The Slingers Chat Their New Single, Collabs, And Quarantine Creativity

I was in the passenger seat of someone’s car when I first heard of The Slingers.

It was their radio debut, with a track that seemed to strike a shovel into gravelly depths of memories past and, seemingly, memories I was living through vicariously – rugged vignettes of eucalyptus and dirt roads and sweltering heat. I can’t seem to remember where I was going or who I was with. The track was a paralysing blend of the poignant and poetic.

It didn’t take me long to discover that the rest of their discography was just as good – the Melbourne band bleed an outback aesthetic with nods to legends like Paul Kelly.

I recently sat down with The Slingers’ lead singer, John, over a cosy Zoom call to talk music, upcoming releases, and abstractions about a post-COVID world. 

It quickly became obvious to me that The Slingers was the product of a gleaming sense of comradery. John described the band as a “natural extension of hanging out”, comparing their identity to “taking a photo at a party”.

The band’s identity seems to be a testament to an enduring mateship and a love of music, which trickles into their sound.

Upon first listen, The Slingers echo sounds of folk rock heavyweights – from Bruce Springsteen to Paul Kelly – to cultivate a balance between the nostalgic and the experimental, with ingredients of slouchy guitars and Australiana style lyrics possessing an enduring value.

Their track ‘One More Day’ spinning on national radio led to a spike in their listenership, and a correlated spike in their comparisons to these legendary musicians.

“I take that stuff in the spirit that it’s intended,” he noted.

“It’s high praise, it’s super flattering. But you don’t let it go to your head.”

It’s their poetic aptitude for storytelling which led to comparisons to Paul Kelly on triple j unearthed:

“He’s mint, I love Paul Kelly. I could talk for ages about him. I think he’s just one of the best writers that we have in Australia. I actually think he’s underrated.”

These vivid and narrative-heavy lyrics seem to effortlessly patchwork a story together, blending with it some confessional style lyricism. This style is especially palpable in ‘One More Day’ – so I asked how it came into fruition.

 “I had been overseas somewhere, I was really jet-lagged,” John said.

“It was 3 or 4 in the morning, and I was watching ‘Two Hands’ and then Animal Kingdom was on as well – so there was that whole Australiana vibe. … A lot of older Australians have written to us saying that they liked that track.”

This outback ambience is potent in lyrics like:

“…Can hear the crunch of tyres on the backyard gravel, Sister leans on Grandpa’s shovel.

And the heat twists the air like crinkled cellophane,

And it shimmers too, like spilt kerosene round the driveway drain…”

It’s clear that the inspiration of The Slingers is outsourced from the veins of Australian culture. This aesthetic manifested greatly in the visuals for the ‘One More Day’ music video, featuring reels of archival footage.

“I’d always sort of envisioned that we have some of that old footage, I reckon it’s so cool. It turned out to be a bit hard to get a hold of, we had to get onto the national film and sound archive.

“Our drummer had this old super 8 camera, so some of the footage is us, just on this real old camera that was still working after 50 years.”

Their latest single, ‘Kind Hearts’, accelerated into new terrains, collaborating with “Melbourne Legend”, Spike Fuck.

Spike Fuck’s widely applauded The Smackwave EP is artistically excellent in its own right – yet a notably different sound from The Slingers, making it a loose collaboration. ‘Kind Hearts’ sees Spike Fuck and The Slingers embrace a tumbleweed tier country track.

“One time, we were at a party with Spike, we just wanted to catch up,” he explained.

“I think we were just sitting in the lane behind the house… we just showed her this track I had on my phone that I’d written, kind of hoping that she’d sing on it one day … She loved it, then we went from there. It was quite special.”

This synergy between Spike Fuck and The Slingers manifests itself in ‘Kind Hearts’, immortalising their shared love of country music.

“I set out to write an old country song… [Spike Fuck] and I used to listen to a lot of that music, quasi-jokingly, but it is also awesome music. That old kind of 50s, 60s outlaw, country…”

Image Source: Instagram (The Slingers)
From the Band’s instagram

As I was chatting to a locked-down Melbournian, I had to address the apocalyptic impacts of COVID-19; how was the band coping in a state-wide hazmat suit?

John mentioned how Victorians had endured a “very gruelling” winter, living through lockdown with the backdrop of their trademark dreary weather. He explained that the band felt rather lucky, being split between two sharehouses meant they’ve still had the opportunity to write. With “a lot more time to think… we’ve written a fair bit”.

They’ve also been able to cultivate a small garden, which, he joked, can make one in lockdown feel “a bit like an Amish person, sometimes… and you can’t get a haircut.”

Pondering the isolation-imposed surge in creativity, gardening, and for some, breadmaking, I asked about The Slingers’ new releases – especially with their latest single, ‘Cruellest Cut’, dropping on Friday 30th. The band have classed the single as a fresh fusion of genres, coined Motel-Pop.

“We were kinda keen to get our own sound going… [It’s] more of a narrative theme than a sound. We started toying around with these kinds of characters, that were washed up losers, essentially… Ex-rock’n’roll stars, ex-AFL players…” 

The track, lyrically very tongue in cheek, drew inspiration from comedic gold that helped inform the narrative. Laughing about a shared appreciation for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, John mentioned other sources of inspiration: “Peep Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm… that’s a big part”.


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FIRST VINYL OUT this Friday in partnership with @flightlessrecords – Feat. new single ‘The Cruellest Cut’ and ‘Kind Hearts’

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The track easily stands out from the rest of their discography, so I asked about the ways it diverges from their older releases.

“A lot of the other tracks we laid down old school classically, where we stood in a circle, either in a studio or in one of our houses in a basement with one mic, just playing all together, which is cool. Each way has its own merits, which gives it a more of a jammy feel.”

In contrast to the laidback rodeo energy ofKind Hearts’, John explained thatCruellest Cut was formed upon amore modulated bassline, that then we played bass over… Then we built it from the bottom up. None of us were playing at the same time for that, it was quite studio heavy.” 

The studio experience really accelerated this new sound, with the obvious broadening of resources giving the guys room to experiment – their sound engineer, I was told, had a collection of “really old synths and pedals from the 70s”.

The Slingers’ discography seems to speak to granular memories cast in a sepia hue. They’ve managed to revive a balmy, outlaw-country sound – and are taking exciting strides in new, creative directions. While a return to gigs seems beyond the foreseeable future, we can anticipate cosy new music from The Slingers in the meantime.

The Slingers’ latest single, ‘Cruellest Cut’, will be available to stream on Friday 30th. ‘Cruellest Cut’ and ‘Kind Hearts’ are available to buy on 7inch vinyl from Flightless Records from Friday, too.