Don’t ask Atmosphere’s Slug to explain the meaning of “Became,” a standout selection from his group’s new album, “The Family Sign.”
“I have this thing where I feel wrong about interpreting these songs because I feel like it’s better for people to find their own interpretations,” Slug says. “I don’t feel comfortable giving that interpretation. I usually try to write songs so people will find their own.”
This has been a long-standing issue for Slug who -- with partner Ant -- emerged as Atmosphere in the mid ’90s. The song “God’s Bathroom Floor,” on 1997’s “Overcast!” EP, helped break Atmosphere in their native Minneapolis. Equally important, though, the song was also the first time that Slug had people approaching him with a number of different interpretations of his material.
“Prior to that song and my performing it, I was just another dude,” Slug says. “When I made that song, people were like, ‘Yo, I’m really feeling that. Is it about drugs?’ I just saw how different people went different directions with it. I was like, ‘Your interpretation of that song is apparent of who you are and where you’re at in your life and really it no longer has nothing to do with what I was thinking or visualizing.’"
Fans will certainly approach Slug with their own distinctive interpretations about “The Family Sign” songs. Lead single “Just For Show” has a roots reggae vibe and features Slug ostensibly complaining about his relationship with his girl, but could that relationship be a metaphor for something else?
Then there’s “Who I’ll Never Be.” The song features two characters who live next to one another, with the male neighbor listening to the music the female character creates. But is the song simply about music? Or not pursuing your dreams? Or not helping create something you deem important? Or something else?
Regardless of how Atmosphere devotees interpret his music, their doing so makes Slug believe that he’s achieving one of his creative objectives. Ever since “God’s Bathroom Floor,” he’s written certain songs with an open-endedness that creates this type of interaction with his fans.
“I was in my mid-20s and that shit was validating to me, that I was able to read into somebody or possibly their situation based off of what they think a song is about, one of my songs,” Slug says. “I liked it so it’s something that I still like to practice or exercise because, at the end of the day, it probably comes down to a selfish thing. That’s probably one of the little ways I validate myself, by trying to push that out of a listener. It’s like I’m stealing back from the listener kind of thing.”
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