Patrick Pentland opens up about tour anxiety as the Canadian power-pop band hits the road in support of new album '12'
Patrick Pentland used to have superstitions when he performed with Sloan. For seven years he wore the same hat at every single show. And before he took the stage, Pentland had to touch his belt buckle.
On the surface, they were just quirky traditions. But underneath the rituals was a desire to quell the anxiousness Pentland often felt on tour. “All these weird things were supposed to make me feel better, but then I started to drop them because I realized it's actually not making me feel better,” Pentland said recently by phone from Toronto. “I realized I need to get away from all of this. I need to be able to handle any situation.”
About five years ago, Pentland, one of four multi-instrumentalist songwriters in long-running Canadian power-pop act Sloan, became more vocal about his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks.
“Once I started talking about it, more and more people reached out to me and talked to me about it. … I think it's a personal thing, but at the same time it's something that thousands of people deal with,” he said. “It's one of those things where you feel trapped, like you have to play, and if you don't you're gonna let everybody down. That can be intimidating. Then you feel sick, and you don't think you can do it. … If you come to see us play, there are times when I'm not playing much, or the very rare time when I've had to sit out part of the set more recently.”
While Pentland's bandmates — Andrew Scott, Jay Ferguson and Chris Murphy — have been supportive and understanding, they can't remove the most difficult part of touring for Pentland: waiting. “If you don't travel for a living, you don't realize … all you do is wait around,” he said. “I like playing the shows, but that's two hours out of 24 hours. Twenty-two hours are spent waiting around to play. … I'm about to start tour again, and that's got me pretty anxious. It's a lot of time, a lot of uncertainty.”
Other parts of touring are more energizing. On this string of summer dates, which makes a stop at A&R Bar on Thursday, June 21, Pentland is excited to play some deeper cuts from Sloan's hook-riddled discography, which dates back to 1992. The band will also play several selections from its recently released 12th album, aptly titled 12. Like so many Sloan albums, 12 is consistently strong from front to back, even with four different songwriters. Pentland is responsible for three of the tracks, including “All of the Voices,” which he initially wrote more than 15 years ago for Sloan's 2003 album, Action Pact.
“When I wrote it for Action Pact, nobody really liked it, so I didn't do it,” Pentland said, chuckling. “And then when we compiled a bunch of demos for this record I said, ‘Well, I've got this demo,' and they were all like, ‘This song is great! Why didn't you put that on the record?' Well, because you didn't like it.”
Twelve albums deep and 27 years into Sloan's career, Pentland pushes back against the shorthand narrative often used to describe Sloan's American experience. “In the States we're seen as, ‘Big in Canada, but they never made it here,'” he said. “And it's like, well, sure, but we're still here, and we've been doing this all these years. People are still showing up.”