Thursday, May 07, 2009

City Slides Q&A

According to my sources, Drew, you rode your bicycle from Baltimore to Philadelphia last weekend. Tell us a little about the trip.

The trip was pretty exciting for me. I got rid of my car and have been riding my bike everywhere for about three years. This trip was kind of the pinnacle of all that riding. I did it on my fixed gear Bianchi, so I am pretty proud of that (100 miles on a fixie is no joke). As far as the actual trip went, the first 50 miles was a lot of fun. Maryland has some beautiful stuff going on, and the Conowingo Damn is pretty awesome. The last 50 miles was a different trip, it was more about survival. I started getting some serious pains in my elbows and shoulders and had to make some adjustments to my bike in order to endure. Also, route 1 is basically a highway complete with exit ramps and tractor-trailers. It wasn’t your Sunday ride in the county (what we call the country side in Baltimore). I saw a lot of mono-cropping farms along the way. Lots of small towns doing their thing and that’s always good to see. All of the cops along the way smiled and made me feel good. There were also share the road signs the entire trip so I felt safer knowing that. Seeing the Philly skyline from the top of a hill in Media was like Dorothy seeing the Emerald City. I did it, am proud of that, and encourage everyone to get on a bike and get moving.

City Slides is a Baltimore based band. Tell us a little about the city and surrounding areas (Hampden, etc).

(Drew) Baltimore has adopted me with its big beautiful arms. I am from Gloucester City, NJ (across the Walt Whitman Bridge, next to Camden) and moved down here about 3 1/2 years ago for a job and girl. I lost the girl, but still have the job, so it’s all good. Baltimore is the city of neighborhoods. I live in Remington, kind of an in-between neighborhood. We still have our crime and all, but it’s getting a lot better. I live with songwriter MacGregor Burns and local rock-violin legend the VCR. If you’ve ever seen the Food Network show Ace of Cakes, I live a block south of that place. I moved here from Hampden, the quirky artsy sceney neighborhood north of Remington. I loved Hampden, and would def. go back, but the stars have placed me here. We actually do a pretty regular gig in Hampden on the “Avenue.” We busk outside, probably our favorite thing to do, and maybe the thing we are known for the most. Unlike a lot of other cities Baltimore’s street performing scene is small. Except for the performers down on the harbor doing their thing you don’t see much. I do, however, feel that is about to change. We are actually going to be busking the Station North Arts Festival this coming Saturday with a bunch of our friends. It’s complete freedom, it’s what the music we play is all about, if you consider us a folk band.

John lives in Govans, and has an amazing garden and raises bees. He lives with his many cats and dog, and beautiful wife, Lesley. John and Lesley are amazing people. Their home has felt like home since day one. They have that remarkable ability to make you feel welcome and relaxed immediately. John has been a huge influence on me as a human being. He has also helped my confidence; he really gets behind me when I come up with new ideas, or bring old ones out of storage.

Patrick and Atom live in a cozy neighborhood called Hamilton. Hamilton is the shit. Great art; bars; people. Almost all of my friends live in Hamilton, and if I had a family I’d take care of them there. The gardens that Atom and Patrick maintain there are top notch. You really have no idea, you’d have to come to experience. The local spirit in Baltimore is amazingly strong. I have never felt such strong support for local ideas anywhere else in my life. Hamilton encompasses all of this.

Tell us a little about each member of the band.

None of us owns a TV set. Okay, I’m Drew. I write the songs, sing the songs, and play harmonica. I am 26 years old and this is the 5th band I have been in. My previous bands primarily being punk bands, and of course a member of the legendary Baltimore band Good Guise. I am a strict vegetarian and bike advocate. I am currently involved in the urban gardening movement in Baltimore. I also cook, and organize events around the city. I definitely tell the worst jokes in the band, but make up for it with my serious winter beard.

Patrick- You can find Patrick in a tree or dancing to good music. He likes talking and listening too. Patrick whistles with the birds and barks at the dogs. He plays accordion in Cityslides and has been playing with the guys since Good Guise. As a retired classical pianist, Patrick enjoys cleaning for others and rockin’ epic reggae jams on concert grand pianos.

Decker- I'm 58, married to Leslie, born and lived in Baltimore, play a 1933 National Resonator guitar, I cut some fingers off my left hand Oct. 07 so now I have to use a bottleneck, I try to stay engaged with family community, do no harm and such.

Atom- Adam loves cheese and he does small things on a large scale. He is about to get hitched on an island this harvest season. He is a maker of many things and has many on-going experiments. As a retired falafel chef, he spends his days gardening in Baltimore city and rearranging rocks. Adam likes to write songs on guitar and in City Slides he plays the bass.

Describe the music you write, record, and perform.

Our music is “streetgrass.” We aren’t schooled in playing any type of traditional music, and what we come up with comes straight out of our psyches. Therefore, we reflect our individual experiences and surroundings. Our songs all come from our work, whether it be gardens, children, biking, friends, family, the world from the radio news, it goes in the brain waves and comes out music waves. In the true spirit of localvorism we keep our sounds close to home. I am hugely influenced by two main artists: Propagandhi (Canada progressive thrash) and Bob Dylan. I want to take on the social ills of society in a poetic way. Crafting words that intrigue and, if successful, cause listeners to be proactive. I only write when I am inspired, which is hard to come by, but is never dry. Music for me has always been a way of inspiring people, and a cause for change. It’s not a new idea. My songs come from something I cannot explain and don’t even think about that much. I never try to write a song, it’s either there or it isn’t. As for recording, we haven’t gotten there yet. I do some stuff in my room on Garageband just so I can throw it up on Myspace so people can have an idea of what we are all about. We’d love to record, but are waiting for the right time. Performance is another thing totally. We are all very uniquely different and that is ever present in our performance. Right now we are very focused on doing original material that speaks of who we are, and what we are all about. It’ll show, come see us.

Who designs the art for your CDs and flyers for your shows?

Various friends. We have the best friends, everyone is quite amazing. I am working with Philadelphia artist Emily Andrews for our CD cover. It’s getting there. I actually did a flyer today for a show we have coming up. Mike Clarke ( did this amazing poster for this huge event we just held called the Urb Ag Gala, or urbagala, for short.

Have you had any careers not related to music?

We are all Renaissance men. (Drew) I am a teacher currently, teaching cooking and nutrition. I have worked in demolition, fence installation, dishwashing, landscaping, ticket-taking, web design. You name it, I’ve probably done it.

Patrick- piano teacher, house painting, construction, sculpture, landscaping, gardening, cleaning, organizing...

Atom- Stone Mason, Gardner, Chef, Recycling yard worker, Consultant… I have never had a career related to music (taxable income).

Decker- I worked for Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus for 36 years doing building maintance, doing work for folks when they cant't afford contractors, grow plants, rob bees and putz
What are your goals, musically?

(Drew) All I want to do musically is discover my innermost artist, and never let anything get in the way of that. I just want to write the best songs I can write, and have fun doing it. I take it pretty damn serious, but am able to laugh at myself along the way. I’d like to sell out the 2640 space as a headlining group, and meet Bob Dylan (already met Propagandhi). Play for those who will listen, and that’s about it. I’d love to be in the position where I could write songs all day if I wanted. I’ll wake up in the morning and start something, then have to go to work and lose it, which kinda sucks.

Patrick- I enjoy when we connect with the music so tight that we are one mind; flowing and growing together. I think it’s cool when this can extend to our audience, especially when we play on the street!

Atom- keep it interesting and edgy without being obnoxious and preachy.

Decker- I provide the dirt and then watch it grow, my responsibility is to do my best to support whoever is putting themselves up front, I'm honored to stand with these fellows, Drew is a powerful poet and he's growing rapidly as a songwriter, Atom is pretty much a legend within our circle with his creative nature, I sense the potential for some amazing art and relational growth reflected in our music.

Do you have side projects you work on?

Drew- no, but I do poetry and short stories.

Patrick- I have been teaching piano at a music school part time for about four years. I would like to write individualized curriculum for each student I teach. In this way, my students could get valuable customized attention. This means I need to learn all styles of music for piano; classical, jazz, reggae, blues, honky-tonk, etc. I have been recently bartering with a private piano student for cooking lessons. This has been a very unique experience I would like to cultivate. I write words and create music. One day the two will merge as one.

Atom- Yes…..good guise band, solo stuff- Atom Fisher

Decker- I play with some folks from my Church, we get down with the Lord from time to time for special music

Favorite lyrics to a song?

Drew- my song? My favorite lyric is from For Rebecca, “It’s all in the same sentence, the beauty of remembrance.” That line is all about letting your guard down and letting love come flowing into your life, but love can be like a sentence and ends in different ways sometimes; exclamations, question, or just periods. I wonder if the person I wrote that for has ever heard it. As far as other lines go. I’d have to go with Dylan, “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.” Beautifully poetic. The kind of poetry where you know what he’s saying without thinking, but have no idea what he’s saying when you do stop to think.

What are you currently reading?

Drew- Jesus, I am an addicted reader. Let’s see, luckily I am by my bed and my books are here. Finishing Seedfolks and A Confederacy of Dunces, picking at Rimbaud’s work and Vonnegut’s Bagambo Snuff Box (short stories). About to get into American Fascists and Finnegan’s Wake (a present).

Patrick- Holy Bible, Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, how to fix your bicycle by helen garvy, Art & Physics by Leonard Shlain. Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.

Is there anything that you would like to share with our readers?

Drew- Destroy your TV, get a bike, plant a garden, elect yourself, write a song, make your way to the Gawdenyu!

Atom- Things are looking up. This “economic crisis” will breath life back into people, forcing us to live in community again.

Patrick- climb a tree... or dance... or both... at once!

Decker- Stay connected to your passion and respond to those things that are written on your hearts with an honorable pursuit