Lovers Lane
ATT Internet 75

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club interview

| May 30, 2008

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
It’s Only Rock And Roll?


Not to complain about a job many people consider pretty damn sweet — talking to famous musicians and writing a story about it — but doing a piece on Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is tough.

Appearing: Friday, June 6th at Reggie’s in Chicago.

The interview itself was cake. Reached by phone in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and two teenage children, Slim Cessna was courteous and concise, putting maximum effort into answering each question thoroughly and often apologizing when he didn’t feel he’d accomplished that goal.

No, the problem wasn’t Cessna; it’s his music. It’s telling you, the readers who aren’t familiar with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (also including John Rumley, Ordy Garrison, Munly Munly, Shane Trost, Dwight Pentacost, and Bob Ferbrache), what, exactly, the band sounds like. It’s country. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s gospel. It’s bluegrass. It’s folk. It’s all those. Yet, it’s performed with the urgency of the best punk rock (coincidentally, the Auto Club releases its records on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label).

So what’s the best answer? We don’t know. And though he tries, Cessna doesn’t either. “It’s hard. It used to be easier,” he says. “If you’ve heard some of our older albums there was certainly a time when we were very deliberately trying to be a country band. It doesn’t make sense to keep trying to hold on to that. I don’t ever know what to say. I tend to just say we’re in a rock band and let it go at that, then everyone just understands and you don’t have to try and explain everything.

“We make it hard for people, though,” Cessna admits. “But at the same time it is a rock band. But it’s also a folk band. We tell stories about our people and our country and our people’s religion and culture and whatever, so it is folk music. But to say that to somebody, they just wouldn’t get it.”

Another thing they won’t get, at least without some effort, is the nomenclature on SCAC’s newest record, Cipher. True to that album title, the 15 song names, plus a majority of the recording credits, are written in symbols and left for fans to decode. Of course, those not wanting/willing/able to work so hard (yours truly) can simply let iTunes read the CD or see the titles in the iTunes store, but for those like Cessna himself, who still cherishes the days of ordering hard-to-find records (often with no pictures or song titles) from fanzines, it’s a whole different level of band/fan interaction dreamt up by his Auto Club co-frontman.

“It’s really hard to say whose idea that was, because it’s such a long process,” Cessna says, referring to the fact Cipher took between three and four years to finish. “But I’d think that maybe this was originally Munly’s idea. I mean, all the songs are based on Munly’s stories as well, and they are Munly’s stories, set to music. That was fairly deliberate, and there’s so many layers to his writing. I think as a result of that there’s different layers to it musically as well. There’s other lessons or other, you know . . . below the surface there are things happening that perhaps you have to cipher. Even for us, as we make the music, it seems like we’re figuring it out as we go along, and it just seemed appropriate for the whole thing.”

Cessna says the entire band worked on the substitution key together, but again, credits Munly as the main creative force.

“It’s very Munly by design, in a way. And that’s a great thing. Even that is part of a lesson we learned over time to really use each other’s strengths, and he is, he’s just a real strong person and has real strong ideas.”

— Trevor Fisher

For the rest of Slim’s oddball existence, grab the June issue, free throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.