The Slackers have been together for 18 years and have released even more CDs. With a new album coming out this month, the New York City-based group is heading up to the Finger Lakes region to play at Castaways. Assistant News Editor Elizabeth Sile spoke with bassist Marcus Geard about what inspires the band and what has kept the group together all this time.
The Slackers played at Castaways on April 10.
Elizabeth Sile: You’re going to be playing in Ithaca on Thursday at Castaways. Have you played here before?
Marcus Geard: I love Ithaca but I’m a little biased because I go camping up there all the time. I’ve gone camping at Buttermilk Falls, Robert H. Treman and some just up north from Ithaca. … I was wearing my ‘Ithaca is Gorges’ shirt the other night just hanging at the bar, and three people came up to me and were like, ‘Oh my God did you go to Ithaca?’ No, I just like this shirt.
ES: The band’s been together for 18 years. What keeps you guys going?
MG: A desperate and vicious hatred for working real jobs. This is it. I just am poor and live frugally. … It’s the greatest job in the world. Believe me, nothing beats it. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s always easy, and it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have stresses. … I don’t really have any days off. If we’ve got stuff to do on the weekends, we do it. I get up in the morning and do my e-mails, I may yutz and futz with some music in the afternoon and answer phone calls, do interviews. Then in between that we have rehearsals and gigs. There’s no real prescribed time off.
ES: What’s the best part of the job?
MG: Performing live. I love performing live. We average about 125 shows a year for the last 18 years. At one point we were averaging 165 shows a year.
ES: What gets the band pumped up for shows, playing live every night?
MG: We just love playing together. It’s just that simple. I know it sounds so trite but it’s a job like any job and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it. It’s particularly hard to get up there and smile when you’re just not having a good time, but every single night, no matter how crappy I feel, at least something happens on stage that brings a big smile on my face and just makes me enjoy the moment.
Also, we get a lot of support from our fans. You talk to somebody every now and again that lets you know that the music The Slackers make affected their lives and really touched them personally. You’d be surprised to know how far that goes, knowing that what you’re doing is actually having an impact on someone. You’re not just wasting your time. We’ll have folks come up to us that are well into their 30s saying they’ve seen our shows since they were 15. … We get plenty of people who have met their future wives or husbands at our gigs.
ES: How do you, as a veteran member, think The Slackers have evolved since your very first album?
MG: I think we’re better musicians for one thing. We have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the roots of the kind of music we’ve been trying to play for years. We’ve also come to an understanding within ourselves. We’re comfortable with what we do and how we do it so we can express ourselves. We’re not so caught up in doing something right. … I think particularly with very creative and artistic musicians they frequently fall into the trap of being too concerned with being an ‘artiste’ and being too clever and too creative so you end up with music that’s boring. … Genius songwriters like The Ramones bashed two chords and screamed over it. But they touched people. I always like to use James Brown as an example. He played the same chord for seven minutes and touched millions of people. If you can’t master playing one chord, then why the hell should you move on to playing two chords?
ES: How do you guys stay so close to each other?
MG: We hate each other. It’s like a marriage. You’re so close you can’t help but be distant. And at the same time you kind of know what the other guy’s thinking. It makes it easy to deal with people. We used to spend a lot more time hanging out together … but it’s been almost 20 years. We’ve got to grow up already. Most of us are married or have girlfriends so you have to have a life. You can’t always be hanging out with a bunch of goofball musicians.
The Slackers will perform at 8 p.m. tonight at Castaways, 413 Taughannock Blvd. Tickets are $10.