For The Slants’ third full-length release, The Yellow Album, the band continued in the vein of creating an album charged with energy and shaped by an intensity gained only from frequent touring. It is the sound of a band who understands its roots but isn’t afraid to branch out musically. The result is a rounded album that explores the dichotomy between darker undertones and the thrills of new love.
The Yellow Album could be a natural progression from either 2010’s Pageantry or their 2007 debut Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. Musically, it draws from the wider synthesizer driven palette of the first album while retaining the harder hitting rock sounds of the second. The lyrics explore the personal lives and experiences of the members of the band.
During the past two years, The Slants had to balance a rigorous international touring schedule, a lineup change, writing songs for the album, keeping personal relationships from falling apart, fundraising for the tsunami relief effort in Japan, and a fight with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that made headlines across both legal blogs and Asian culture outlets.
“We were pulled into an unexpected struggle,” explains founder and bassist Simon “Young” Tam. “A touring band has enough to worry about, let alone an international disaster involving friends and family or dealing with a legal battle against the United States government.”
The trademark battle was sparked by a government attorney’s claim that the band’s name was disparaging to Asians. “It was like banging our head against the wall, trying to convince someone that we were not offensive to ourselves, that the community was in overwhelming support of our band.”
Despite the frustration, Tam used the opportunity to bring an entire community together in order to defeat the poorly written, antiquated laws that were affecting numerous minority groups, a battle that continues to this day. The title track “Yellow” reflects the constriction experienced by the band.
The album title itself was birthed in a more playful approach to the idea of ethnic pride: The Beatles had The White Album, Metallica and Jay Z had The Black Album, so The Yellow Album seemed natural. The juxtaposition of a tongue-in-cheek album title and some deeply serious songs reflect a band who can still embrace tragedy with a punk rock swagger.
With The Yellow Album The Slants continue to combine their 80s music heritage, floor-filling dance beats, and cultural experiences that provide the backbone for every note. The result is a collection of undeniably catchy songs that will make you want to dance. However, this album will also resonate with you, providing so much more than an enticing chorus. The Slants manage to combine heart and musicality, a combination that is becoming increasingly rare. The Slants have arrived and are ready to induct you into the Slants Army. It’s time for you to listen.
“Pageantry” is the third release by Portland dance rock outfit, The Slants, and the follow up to their highly acclaimed debut album Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. The harder-hitting, guitar fueled album is a slight deviation from their synthesizer-driven earlier work and the majority of the songs were written in the small gaps between their endless touring schedule of rock clubs and anime conventions. Often known as one of the only, if not only, all-Asian dance rock bands in the country, The Slants’ catchy hooks, meaningful lyrics that resonate with all outsiders, and dance beats are at the epicenter of the band’s appeal.
Unlike its predecessor, “Pageantry” had more time to completely develop the songs that better represented the band. Tyler Chen (drums), the newest member of the band says that “The new album is more rock n’ roll and more organic, with less reliance on electronic elements…the songwriting has matured a lot since the first record.”
Songwriting on this album started out as demo collaborations between Simon Young (bass) and Johnny Fontanilla (guitar). Young mentions that the songs “Šalways started out with something that we thought was catchy. We’d trade emails and send files to each of the band members to get their thoughts, almost a la Postal Service.” It was in these times that the songs began to take shape: Aron Moxley (vocals) would begin listening to the music throughout the day and sing along in the car, shower, or jogging; Tyler offered other elements such as changing the beat or adding guitar parts. The keyboards were almost an afterthought. Young continues: “The first album had a lot of ear candy, which we definitely enjoyedŠbut for “Pageantry”, we wanted to strip everything down to the core of the song, to make sure that the basic structure and harmonies were striking, before adding the ornamentation of synthesizers and sound effects.”
As the band set out to record the album in Simon’s garage again (nicknamed “House of the Rising Sun”), an offer came by way of studio owner Tom Van Riper: to record at Lost Studios. As the band continued to work and record tracks, other friends came aboard. Chen explains that “My longtime friend Gabe, who plays in the hard rock band Silversafe with me, came into the studio and nailed some sweet guitar solos; Lance, a good friend from high school who lives in Boston tracked synth parts for a bunch of songs and emailed them to me; and Krista, a friend who is an accomplished local singer/songwriter, came to my studio to lay down some background vocal parts.” The album was also mixed and engineered by Brandon Eggleston (The Mountain Goats, Josh Ritter). Other guest appearances included synth work by Cory Gray, who has also done session work for The Decemberists and Desert City Soundtrack, and rapping by local artist Mic Crenshaw.
“I believe what stands out the most is the songwriting,” says Young. “The first album was fun and it connected with a lot of people, but I think that the songs are much deeper now and the themes resonate more soundly.”
“Like the first album, a lot of the lyrics are about being in love or being the underdog,” says Moxley. “I like to write about dark stuff; about unity; about being a young, cocky punk rocker.”
The Slants is a group comprised of Asian Americans who all grew up in different parts of the country: Aron Moxley (vocals), a Vietnamese refugee who grew up in Astoria, Oregon; Simon Young (bass), Chinese-Taiwanese from San Diego, CA; Johnny Fontanilla (guitar), Filipino-Mexican also from San Diego, CA; Tyler Chen (drums), Chinese-German, who lived throughout the Northwest; and Thai Dao (guitar/keyboards), Vietnamese born in Japan and raised in San Diego, CA.
This line up, playing together since October 2008, has spent the majority of their time touring North America. Critics usually compare their music to 80’s synthpop: Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure but with the swagger of late 70’s punk rock. Fans of the band know it as “Chinatown Dance Rock.”
Portland, Oregon-based Chinatown dance-rock outfit The Slants – Simon Young (bass), Aron (vocals), Tyler Chen (drums), and Jonathan (guitar) – are celebrating the release of their remix album, “Slants! Slants! Revolution,” a dance-dance remix album of tracks from The Slants’ debut, “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts.”
Remixed by Justin Coope (of Son of Rust) and Michael “Gaijin” Pacheco (formerly of The Slants), The project, initiated by Michael “Gaijin” Pacheco, is Pacheco’s final involvement with the band, prior to parting ways for schooling in Japan.
“They’ve been described as Chinatown dance rock, but the Slants are far from a novelty act,” writes The Stranger, Seattle’s alt-rock weekly magazine. NPR’s All Things Considered states that, “It’s tempting to peg the Slants in some existing Asian genre: Canto-pop, J-Metal, Viet Core… but they’re not quite that simple.”
Incase you haven’t heard, The Slants are an Asian synth-pop band that have been melting faces off all over the country. Since the creation of the band, The Slants have toured the country five times, received press for turning down a million dollar recording contract as well as being banned from a venue in Portland due to breathing fire, and were the first and only Asian band to be a Fender Music featured artist.
It was early 2005, when Simon Young decided to leave his group, The Stivs, to start a synth-pop outfit. In essence, he wanted to create synthesizer-driven rock n’ roll but with an Asian twist. Young knew about the potential of the band but wanted find the right blend of musicians to bring the dream to life. Enter Gaijin, who answered one of Young’s numerous calls for Asian musicians. Though he wasn’t Asian himself, the two found a common love for The Faint, Depeche Mode, New Order, Joy Division, and of course, sushi. After the addition of a few other key members, The Slants were formed and began playing in mid-2007.
Within months of their first show, The Slants have found themselves with attention from international press. Most were captivated by their energetic live show and their modern twist on a classic sound. In August 2007, they released a demo version of Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts. Within six months of the initial pressing, the band sold all 1,000 copies of these demos and began preparing for an official release.
In 2008, Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts was released with all new mixes and artwork, the support of national distribution. The band began touring relentlessly in support of the album. These cross country tours included appearances at rock clubs, anime conventions, cultural festivals, and industry gatherings. Headlining almost every stage they appeared on, the band has played wit some of the hottest up and coming bands from Japan such as Ketchup Mania, Candy Spooky Theatre, and Lin Clover. The Slants also helped celebrate the Portland music scene with a show at Musicfest Northwest 2008, sharing the stage with Sir Mix-A-Lot, Hot Water Music, Mogwai, and Vampire Weekend. Attention for the record continued to grow.
Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts has everything that a perfect record should have: shattering hooks and anthemic choruses, powerful guitar and keyboard lines, and just the right mix of rock with darker, dance themes – with an Asian twist. The self-recorded, self-produced, and self-released record quickly caught media attention, with press from NPR’s All Things Considered, Asian Week (the world’s largest English printed Asian newspaper worldwide), the Asian Reporter, Willamette Week, Shojo Beat, and the weekly and daily papers of almost every city that the band stepped foot in.
On the album, Aron’s voice powers through songs reflecting of love and loss, as well as thoughtful prose about struggling with an Asian identity in American Society. NPR’s April Baer writes that “The Slants’ songs about Asian-American alienation don’t seem to have hurt their appeal to white teenagers. If anything, they resonate with kids whose geeky adoration for anime makes them outsiders in their own way.”
The keyboards lead the way with danceable synth leads, while, throughout the album, Johnny’s guitar adds a rock n’ roll feel behind the synthesizers and Tyler Chen’s pulsating drums keep the dance flavor alive.
PDX-Pole calls The Slants “controversial but well loved.”
It’s true, the name has stirred some controversy, bringing the band even more attention. Bassist and founder Simon Young explains, “Most of the people that find our name racist aren’t even Asian! We’re saying to the world ‘We’re proud of who we are, we aren’t going to hide it.’ In fact, our biggest support has been from the Asian community itself!”
Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts reflects some of the same themes. Aron explains “We have a song called Sakura, Sakura where we take hateful rhymes about Asians and we turn them into a song about unity and being proud of our heritage.” But the band is more than just sharing similar ethnic heritages: Jen Cho explains that “everyone pays attention to our name. We might be met with a lot of skepticism at first. Once they see us play, they realize that we’re serious musicians and not just a kitschy music project.”
The Slants are now poised to take on the world with their own music and presence, their own name. Like the power of the rising sun, The Slants are bold, majestic, and filled with unlimited potential to light the dark ignorance of society…all while melting people’s faces off with “Chinatown Dance Rock!”