Sloan Simpson as photographed by John Lee Matney
When clubs shut down, longtime Athens-based recordist gathered friends for his stunning shot at songwriting; System Update debut arrives May 13th.
“My mother would say ‘love you so good’ rather than ‘love you so much,’” explains Sloan Simpson about the new Sloan Brothers single, streaming now via The Big Takeover. “Just as a family Southernism, and it stuck with me again after my sister (a progressive Baptist minister in Michigan) mentioned it in her eulogy at my mother’s funeral.”
Simpson continues, “I decided to consider the phrase part of my inheritance and built this song around it. All the singers on this choked up when recording their parts.”
Featured collaborators on “Love You So Good” include David Barbe (Sugar), Jay Gonzalez and Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers), Robert Schneider (The Apples In Stereo), Carlton Walker Owens (Cracker), and others.
01. System Update
02. Cleopatra Echo (STREAM)
03. Cryin’ Shame
05. Songs Like This (STREAM)
06. Love You So Good (STREAM)
07. So Good (Reprise)
09. Coffee Black
10. Into My Mind
12. Smile Down On Me
Sloan Simpson has been recording for over two decades. Until now, none of the music has been his own.
This changes with the release of his debut album System Update (May 13th, 2022, Science Project Records) under the name Sloan Brothers.
Though Sloan Simpson says that while making his debut album he was “listening to mainly The Cure,” the album’s opening one-two punch of the title track and the instrumental “Cleopatra Echo” feels like Daft Punk invited Herbie Hancock to form a trio jamming with The Grateful Dead during that band’s most spirited era of ever-evolving journeyman collaboration.
Wow, how did Simpson get here?!
The Athens, Georgia-based musician played rock and jazz guitar growing up, but was frustrated by the hit his talents took when a serious car accident sidelined him. Simpson sold all of his guitars and quit the instrument.
With music still in his blood, if not in his grasp, Simpson began to document, through live taping, the local scene in his new hometown of Atlanta, eventually relocating to nearby Athens after years spent driving between the two as part of his recording endeavors. His new hobby had become a good habit.
“I had a permanent recording setup installed and the reality of losing my favorite venue really set in when I had to go remove it,” Simpson says of The Caledonia Lounge, a nationally-recognized Athens club that closed in October of 2020, sidelining him again.
Like the life-changing event that inspired his recording career of recording others, the closing of the Caledonia was eerily fortuitous for Simpson. While live music was in shutdown, he wrote and recorded his first song.
“It was the first vocals I’d ever sung into a microphone,” Simpson says. With his friend, guitarist Kevin Sweeney contributing solos, the first Sloan Brothers single “For You” was released later that month.
Pleased with the experience, Simpson picked up a bass, more microphones, and drum software. Though he returned to guitar, he says that even without formal training, “playing keyboards is what allowed me to start writing songs.”
He also started calling up more friends.
Simpson explains, “I asked my friend Robert Schneider (co-founder of The Apples In Stereo and Elephant Six Recording Co.) if he would record backing vocals on the song “Into My Mind,” and he agreed. As I kept writing more songs, I would ask more friends I knew from recording shows over the years to contribute guest parts.”
In addition to Sweeney and Schneider, some three-dozen or more local luminaries also appear on System Update, including current and former members of Maserati, Olivia Tremor Control, Japancakes, of Montreal, Drive-By Truckers, Cracker, Casper & The Cookies, Camper Van Beethoven, Elf Power, and more.
In fact, it was Elf Power’s Andrew Rieger that inspired Simpson’s songwriting on the album’s first single, “Songs Like This.”
“I asked Andrew if he would sing on something if I wrote one he liked,” Simpson jokes.
“Andrew sings the high part in the choruses and it was perfect for Kevin Lane of local pop legends The Possibilities to sing in the verses with me. I’ve been friends with Bryan J. Howard of Cracker for nearly 20 years now, and he jumped in on bass.”
The tune has one the most relatable indie rock crush-couplets you’ll ever hear and is a defining example of the quality of Simpson’s songwriting future.
I saw you buying records and I saw you at the coffee shop
I didn’t hear your order but I bought the same record you got
These words provide a mere glimpse into Simpson’s ability to explore emotion with the kind of candor that only comes from experience brought by age.
“I had long been avoiding expressing feelings as some sort of misguided version of the ‘cool’ that rock ‘n roll had taught me growing up,” he admits. “Once I lost family, I realized that it’s okay to express pain, trauma, and desires.”
After half a lifetime taking home tapes of the personal struggles of others in song, it’s about time that Simpson is giving us the same opportunity with his unexpected, thrilling work.
System Update, the debut album by Sloan Brothers arrives on May 13th via Science Project Records, preceded by the singles “Songs Like This” (Feb. 11th), “Love You So Good” (March 11th), and “Anxiety” (April 15th).