Anyone who has seen Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog perform knows the band boasts an uber-talented drummer in Eric Slick, who makes complicated patterns look (and sound) simple as he steers the multifaceted group through myriad rhythmic and melodic shifts. What you might not know is that Slick has a parallel solo career, with a recently released demos collection and a debut solo album set for release next year. Not to mention his punk band Lithuania.
Asked if he considers himself to be the quintessential restless artist, Slick says yes.
“I think it’s because I like other people’s opinions,” the Philadelphia native says via phone from his home in Richmond, Virginia. “I like putting my trust in other people’s opinions. But yes, I’m pretty restless in general, pretty ADD.”
The Eric Slick Band, which includes Ricardo Lagomasino on drums, Zannie Owens on guitar/keyboards and Andrew Black on bass, is in the midst of a short run of shows this week that started Monday in Richmond with The Districts, went through New York City at Rockwood Music Hall Tuesday night and hits Boot & Saddle in Philly Wednesday night with Loamlands and Trophy Wife.
The gigs come in the wake of “4 Track Demos Vol. 1 & 2,” which Humble Twin Records released as a limited-run gold cassette. (Listen to the downcast yet melodic “No” at Slick’s website.) Slick noted that “Vol. 1” was initially released on a label “that eventually got shut down after some heinous sexual assault charges,” so he took it down from Bandcamp. The newly included “Vol. 2” features all of his demos for Lithuania’s album “Hardcore Friends.”
Slick says he started singing four years ago but didn’t attempt it in front of people until two years later. He got help from a vocal coach as well as his girlfriend, whom he calls “a great singer.” Lately, he says, the focus has shifted to stage presence and fronting a group after decades behind the drum kit.
While Slick plays bass with Lithuania — “It suits me better for that style of music,” he says — guitar is his primary instrument with the Eric Slick Band, and he writes on both guitar and piano. He enjoys composing on piano “because you can see the shape of the melody in front of you,” but guitar has its advantages because of its simplicity; it’s more limited but more emotional in some aspects, he says.
Slick, who just signed a record deal for his full-length solo debut, which he’s done recording, called the upcoming release “a distillation of a lot of my influences,” including Robert Wyatt, Bill Callahan, Frank Zappa, Van Dyke Parks, Phil Spector (the producer, not the person, he points out) and Dion.
Lithuania has a new album ready to go, too, which Slick calls “very anti-government.” That one will be out late next year.
And asked about Dr. Dog, he says, “I wish I could tell you. I can’t tell you. Something’s happening. That’s all I can say.” Understandably so, as the band was still keeping under wraps its secret album, “Abandoned Mansion,” released earlier this month with all profits on downloads between now and January going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Slick grew up in Philadelphia as part of a musical family. His father had a collection of vintage guitars, he was exposed to progressive rock music like Yes, King Crimson and Emerson Lake & Palmer, and he started on violin before he switched to drums. At age 11 began studying at the famed Paul Green School of Rock, which became a major part of his life for seven years.
“It became pretty much where I went after school every day,” Slick says. “I would do my homework there, or do my homework late at night, or not do my homework there.”
He “graduated” to a Frank Zappa tribute band, where he was spotted by Adrian Belew, an alumnus of Zappa’s bands, Talking Heads, David Bowie and probably most famously the frontman of King Crimson through several ’80s, ’90s and 2000s stints. He was already familiar with Belew’s music through his parents, who were huge fans. Slick and his sister, bassist Julie Slick, became the anchors of the Adrian Belew Power Trio. Julie still performs with Belew.
“It was incredible,” Slick said of his tenure with Belew, whom he described as a 67-year-old with the energy of a 12-year-old. “Adrian is still one of my favorite people. He taught me so much about how to carry myself as a musician and not just play in one style, but be well-rounded.”