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The Slants - "The Band Plays On" (featuring BAO)

18 June 2024

Photo by Ken Oum

“Dance-rock band frontman Simon Tam sought to trademark The Slants. His aim was to re-appropriate a term long used to disparage a minority group and to render the term a badge of pride. All of us agreed.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

In 2017, with Matal v. Tam, Portland, Oregon-based all Asian American dance-rock band The Slants took on the U.S. Supreme Court to trademark their name. In a unanimous ruling, 8-0, the Supreme Court decided that a federal law prohibiting trademark names that disparage others was unconstitutional because “speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend.”

Now they’re celebrating the premiere of the animated music video for the title track off their final album, The Band Plays On.

Featuring BAO (Ming & Ping) on lead vocals, “The Band Plays On” is the lead track off the album of the same name.

Of the song, The Slants’ Joe X. Jiang (guitarist and co-writer) says:

“I was crashing at Simon’s house in Nashville during his 2019 book tour when one day, I woke up to this big novel of lyrics that he had written from a dream that he had earlier that morning. Musically, everything fell into place pretty quickly with just a bit of noodling and some vocal ad-libbing, and I think I had a demo recorded later that day.

I remember we used to lament that modern pop music doesn’t use the fade out nearly enough so we wrote the chorus as an infinite loop, allowing it to fade out organically. The problem was that we never stopped – the original version of the song was over 7 minutes long. Thankfully, our producer Bao Vo creatively edited it down so we ended up writing it in a way that was much more record friendly.”

Adds Tam, “A few years ago, we were approached by a director to talk about the possibility of writing a Broadway musical about my life/the journey of The Slants. It was right around the time when I was writing my memoir so I was spending a lot of time thinking about old members. As a result, I’d have vivid dreams about the early years and feel really inspired about writing through those experiences. This ended up being the title track on an album where every song spoke directly to our journey in the band.

I was really excited to work with Bao Vo on the record. I was already a huge fan of his personal releases, especially his old band, Ming & Ping, and thought he’d be a great fit to help us co-write and produce the songs. When we were selecting different guest vocalists for the record, I knew I wanted him to sing on it – and it ended up being a perfect way to cap the story of The Band Plays On. Illustrator Fahad Kabir helped complete it by having his own vision for the music video, which explores the story told through the lyrics.”

As The Slants’ final full-length album, The Band Plays On is a powerhouse featuring fourteen tracks that showcase the band’s melodic, highly-danceable synth-pop. Unlike prior The Slants’ albums, The Band Plays On features a guest performer on each track, including a guest vocalist on almost every song. These guests are comprised of prominent, as well as up-and-coming, artists from the Asian American community.

Please visit The Slants on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and their official website.