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The Slants are known as the first all-Asian American dance rock band in the world. The band was founded by Simon Young (also known as Simon Tam) in 2006 in Portland, Oregon. Often compared with 80's synth-pop bands such as Depeche Mode, New Order, and Joy Division, as well as modern acts such as The Killers and The Bravery, the band often refers to their sound as "Chinatown Dance Rock." All four members of the current lineup are of Asian Pacific Islander descent and they are well known for their involvement with the Asian American community, often playing at large cultural festivals and anime conventions, and fighting racist ideas/stereotypes.
The band was formed after posting ads to local classifieds, Craigslist and online ads. The process took 2 years to finalize the initial line-up.
The band name, The Slants, was derived from three sources. The first is the band members' perspective or 'slant' on life, the second, as a musical reference. The founder/bassist, Simon Young, stated
"It actually sounds like a fun, 80s, New Wave-kind of band. And it's a play on words. We can share our personal experiences about what it's like being people of color--our own slant on life, if you will. It's also a musical reference. There are slant guitar chords that we use in our music."
The third source of their band's name--a reference to their ethnicity--was the subject of a protracted legal debate. After the band's request to trademark its name was denied, they took the issue to court. In December 2015, a federal appeals court overturned a pervious ruling that upheld the United States Patent and Trademark Office's rejection of the band's application by striking down part of a law that allowed the government to reject trademarks it deemed offensive or disparaging to others. The majority opinion stated, in part, that "whatever our personal feelings about the mark at issue here, or other disparaging marks, the First Amendment forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find speech likely to offend others." The band's frontman Simon Tam explained that while the First Amendment should protect the band's right to use the name regardless of their reasons, they had chosen the name in order "to undercut slurs about Asian-Americans that band members heard in childhood, not to promote them."
After multiple lineup changes with different instrumentation, the band finally settled on being a four-piece outfit featuring the members Kenshin Shima as lead singer, Simon Young on bass, guitarist Joe X. Jiang, and Tyler Chen playing drums.
Musical characteristics and influence:
The Slants describe themselves as "Chinatown Dance Rock," and are often compared to electro rock bands such as The Faint or early 80's synthpop groups such as Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, The Cult, and Joy Division. Critics also compare The Slants with modern artists such as The Killers, VNV Nation, and Mindless Self-Indulgence.
The Slants are the world's only Asian Fender Music spotlight artist.
In 2008, The Slants competed in Bodog Music Battle of the Bands for the opportunity to be featured on the Fuse TV reality show and win a $1 million recording contract. The band consistently placed first in every round of the competition. However, when they learned that they would be required to sign a 73-page non-negotiable contract in order to continue the competition, they dropped out. The band reasoned: "This was just not the right fit for our band at this time - or any band, really."
The Slants have garnered a niche fan-base of otaku as a result of their appearances at anime conventions. The band has also been featured in the shōjo manga magazine Shojo Beat, as well as partnering with the magazine and Sakura-Con for a Hello Kitty guitar contest.
Their debut Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts was listed in the top 5 Asian-American albums of 2007 by AsiaXpress and has won accolades such as "Album of the Year" from the Portland Music Awards,Willamette Week, RockWired, and others.
In 2009, the band released a collection of Dance Dance Revolution-styled remixes of their debut album, "Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts" and donated 100% of the profits to cancer research for Asian women.
In 2011, The Slants were featured on the front page of the Oregonian for fighting the United States Patent and Trademark Office over the right to protect their name.
In 2011, The Slants were added to the Armed Forces Entertainment roster and invited to perform for active troops serving overseas.
In 2012, the band issued their fourth release, "The Yellow Album."
In 2015, the band embarked on their 22nd national tour, called "Slantsgiving," to promote their upcoming release, "Something Slanted This Way Comes" and a new smartphone designed by Neoix
What originated as a side project for Simon Young (of The Stivs) in 2007, the Slants are the first and only all Asian synth-pop bands in North America and are increasing in popularity.
Kicking off the band's career at a tiny dive bar in Portland, OR, The Slants soon found themselves on tour and in demand worldwide performing at music halls, colleges, and anime conventions. Within months, they released their debut album "Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts" winning multiple awards from the likes of Willamette Week, Rockwired, AsiaXpress, and the Portland Music Awards. Since that first iconic show in 2007, The Slants have been cited as the "Hardest Working Asian American Band" (slanteyefortheroundeye.com), toured North America ten times, rejected a million dollar recording contract, were the first and only Asian band to be a Fender Music artist, and according to U.S Congress, the first rock band to play inside a state library.
The Willamette Week, summarizes The Slants' history: "It's a great story: All-Asian synthcore troupe lands anime festival, achieves instantaneous notoriety from overpacked fireball-laden maelstrom, inspires John Woo and Dragon Ball Z fans toward aggro electro and--just months after its first practice--books gigs across the globe. As shadow-warriory as the Slants' rise has been, it's still all about the tunes, and the band's debut--floor-filling synth pop bristling with all the menace and grandeur of its oft name-checked cultural icons--is propulsive, cinematic and impossible to ignore."
By the end of 2008, the band had been featured in over 1,200 magazines, radio stations, websites, and television shows for their self-proclaimed "Chinatown Dance Rock," including a feature on NPR's "All Things Considered" that blasted across 700 FM stations across the country for months.
The following year, The Slants headlined a SXSW showcase (other acts at the festival included Katy Perry, Metallica, and Devo), launched several more tours spanning North America, and released a dance remix album entitled "Slants! Slants! Revolution," while donating 100% of the proceeds to benefit cancer research affecting Asian American women.
2010 saw the release of The Slants' third album, "Pageantry." Pageantry featured a number of local icons including Cory Gray (The Decemberists), Krista Herring, Mic Crenshaw, and Gabe Kniffin (Silversafe). The harder hitting, guitar driven songs still featured The Slants' signature dance rock flavor and touring followed.
In 2012, The Slants released The Yellow Album.
The Slants have shared the stage with acts such as apl.de.ap (Black Eyed Peas), Vampire Weekend, Girl Talk, Girugamesh, M.O.V.E and Boom Boom Satellites.
On December 22nd, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of The Slants regarding the trademark case against the United States Trademark and Patent Office who had sought to prevent The Slants from trademarking their name considering it offensive towards people of Asian descent.