“I’m not eating a lot of sugar these days,” Charlie Slick says and I tell him I’m cutting out gluten, myself.
“I think there’s gluten in donuts, though,” Slick says, frowning down at the paper bag. And sugar. I shrug.
Ah well. The quirky and inventive songwriter mentions we’re actually not far from his house, as we wheel our way from the Dexter Cider Mill, treats-in-tow, parking near the Huron’s shore under reddish-leafed trees, this, the first day of autumn.
“I’m more of a spring person,” Slick says, passing off the inherent nostalgia of autumn and opting instead for the ignition of spring, incanting: “…this is my chance, here we go! We’re gonna do this, these are my plans!”
Slick is incessantly planning, and tinkering, writing and recording. This month sees the release of his fifth self-released album, A Farout Indian.
Slick has shimmied and sang his way into local hearts with his charming — and disarming —brand of freewheeling, fun, and, yes, funky ballads — some hook-heavy sugar-synth-jams, some darker, detached and even trippy ambient pop pieces.
He’s loaded his van for many weekend-jaunts around the Great Lakes, paying his dues to the jostled, huddled house party crowds; dazzling and beguiling many with his shirtless sprawls across his keyboard, his beat-bumping Korg and steering-wheeled bass filter. Heretofore, with his heartfelt, often jubilant songs perennially festooned with the shimmering fuzz of synthesizers, he’s become known as “an electronic” musician and performer. “That’s misleading,” Slick says.
“I wanted to show my range [on Indian]. I just happened to use electronic equipment, I don’t prefer it, necessarily to acoustic instrumentation. (Indian) is my big movement towards not-being an electronic musician. I never felt like I was, anyway,” he says. Which, makes sense, having cut his teenage teeth as an ostensible punk rock guitarist through the late 90s.
Over the last year, he’s met and, subsequently, enlisted three local performers (Micah Vanderhoof, Molly McButter, Natalie Berry) to form Thunda Clap, his first proper “band” under the Slick moniker, as he aims towards affecting a “George Clinton-esque thing, where the songs are more like jams and there’s a bunch of people on stage, singing and playing. I mean, not a jam band, but a big party, an ensemble.”
Vanderhoof was in the band for six months before she revealed to Slick her talents on the saxophone (and at times on stage, now, keyboards). McButter is “the beat mixer” (and bass filterer, steadily learning electric bass), while Berry adds considerable back up vocals (and back-up dancing moves). Slick, meanwhile, croons his mellifluous mid-high voice while he switches off keyboards and his recently invented guitar-prototype, named for his favorite movie, Steve Martin’s The Jerk, (which is “six strings, on a Strat, some closer together so you can hold them down with one finger, set as A-A, E-E, A-A. Building it actually wound up inspiring each of Indians’ songs because I realized I could do all these new different things.”)
Slick references white musicians attempting soul music in the 70’s being labeled “plastic-soul,” well, why not re-brand it with Indian being “plastic funk?”
Songs like “Nomads on the Plains of Time” were written on acoustic guitar, filled out with lots of vocals and “cool keyboardy stuff,” bolstered by fun fills of rototom drums (from Slick ally, Johnny Ill). It’s first four songs go from funky weird dance to mellow, washy epics, to an atmospheric instrumental to industrial rock.
Slick’s never fit anywhere, mostly because he can’t stop planning new things to try. Rock n’ roll’s all about an energy, at the end of the day, which Slick’s has a surplus of – especially, now, with a full band.
Charlie Slick & Thunda Clap – Release Party Nov 18th at Woodruff’s – A Farout Indian will be available Nov 29 more info at www.charlieslick.com