three or four years normally, but we want to keep active in between – so that's what we do.

"For this tour, the plan will just be to put on a good rock show which has some old songs as well as some new songs in the set,” Cessna continues. “We're going to mix it up. We just came back from a tour of Europe which was to promote a compilation album [entitled An Introduction for young and old Europe, released on Glitterhouse Records –ed], so we're playing some older songs that people haven't heard in a while – and I suspect that those will end up staying in the sets on this tour; or at least some of them will. We've also got a string of new songs which are being worked on right now, and we might work a couple of those songs into the sets too; sometimes we use soundchecks to work on new songs, and we may decide that some are ready for people to hear. I don't want to make any promises in that regard, but it has happened before and could happen again. It'll be fun – in addition to that older stuff that we'd like to work into the sets again and the new stuff that hasn't been recorded yet, we've also never brought Unentitled [Slim Cessna Auto Club's fifth album, released in 2011 – ed] to Canada before so we're going to present a lot of that record too – if we can.”

Such a frank and forthright discussion of what Cessna envisions his band will do this time out may sound almost off-puttingly simple, but the singer is very careful to point out that, when it comes to the his Auto Club, there is definitely an uncertainty in the shows and that uncertainty is the spectacle which really wins ticket-holders. Because the band seldom if ever goes out of its way to promote their newest release and really focus on the newest songs on proverbial store shelves, they're free to delve into any part of their songbook they choose and create a totally unique experience for a show – they can do it every night of a tour, if they want. For the members of the Auto Club, mixing up what could happen is half the thrill of playing live and, when the bandmembers are excited, that infectious energy transfers easily to show goers – but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy to talk about, the singer says, because the act of putting a Slim Cessna's Auto Club Show on is as simple for the band as an involuntary reflex. “It's hard to explain, really, because we know how to do what we do and I think we do it pretty well – but it's hard to talk about it, because we don't always know what we're going to do night-to-night – not exactly,” explains Cessna candidly. “There is a spontaneity to our shows, and I hope people see that.

"It's funny, but it's never something we discuss, we just do it,” continues the singer with a self-effacing laugh. “We don't agonize about the minutiae of our shows like what songs we'll play or how long we're going to make the sets – we don't talk about stuff like that most of the time, not until we're in the van. That goes for a lot of things for us; I mean, while we're on tour, we show up every night with a set list and know what we're going to do, but we still leave some room to be spontaneous. If you want to know the truth, there's a mix of that in everything we do, I think; it's a mix of design and spontaneity. There can be a flow in that – part something we've done for twenty years and part something that's never happened before, and may never happen quite the same way again. That's what makes a good show for us and, when we're good, we can really be on, and we don't have many off days. Even when we do mess things up though, we've been doing it long enough that we can still make it into something good and, hopefully, make it into something special enough that those who saw it that night will come back to see us again in hopes of catching another magic moment.

"That might sound simple, but I'm hoping that we'll be able to do it for another twenty years.”



Slim Cessna's Auto Club is on tour now. For a list of upcoming shows, click here .

Comments are closed.