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The Slip began their career firmly entrenched in the jam band scene, but as time passed, members changed, and tastes within the group shifted, they evolved into a guitar-heavy indie rock band. Founded in the early '90s at the Tabor Academy, a New England boarding school, the Slip originated as a classic rock cover band featuring the Barr brothers: Brad Barr on guitar and vocals and Andrew Barr on drums and percussion, as well as guitarist Jon Myers. After Brad's graduation in 1995, Andrew met up with bassist Marc Friedman in one of the school's jazz ensembles. When Brad returned from Colorado a year later, he began to play out with Myers, Friedman, and Andrew. Myers left the band, and the remaining trio enrolled at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA, but eventually dropped out to concentrate on playing professionally. By 1996, they self-released their debut album, From the Gecko, which was inspired by Miles Davis' seminal Bitches Brew. In the spring of 1999, Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks saw the band in concert and signed them to his new Flying Frog Records imprint, which released Does in 2000. After signing to Rykodisc the following year, the Slip issued Angels Come on Time — which was recorded in Phish's barn — in summer 2002.
The Slip's musical direction changed radically over the next few years, drawing on influences ranging from Can and U2 to Built to Spill and the Postal Service. A companion live set issued in 2003 on their own 216 Records, containing the albums Aliveacoustic and Alivelectric, reflected these changes. As they spent more time in their home studio, the Slip continued to move further away from their initial approach toward a more indie rock-inspired sound. In March 2005, the group began work on its fourth studio album with co-producer Mark Ellard; its first single, "Even Rats," was featured in the Playstation 2 game Guitar Hero. The band performed throughout the spring of 2005 under the moniker Surprise Me Mr. Davis, featuring Nathan Moore on vocals and guitar; they also continued to perform — sometimes in two-band shows along with Apollo Sunshine — using their original name of the Slip. Live at Lupo's, recorded live at a summer 2004 Rhode Island show, appeared in January 2005 before the Slip returned with a new full-length that showcased their new sound. Eisenhower was released in the fall of 2006 through Bar/None Records.