It’s difficult to tell which is SLIMFIT’s greater trick – caring so little, and yet ending up with such airtight, honest, it’s-in-the-blood alt-country songs, or caring so much, and ending up with such an effortless-sounding, whiskey-soaked, can’t-be-forced genuineness.
Ultimately, SLIMFIT sound exactly like what they are: a group of long-time friends with a shared affinity for fringe country, punk rock spirit, piss beer, camping trips and Bell Biv DeVoe T-shirts. But the music is something that extends far beyond what these five Lancaster, PA, boys should ostensibly be capable of. Flannel shirts and short hair be damned – these guys rock the living shit out of each song, whether it’s a sweet, dusty ballad or a scorching barroom stomp. The music is deceptively simple, joyously feral – it’s rock-solid songwriting at its most basic and visceral, exploited in all the right ways with cascading Telecasters and a soldiering rhythm section.
The band’s rollicking collision of meat and potatoes songwriting and punch-drunk delivery has never been more vibrant than on SLIMFIT’s debut full-length, Make it Worse. On it, you can hear UNCLE TUPELO’s fervor, STEVE EARLE’s rasp, TOM PETTY’s jangley pop and, if you put your ear to the ground, whispers of co-songwriters Joey McMonagle and Pat Kirchner’s other influences, including SUPERDRAG and DESCENDENTS. “Make it Worse is a complete love record,” says Kirchner, who plays electric guitar. While he’s referring to love of the fairer sex in the lyrics, he’s also alluding to the labor of love that these lifelong friends took on while writing and recording Make it Worse. “The way we write songs and the way we interact is a testament to our friendship,” McMonagle adds. “I can’t imagine being in a band where we’re not all best friends.”
In light of their tongue-in-cheek writing style, it might be difficult to believe that roots rockers SLIMFIT actually take themselves seriously. The band’s live shows ooze with fun and a devil-may-care attitude, climaxing with as many as three consecutive “bull-rushes” – a SLIMFIT specialty, during which Kirchner, co-guitarist Sam Gorgone, bassist Sean Harmann, or even drummer Tony Kirchner dives between frontman Joey McMonagle’s gangly legs like a greased piglet. It’s all sloppy, drunken fun … riding on the shoulders of meticulous, timeless roots-rock songwriting that hammers home the band’s ultimate dedication to their craft. They bled these songs out, and now they’re gonna dance to them.
At the same time, SLIMFIT also take themselves far less seriously than another band in their situation might. Regardless of – or perhaps because of – the band’s collective attitude, fans of all demographics have been flocking to the band’s raucous shows and shaking their asses on dance floors big and small, from dive bars to packed-out clubs. Even XPN, the nationally recognized leader in Triple-A Radio, has decided to champion the band, giving them regular airplay and naming SLIMFIT an Artist of the Day. And yet, one gets the distinct impression that these guys would just as soon down a case of PBR by a creek and have a rock-throwing contest than put on the airs of a rock star.
In fact, in SLIMFIT’s world, rock-throwing contests are pretty much par for the course. “Killing time before a couple of shows, we had some competitions where each band member had to throw a rock as far as he could across the river with his weak hand,” Kirchner recalls. “These were sort of definitive moments in our band – the sloppy, full-on, heart of Slimfit. You’re trying so hard, and laughing because you didn’t quite make the mark – not taking pride in the fact that you’re underachieving, but finding joy in the process of trying in the first place.”
The point is, trying hard without actually trying too hard. But maybe SLIMFIT have no real trick in what they do. It’s just what happens when five best friends pool their common influences, grease it up with some PBR and make music for the purest reasons of all: It’s fun, and they couldn’t stop if they tried.