Craigslist, Chainsaws, and Getting Started with Robbie Slade
“So, I look like a chef!”
I caught up with Robbie Slade, who was fresh from tonight’s honor as keynote speaker for Groundwerk Vancouver’s monthly Listening Party instalment at the Anza Club.
The Humans duo of Robbie and Peter Ricq have been making plenty of noise lately, having wrapped up their first North American tour earlier this year and releasing their ‘Water Water/Bout Chu’ EP, earning them a Juno nomination for their efforts. With no signs of slowing down anytime soon, we’re eagerly waiting to see where they take the project next.
Get to know the Humans project and their sounds here. Follow below for some of Robbie’s industry insider tips, musical background and how to make a job out of Craigslist.
CB: How did you get started in music and performing?
RS: I worked as a firefighter and that’s where I formed my first band with a couple other guys on the crew. 90% of it was walking around in the rain, looking for smoke, and digging it out – pretty shitty. So we would make up these songs together, and we didn’t have a way to record them, because we didn’t have cell phones since they would get wet. So we all got REALLY good at remembering tunes – you’d be like “I’m out here for two weeks in this tent, I have to remember this.”
Then where did Peter (Ricq) come into the mix?
In 2008, I went to this art show in Tinseltown, painting the art gallery walls, and one of the artists was Peter. During the show, we just kinda got to talking, and I was saying how I was a singer, and I had a band, and he was like “Oh, I could do the merch for you.” So he did, he did the merch for our t-shirts.
Then all of the guys from the firefighting crew, they were going back to forest firefighting, and I was supposed to do that as well, that’s what we did every summer. But Peter, he made this design before we were even a band, and pitched me on the band (Humans), like, “we could do THIS!”
Hah! That’s crazy!
Then the guys left back to firefighting, so it was me and Pete. I had thought that it would be all of us as the band. But Pete said “we don’t need the band, we can just use my MC-505 [drum machine] and hardware.” So between us, we filled in the rest of band. We had our drummer, we had our keys player and that was the start of Humans.
And that was the end of firefighting?
Yeah, and that was a hard choice to make, making the commitment to leave firefighting. I loved that job – 20 guys walking around the forest with chainsaws? How badass is that? It was a big step for me for sure, leaving that behind and not really having a plan.
So, what’d you do?
My roommate came sauntering by my room one day and said “So I hear you wanna make some money – I got a plan.” And I’m like “Okay?”
So he shows me his laptop and says “I found all this free stuff, in the Craigslist for-free section, and all the good-looking stuff, I made ads for it using the same pictures in the for-sale section. Now all we have to do is wait for the phone to ring.”
And it was crazy! People would call us, asking if we still have these shelves, and I’d be with my phone, like “Hold on,” and call and be like “So you still got those free shelves? Yeah?” So we’d go pick them up, and drop them off, and that’s how we were making money and doing okay. Like pianos, you can find pianos for free, on Craigslist, and you can sell a piano for $400. It just has to come with delivery.
Firefighting was the comfortable thing, making money, but Peter was saying “I can get us gigs this summer, let’s do this thing.” But I do think it’s important [to have a job] if you want to be a successful artist. It’s kind of a naïve outlook, saying, “No, I’m just going to commit, and it’s all going to be okay.” But I know a lot of people who have just burned out.
Yeah, your kind of mindset is a recipe for longevity
And the end result, no matter what way you go, is that you’re going to end up working. But if you start when you’re still excited about music, and you work into it, you’ll probably be happier than if you burn out on music and get super depressed, and are forced to get some shitty job... And you might not end up doing music anymore.
Editor's note: Responses were edited for length and clarity.