There’s something particularly transparent about the interpersonal relationships that ebb and flow in the inter-workings of musical projects. What can be a tough gig between four people can seemingly bound towards madness if there are six people in the group. But then again the same could be said for any number of people within the confines of a band or ensemble.
Slingshot Dakota might only have two members to its roster – keyboardist/vocalist Carly Commando and drummer Tom Patterson – but the connection attached to them being bandmates is surely just a secondly trait to the fact that the two have spent quite some time together in a relationship during their run as Slingshot. It’s a topic we’d have to assume they’d been asked about enough times that when joking about having to ask Patterson about it, his assumption about such a ruse is countered by his own query.
“Are you gonna ask when Carly and I are going to get married?”
His laughter on the subject suggests the seriousness and perhaps non-seriousness of the two matters existing simultaneously.
“You have like one other person to pass ideas through,” says Patterson of the idea on only having the two of them in the band. “To pass merch designs by. And the fact that we’re in a relationship is major, because we live together, so we can talk about band stuff whenever we want.” The positive aspects of being together and in a band, according to Patterson, outweigh whatever negatives that have arisen in the equation. “We’ve been a band and a couple for so long that we’ve ironed out any really negative aspects. Plus we really like being around each other, so that helps.”
That relationship has helped them through the thick and thin as a band, including during a period of time when Slingshot Dakota was trying to juggle the rigors of writing their debut full-length while attempting to solve the issue of not having a van to tour in. “Carly and I, we just did it as an experiment just to see what would happen,” says Patterson of the band’s attempt at raising money through Kickstarter. “We saw other bands doing it, and some of the ways other bands did it was kind of icky. I don’t feel like they offer people enough incentive to give money. They were asking for a lot of money for nothing in return really.”
But the support of the community and those familiar with the band helped make a rather tough situation a bit less stressful in the long run for Slingshot. “We had no vehicle to tour with. We sunk a ton of money into our previous two vehicles. People emailed us and said, ‘We really want to help.’ That was great. To hear back from people, it was very reassuring.”
“It allowed us to step into the studio. We had no label. Maybe one label had expressed interest in putting out a record, but they had no budget. They couldn’t give us any money to record with. To do the Kickstarter, it allowed us to do things more comfortably. We could go into the studio and bang this out more comfortably. We can take some time off of our jobs and really go at it.”
And while on one hand the help of a legion of fans would make the overall situation easier to deal with, it also brought a particular type of weight to Slingshot Dakota, according to Patterson.
“The Kickstarter really pushed us to get into the studio sooner, because there was that added pressure. Like, people gave us money, now we have to have something to show for it. Carly and I would have really felt bad if we got this money and got a van and didn’t go into the studio. We would have felt really guilty about it. It was a good thing, it was a good push to get into the studio and finish a lot of the songs we had started writing. Recording and finishing the songs was pretty long overdue, we just hit a lot of roadblocks in going up to heading into the studio.”
As the two of them worked on what would become Dark Hearts, a different state of mind took over the writing and approach to it in the eyes of the band. While at the time of creation of Your Dreams are Dead, Ours are the Golden Ghost!, Slingshot Dakota felt the need to prove they could exist as a two-piece band. According to Patterson, this cycle of writing gave him and Commando a bit more freedom to chase new ideas in the context of what they were writing.
“We were really new at being a two-piece,” Patterson says of writing Golden Ghost. “We felt like we had to prove something. Looking back, I don’t know why. I think we felt a lot of people were really hanging on, like ‘What are they gonna do?’ We lost Jeff [Cunningham, ex-vocalist/gutiarist], now what’s going to happen? We had to prove to ourselves that we could make it happen and make music as a two-piece. We had a really good reception to The Golden Ghost. People were stoked on it. The pressure was off and we talked a lot about writing new stuff. We were like, we can do whatever we want. We listened to a lot of different music. We were very open to exploring new stuff and not feeling like we had to prove anything. That’s kind of how we approached the new music. We experimented more. We also had gotten a lot of people, I try not to use the term fan base, but our fan base broadened past the DIY punk scene. We had gotten a lot of people who were into different styles of music, and same regard to growing up, we started getting into different styles of music, and I think that reflects on the record – experimenting with our sound and stuff like that.”
In that ease of being able to experiment and write without their own weight on their shoulders, it is arguably easier for Patterson to recollect some of the reasons why being a two-piece band, especially with the two of them being in a relationship, is a much better fit.
“We can pause band practice and then come home from band practice and say, ‘You know that music idea, I processed it a little bit more and I think we should change this.’ It’s cool. Definitely way easier. There are also drawbacks to it. We are together all the time. So, we have to make an effort to have our own time from each other. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. The negative list is extremely small. I don’t think there really are any really. We’ve been a band and a couple for so long that we’ve ironed out any really negative aspects. Plus we really like being around each other, so that helps.”
In translating that relationship to the band’s music though, a visit to a Slingshot Dakota show will tell you pretty much all you need to know about everything the two of them put into the music – physically and emotionally.
“We love playing so much, that when we get up to play a show and we’re in front of people, we just want to give everyone a hundred and ten percent. We’re singing and playing songs that we worked so hard on and that we really love. We love all of our music and we want to share that with people. It explodes out of us. It gets pent up inside and we just let it all out. It is our main love in life.”
It is something as simple as this though that explains the connection between the two.
“Why do it if you don’t like to do it?”