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Slyne and The Family Stoned: A glorious racket

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Michael Slyne, 38, founding member of the band Slyne and the Family Stoned, and resident of New London, has an insatiable thirst for music that propels him to share with the world.

Slyne and the Family Stoned is an evolving band with the name stemming from an inside joke that plays on the 1960s psychedelic funk band Sly and the Family Stone.

While not blood-related, the members of Slyne and the Family Stoned call themselves family members due to their friendships’ intimate, emotionally bonded nature.

“Some of us have busted families, and this feels like a family. We’ve all cried and laughed and yelled at each other. We trust each other fully," Slyne says. 

They met each other through the New London music scene, and what makes this band stand out is the open-door policy, where members are free to come and go as they please. There’s always someone else available to join the band.

“People come and go for sure, but it’s always big love. I trust and love all these people, past and present; they’re my confidants. (As an) old artist black sheep troupe … you surround yourself with like-minded heads. Near and far. There are members of the Fam all over the Northeast," Slyne says.

The band members describe themselves as “a group of punks and freaks and lovers and misfits and drifters and soul searchers and jazz cats and pseudo pop queens and tone benders” who try to make a glorious racket. After starting as a band under a different name, Slyne and the Family Stoned evolved into what they are today and have created music together for about five years, with various members rotating in and out.

Current band members consist of Lee Camfield on bass, Kevin Hodge and Cameron Muller on guitar, Tim Donnel on drums and piano, and Michael Slyne on guitar, vocals, and cassette tapes.

Slyne enjoys mixing and manipulating recordings from cassette tapes while playing guitar over them to create noisy drone sounds with lots of feedback. When it comes to music, Slyne firmly believes the weirder it is, the better, and this message is translated into his solo work and his music with the band.

In the time they’ve been together, Slyne recalls how they've been a million different bands. Three new people have recently joined post-pandemic, and the band’s sound frequently changes with each new addition.

Slyne grew up bouncing between his parents’ homes in Granby and Quaker Hill but has fond memories of weekends in New London seeing punk rock bands at the El ‘N’ Gee and shows at the Secret Theater.

“I feel like I grew up there … I lived atop a mountain very isolated in high school … so New London was my culture. The streets and sounds. I loved and still love walking the streets," he says. 

The Oasis Pub serves as a home base for the band. “Sean Murray will always let us do what we want there; I feel very grateful. When we’re playing there, it feels more like a clubhouse than a bar. We don’t like playing in bars much. We’d rather play in a basement or a warehouse or (an) art space," Slyne says.

Slyne saw the documentary “1991: The Year Punk Broke” as a teen, a film about Sonic Youth’s 1991 Europe tour with Nirvana. Slyne quickly became enthralled with the movie and both bands, and he’s been playing in various musical groups ever since. While his musical influences change daily, a constant source of inspiration is his close group of friends, often the people with whom he plays. He notes that they are talented, creative people, and he’s always trying to keep up. Other musical inspirations include Neil Young, Japanese free-jazz, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and Astrid Mortensen.

All things in life inspire Slyne. Experiences, emotions, or encounters such as seeing a fight on the street late at night, people in love, or hearing totally insane feedback. The Grateful Dead’s performance style significantly influences the Family Stone’s take on live music. With every show, Slyne hopes "the audience is willing to take a far-out sonic ride … and doesn’t hold onto the idea that they’re (going to) see the same song (performed) the same way again,” as each concert is different and unique.

Slyne and the Family Stoned has released a handful of albums over the past year, and Slyne is excited about whatever project is most current. They released “These Things Are Beautiful You Are These Things” on Bandcamp in March. The album consists of a collage of sounds ranging from peaceful instrumental solos and vocals to chaotic feedback. The music channels emotions heightened by the pandemic, making it powerful and thought-provoking.

Camfield and Slyne own Mini Raining, a record label where they release their music and music from their friends. Slyne notes that having this label is a fun and exciting way to put everyone’s music out and is a source of motivation for making his own. Although making music is more of a hobby for Slyne and his bandmates, as they put out music from a place of love and enjoyment for the art of creating rather than a desire to become rich and famous.

“We make barely any money with the small label we have. … I don’t really care about the money, and we’re not looking to be some famous band," he says.

However, that doesn’t stop them from going on short weekend tours. They do it for fun and make enough money to sustain the band, even though they’re all busy working other jobs.

Aside from singing and playing in the Family Stoned, Slyne works as a custodian for the New London Public School system. Additionally, Slyne hosts a radio show, "Slyne 6-9," every other week on Monday evenings on WCNI 90.9 FM, Connecticut College's radio station.

Looking toward the future, Slyne and the Family Stoned have a joint show with ten other performers, coming up on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Warehouse 3. The art space on 18 Blackhall St. will be hosting a multimedia show with music, poetry, and films. These are the types of shows the Family Stoned are most excited to play. Lovers of all art forms, mixing different forms of creative expression together is pure happiness for them. Slyne makes visuals for their performances, too, which are projected onto a sheet behind the band while on stage. This is what makes warehouses and art spaces great, as the use of additional props is not always accessible in bars.

Slyne also has a solo record ready to be released, but he’s unsure when, as he wants to put out more music with the band first.

“We seem to be a little more hectic and wilder (together) ...whereas my solo stuff is way more subdued … way more mellow (and) more experimental. Improvisation is a huge part of live shows. It brings something else out," he says.

 

If you go

Who: Slyne and the Family Stoned

What: A joint show with ten other performers

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Warehouse 3, 18 Blackhall St., New London

Admission: By donation

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