|Crossroads: Rich Love, Sloth's Vocalist|
Pivotal moments in musicians' careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
by Mark E. Waterbury
Mention sloth and one may think of the sluggish mammals of South America, or the member of the seven deadlies that mirrors the slow movements of those arboreal creatures. The music world is recognizing a different phylum for Sloth - one that is the polar opposite of slow moving animals. Sloth is the name of an L.A. rock quartet that is gaining quite a bit of recognition for their ferocious rock attack and frenetic live performances, thanks to their tireless touring many people have witnessed. Their indubitable work ethic helped break them loose from the quagmire of the SoCal bar scene with slots on the VANS Warped Tours and produced solid DIY sales of their first two self-released CDs which helped them snag a recording contract with Hollywood Records. With their third CD "Dead Generation" on the streets and an opening slot on a cross country tour with Fuel, Sloth is beginning to see the hard work pay off, but is by no means taking their noses off the grindstone.
Sloth slugged it out playing the L.A. club circuit for awhile with a line up that included guitarist Kristo Panos and drummer Adam Figura. In 1995, the band played another one of their many club gigs with an opening band featuring a vocalist named Rich Love. Rich was immediately enamored by not only the aggressive sound of Sloth's music, but their work ethic. "At the time in L.A. if you were in a band you were in a punk or hard-core band," Rich recalls. "Sloth was doing this kind of Primus meets Helmet thing that was progressive, and one of the things that attracted me was the dedication the members had to the art, because that's half the battle. These guys were hungry and wanted to take it all the way and I felt the same way." The timing was perfect for both Rich and Sloth, as the band's original vocalist quit shortly after John sent the band a tape of him singing his vocals over a Sloth song. So John quit his band and joined Sloth. At first, he assessed their musical direction before attempting to add his input to the songwriting. Eventually he became more involved until he was co-writing with guitarist Kristo Panos. "Everyone is an equal member and that is the way you have to be in a band," John notes. "You're up against some of the best and hungriest writers so we kept honing our sound. Generally our songwriting comes out of an emotion or a mood or a jam that we start to work on together. It may start with a drum beat or a guitar riff and then build from there, but from start to finish, it's a cooperative effort."
While the three original members and John were getting comfortable with their music styles, the band decided they needed to avoid just being another band stuck in the L.A. club grind. "We left a paper trail. If there was any opportunity to promote the band, we took it," John recalls. "Handing out stickers...we played on top of a roof once after a club that was closing down canceled our show. That got us press. Just grass roots, showing up at shows, handing out samplers, meeting people and spreading the word." Their work ethic was also evident by the fact that they sold over ten thousand copies of their self released CDs "22" and "Acedia," primarily by lugging CD laden backpacks into the crowds after their gigs. Before the recording of "Acedia," bassist Kowatch replaced the band's original bassist.
One contact they made in their days on the club circuit was VANS Warped Tour producer Kevin Lyman, who saw them perform and enjoyed their music enough to give Sloth one date on the Tour in 1999. That gave the band a taste for a real tour, and they decided to feed their desire in a unique way. "We were hooked and we knew we needed to get out of the area. So we got a generator and an Astro Van - we showed up with a makeshift, horrible stage and got to the VANS' venues before they were even open. Eventually they'd come up and ask us what we were doing and we told them we had permission." The curious members of the VANS crowds began to gravitate towards the makeshift stage, and about halfway through the tour one of the main stage performers Ice-T saw them play and talked Lyman into getting them onto the second stage for the rest of the tour. "Kevin always kept the tour diverse," Rich notes." I think that we have a bit of an attitude and aggression to our live music and that translated well to the crowd. They latched on pretty quickly. It was pretty amazing considering we weren't the VAN's staple punk power pop act."
Sloth returned to the VANS Tour in 2001, this time as an invited band for the entire cross country jaunt. As more fans coast to coast began to notice the foursome, their fan-base in the Southwest was mushrooming. This helped gain attention from the labels and in late 2002, the band received a record deal with Disney label Hollywood Records. The timing was perfect once again, as it was time for Sloth to go back into the studio where they would work with Black Sabbath and Saliva producer Bob Marlette on the album "Dead Generation." "All year we work on material with very few gigs, and during the summer, we'd get out and tour as much as possible. With ("Dead Generation" ), it's a mix of surrealism and emotion. I like to tell stories where people are going to get it but I still like to paint a bit of an abstract painting. The title track is one we always liked because it's an anti-anthem, sort of tongue-in-cheek lyrically. I was going through rough times when I wrote some of the songs as well. I just think it's a really good mix of what Sloth encompasses." The CD was released in late 2003, and the band went out on the road touring to support Fuel. Even though many Fuel fans did not know who Sloth was when they walked into the arena, most of them received their awakening rather quickly. "Our show is honest," Rich says, "At times very sporadic and chaotic and at other times more sedated. We create a lot of nervous energy for the crowd. It's pretty cool going into a room where five people know who you are and you walk out with a thousand people really into your music."
Landing a record deal from a major label and touring cross country with a major act would make some bands sit back and sigh, mistakenly thinking that the hard work is finished and they can now kick back and live the rock star fantasy life of leisure. Not the four members of Sloth, who know that the work has become even more intensive now. They have certainly proven their mettle in the past and can no doubt handle that work load to keep striving for an increased popularity in today's music scene." It's actually more difficult when you get signed," Rich notes. "The bar has been raised and now we're up against some of the best bands in the world. Everyone's watching to see what you're going to do. It's still an uphill battle, but we're enjoying every second of it because it's what we always wanted to do. We just need to keep playing as much as possible, giving a hundred percent and wining over as many fans as possible, and that's what being in a band is all about. You have to take advantage of and jump on every opportunity and utilize it."
Rich Love's advice for musicians: "Keep working and honing your craft. You need to make sure that your shows and your songs are where you want them to be. Once that happens and you've polished it, you're excited by it and everyone else is excited by it, then everything else will come to you. And work like you're never going to get a record deal, because chances are you won't. You gotta love what you're doing and remember why you are doing it, going back to why you first picked up a guitar, and as long as you have that, you can't go wrong whether you sell a hundred albums or a million albums."