Get To Know: Naked Giants

2018 has already been a whirlwind for the Seattle trio Naked GiantsBetween releasing their debut album, touring Europe with Car Seat Headrest, and playing new cities for the first time, it’s certainly been a year of career landmarks, and things aren’t slowing down for the band any time soon.

Back in May, the group played Chicago for the first time, packing Schubas Tavern on a Saturday night. Just as the audience warmly welcomed Naked Giants to their city, the band made sure everyone in the crowd had a great time by periodically checking in to make sure everyone felt comfortable, promoting a completely safe space at their show.

Before the show began that night, I had a chat with the band, talking everything from movie soundtracks, their bucket lists, starting a New West Records super group, and their proactive songwriting habits. For all that and more, get to know Naked Giants now.

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Naked Giants is Gianni Aiello, Grant Mullen, and Henry LaVallee

THEIR FIRST MUSICAL MEMORIES HEAVILY INVOLVE MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS

The three members of Naked Giants all remember getting into music at different ages, but there’s a common thread in all of their introductions to music. Gianni Aiello says he remembers laying in his dad’s bed with a green iPod listening to “Human” by The Killers, but adds “Before that I really liked the SpongeBob Movie soundtrack. That had some tunes on it. When I look back on it, it’s like Flaming Lips, Ween, Avril Lavigne, Wilco… It’s a pretty cool soundtrack.”

Drummer Henry LaVallee also had early memories of movie scores. “I remember this movie called Bedknobs and Broomsticks, with Angela Lansbury,” LaVallee says, animatedly describing the film. “It’s like an old Disney movie from the 70’s, it took place in Britain during World War II. It was like a musical, but it was one of those trippy ones where the first act is all humans, and then at the start of the second act, they go into a cartoon world. So these humans are interacting with—it’s like Roger Rabbit. Then they get out of this cartoon world, but it follows this Medieval story book and it’s a really good movie honestly. These kids are orphaned from the war and then Angela Lansbury is like a witch and she takes them in.” Aiello interjects at one point to ask if it’s like Nanny McPhee, and LaVallee continues, “Little bit, little bit. Then the kids don’t believe in magic and they think Angela sucks, but then she’s actually badass. They also all sing together. And Angela doesn’t like the kids either, she’s forced to have them, but then they’re all really chummy by the end of it and they fight off the Nazis with magic at the very end and it’s really cool. But the music in that [inspired me]. So we used to watch that, it was a great summertime movie. Or Meatballs with Bill Murray and the songs in that!”

As for guitarist Grant Mullen’s first musical memories, he recalls having a tiny Casio keyboard. “They’re really small and they sound really weird. I just remember playing really scary music, cause you know it’s really easy to play music like that when you have no idea what you’re doing. I was probably 4 or 5 when my parents got me that.”

THEY’VE PLAYED SXSW THE LAST THREE YEARS

SXSW usually does quite the number on bands with schedules involving multiple shows a day all around town, but Naked Giants hasn’t let that madness deter them from returning to Austin for the last three years in March. However, they all agree that this year had been the best by far, confirming that the third time really is a charm. “It was better in every way. We played better shows on average, there were people at the shows. We got to stay with our friends Ron Gallo. We had some good connections. We made some friends…The Do512 people who are all super nice. We’re actually gonna see one of them in New York cause their other coworkers [DoNYC] are there. Just in general it was a good vibe. Just like the flow and all of that,” Aiello said.

Mullen mentions that the group got to see their label-mate Caroline Rose for the first time at this past SXSW. “Meeting her was kind of like meeting a cousin. It was like oh, we’re probably gonna get along. You know? It weirdly reminded me of that. And we totally did, I thought,” LaVallee added.

THEY WANT TO START A NEW WEST RECORDS SUPER GROUP

Speaking of New West Records label-mates, if you’ve ever seen some of the label’s artists like Naked Giants, Caroline Rose, and Ron Gallo perform live, you might have realized that they all have an unforgettable stage presence. Well, Naked Giants has also recognized that trait about themselves and their extended record label family too. “I realized after seeing Caroline, and after touring with Ron, that New West Records–what they really love is gimmicks. We have the whole smorgasbord of everything we do on stage. Ron’s got the whole trumpet thing and playing a guitar with a skateboard or whatever. Caroline and her band have the outfits and the end of her show where she pulls out the recorder. So New West wants something that people will remember,” Aiello says. Mullen interjects to say, “People that don’t take themselves too seriously.” Aiello continues, “Exactly, that. So I had this dream of forming a super group of all 3 of our bands. I don’t know what the music would sound like…”

While they may have no idea what it will sound like, they do have some idea of the band name, and how it could work. “What if the name was Mick and the Gimme Gimmes?” LaVallee suggests. “That’s good, gimme more! There’s this band called Superorganism and they’re like a collective thing, but they would send music across different countries. Like one of them lived in England and one of them lived in Greenland, I don’t know if anyone lives in Greenland… But I would imagine it would be something like that [where we send music to each other],” Aiello ponders about the structure of the group.

THEIR FAVORITE PERFORMERS RANGE FROM THE LEMON TWIGS TO FREDDIE MERCURY

Speaking of memorable stage presence, the members of Naked Giants always seem to give 200 percent of their energy whenever they perform. So whose stage presence do they admire the most? “Freddie Mercury,” LaVallee says, adding that he tries his best to be the “Freddie Mercury of the drum kit.”

“I was just talking to somebody yesterday about The Lemon Twigs,” Aiello says. “I haven’t seen them live yet, but I’ve seen videos and that one kid’s got some really good kicks. So I started doing kicks after I saw that.”

Mullen adds, “I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this, but now that I think about it, early White Stripes, Jack White stage presence. Cause he just you know, looked so almost like, he had mixed emotions while he was playing. He didn’t want the crowd to even look at him. Cause he didn’t like being there, but he really wanted to tell them something really important. Which was I’m a white guy singing the blues. Something about that, like he has this weird vibe that I remember thinking was really cool when I would watch them play. Now when I watch modern Jack White, I still like him, but it comes off as a little pretentious doing it twenty years.”

Aiello also mentions that the group caught [Thee] Oh Sees’ set at Sasquatch festival and realized that’s where Grant gets all his stuff.  “[John Dwyer] looks like a lizard man too, but he surprisingly doesn’t move that much. He just does weird little gimmicks, like spits in the air and catches it in his mouth. Something I also steal from him is the mouth around the microphone. He really throats that thing,” Mullen says. If you still have yet to see Naked Giants live, you can get a glimpse of their energetic stage presence from the photos below of their Schubas show.

 THEY’RE NOT PROCRASTINATORS WHEN IT COMES TO ALBUM WRITING

Naked Giants’ debut album just came out in March this year, but despite their busy touring schedule, the band has already started working on new material. Rewinding back to the release of the first album, Mullen says, “It’s just good to get it out. So people can listen to twelve of our songs in a row now…. If they want to. They all sound pretty similar production wise…They’re all one package that you can experience our songs. Before everyone was like who is this band? Like I’ve heard of them, but they just have six songs on an EP, what’s the deal? And now we have an album.”

“The best response was a review on some online magazine, and it was a really nice review. They were like we really like this album, love all the tracks, and then they called the album Slush instead of Sluff,” Aiello chimes in. While the group were happy to finally get out a cohesive catalog of their music that’s been well received, rather than relishing in the debut, they’re eager to get out even more material. “We actually just recorded nine demos in the week and a half we had off between tours. One actual song that’s gonna hopefully be a single in the fall or something like that,” Aiello continues, highlighting the group’s work ethic.

Despite their eagerness to release new material, don’t get too excited for their sophomore album just yet; Mullen disclaimed they potentially have sixteen months of promoting and touring backing their first record. “It’s never a bad idea to just have the next one done,” Aiello says about their sophomore effort, mentioning that they’re only that proactive when it comes to making music.  “In all other areas of life we are [procrastinators]. We like to make albums.”

THEIR MUSIC CONTAINS EASTER EGGS 

The trio has even gone as far as constructing a loose common theme throughout the new material. “It’s secret though,” Mullen says, but Aiello hints that their might be some clues in the last song of the first album. Going back to their love of film, the band admits they’re fans of putting easter eggs in their work, which is a common factor in movie and tv series. “Once all the albums are out, if you really like our band, you’ll be able to find all these things and nerd out about [the Easter eggs],” Mullen reveals. At this point, LaVallee pointed to an Alfred Hitchcock book under the green room coffee table, saying the book was a good hint to their future work without using any words. Elaborating on the connection of film and their music, Mullen adds, “I feel like a lot of times I get inspired by the feeling I get from watching a movie. If it’s very dark, I might be in that place for a while. I don’t do it consciously.”

The group also says they’ve tossed around the idea of a TV show for the band. “Like a Naked Giants TV show, we’re always thinking how to make that work. We might have to start it as a web series. Then for one of the future albums we have planned, we’re hoping to do a visual album.”

THEY PERFORM DOUBLE DUTY WITH CAR SEAT HEADREST

This year, Naked Giants got the opportunity to not only open for Car Seat Headrest, but to join Will Toledo’s live lineup during Car Seat’s set on the tour. The gig has certainly added to the band’s workload on tour, but it’s also given them the opportunity to cross a lot of places and goals off their bucket list. This year, Naked Giants has already toured Europe and performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,  and they’ll be continuing on another double duty tour this fall in The States.

While the band is grateful for all the career-highlight opportunities they’ve had with Car Seat Headrest, they remain ambitious to achieve the same feats as Naked Giants too. This fall, they’ll be playing their first major conventional festival when they return to Austin for Austin City Limits. “We’re doing this whole thing with Car Seat Headrest, going to Europe….but ACL is the kind of first big step that’s just Naked Giants. I mean of course we’ve done SX and that kind of stuff, but there’s a huge difference when you start doing the festival circuits. Then that gives me hope for next year, maybe in the summer, we’ll start doing Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc…” Aiello says. They’re also keen to cross off all of the Seattle staples from their list, naming The Neptune and The Paramount Theatre as the ultimate goals.



Check out Naked Giants’ upcoming tour dates here (Chicago, they’ll be at The Riviera on September 7th), and order your own copy of Sluff here. 

 

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Shame

If you’ve ever attended SXSW, you know that it’s not like any ol’ regular music festival with set stages and scheduled performance times; There’s super official secret shows with big name artists, last minute pop up shows, unofficial showcases by new artists in the most random places around town, and multiple sets by the same artists in a single day. This past March, I finally attended my first ever SXSW and quickly learned just how unconventional this festival can be when I found myself interviewing Charlie Steen of the British punk band Shame at 1 AM after my friend had just cut his hair (as well as his bandmates’ hair) into a mullet.

Easily one of the buzziest bands at the festival, Shame has been soaring high since the January release of their debut album Songs of Praise, which has in fact been receiving endless praise from listeners around the world. This summer, Shame will return to The States to play a handful of dates, including a show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle as well as the annual West Fest street fest. Before they return to Chicago in July, get to know the band better by checking out these six facts I learned while chatting with Steen earlier this year.

 Photo by Holly Whitaker
Photo by Holly Whitaker

THEY RECORDED IN THE LEGENDARY ROCKFIELD STUDIOS

With the amount of buzz they’ve garnered and the sheer amount of gigs and festivals Shame has played, you might be surprised to find out that the members of Shame are only 20 and 21 years old. Before they started touring heavily, the band worked on writing their debut album for a few years, starting at the ages of 16 and 17. “We were still in school, and we recorded the album when we were 20,” Steen says.

Talking about the process behind writing the album, Steen continues, “Lyrically, it was about personal sort of things you experience in that time as well social observations. Musically, it was influenced by what we were exposed to in that period. All the different bands we discovered through just being that age and being into music.” Once they had written the album, the band took a trip to the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales to record the tracks. “It was kind of like rehab,” Steen says about the middle-of-nowhere location of the studio, where they resided for ten days. “We’re quite bad at distractions. So, we were on a farm, and this place is like a historic studio. Oasis, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Led Zeppelin, all these people recorded there. Not many people go there now…Because everyone seems to just record with their laptop or a studio in London,” he says, pausing to describe the scene. “You have like a farm, and then you have a house up top. That’s where we stayed, we each had our own room. Then you walk past the stables and stuff like that and there’s a recording studio. I was up at the house, and I did all of my vocals in my bedroom with a bed sheet over me, onto an Apple Mac. The rest of the band, they did everything to a click [in the studio].”

Prior to their work at Rockfield Studios, Steen recalls working their way through several different producers in order to finally get the right fit with Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy. “I’m not a musician, so I don’t want to put my foot in a shoe that won’t fit, but before that, we’d worked with eight different producers. They all had done the same method of ‘you’re a live band, let’s try to make you sound like some punk band from the 80’s where you record it live.’ That wasn’t how it worked best. Dan and Nathan are from an electronic background, techno producers…They did it a completely unique and different way. Like Charlie, our drummer, he recorded his drum kit individually, each song. They saw it in the same way that fits our music, where the bass and the drums are the pulse and that was very important,” Steen says. “We then realized through trial and error that the best way to approach it for us, was to try to create something completely different to our live sound. So they’re two different things. Sometimes people say it sounds like it does live, but to us it’s a great difference than how it sounds on the record. It’s a lot more concise,” he continues.

THEY ADMIT THEIR MUSIC IS DERIVATIVE, BUT THEY STILL ENJOY IT

One of the most compelling features of Shame’s music is the incredibly raw, honest quality of their songwriting. Reflecting on their style of writing, Steen says, “With the type of music we’re doing…we’re a guitar punk band in 2018. We’re very aware it’s very derivative. There’s no way we could ever deny that. I think with us–I’ve said this before, with bands and artists we might be compared to, and those that might have heavily influenced us, we’ll never have been able to experience it. That’s amazing for us. When we get to see bands like Goat Girl and Sorry and stuff, it’s amazing that we can experience it. For us, it does feel new and refreshing.” Ultimately, they were never trying to be someone else when they started writing, and they’re still just trying to stick to their own vision. “At the end of the day, we never did this with dreams of like having 5-star hotels. It wasn’t ever manufactured. It was all just part of the process. We are just very passionate about music and we know that it’s been done before, but we enjoy doing it. I think the main thing is we don’t write music for anyone other than ourselves. At the end of the day, this is entertainment and we really enjoy it. We’re having a laugh,” Steen adds.

In addition to being authentic, Shame strives to keep their sound and vision multifaceted. “I think one of the preconceptions of a punk guitar band is aggression. Which you know could be lost in translation from energy or passion, or humor at times. That’s something we want to separate. Of course there are issues we’re angry about, but we don’t want to be a band that just conveys one emotion. That’s not human. We want to be able to express humor and melancholy,” Steen says. As they keep pushing to diversify their sound, they also keep pushing themselves to grow and adapt. “We’re very self aware. When we did that album we were teenage boys…that was when we wrote that album. We know now that a lot has changed in our personal lives, which also reflects in the general absurdity of being in a band. It’s just a weird life to live. You feel very temporary. At all times. We basically just want to adapt and evolve. We don’t wanna write the same songs we did before,” he says, adding that their constantly changing environment deeply affects them as a band and as people.

THEIR REHEARSAL SPACE LED THEM TO DISCOVER MUSIC IN A NEW LIGHT

In addition to recording in a legendary music space, Shame also first formed in the rehearsal space of the legendary Queen’s Head in Brixton, which is where the likes of Fat White Family rehearsed as well.

Steen attributes their early rehearsal space to some of their current habits as music fans, saying, “When we started in the Queen’s Head…This is one of the differences; Before, we’d grown up going to venues like Brixton Academy, really large venues like that and seeing bands who had already established themselves in a position of accomplishment. When we went to go to the Queen’s Head, personally I was able to discover bands who were playing a lot more intimate settings. Not known world wide. The realization that great music exists with an accessibility to a more intimate setting is a sort of relief.”

“These were bands who, you say what you want them about personalities, but they were characters. It wasn’t just some pop culture. When you grow up and you’ve only ever seen the bands who perform on a platform of success, you can sometimes overlook the reality of a lot of situations. Of course everyone grew up listening to The Ruts and Stiff Little Fingers. So we knew about these bands, but to get to know them. You realize they’re people. And I think their intentions to do whatever the fuck they wanted…they’d gone past the point of remorse. Which was the best thing about it,” Steen continues.

THEIR STAGE PRESENCE IS JUST AN AMPLIFIED VERSION OF THEMSELVES

The same sense of authenticity that Shame’s music has transfers over into their live shows; at SXSW, Steen often told their audiences to loosen up and smile, saying “this is entertainment.” Steen says he never feels intimidated to get up onstage and deliver such a transparent show. “When I was younger, and I say younger as in like a year ago, I definitely had idolized a lot of people. Then I found that to be quite damaging because you gain this obsession and sort of like–” Steen pauses and snaps his fingers, trying to think of the best way to phrase it. “It’s unattainable identity. At that period, when we play, it’s definitely to an extent a persona. It’s who I am, but amplified,” he continues.

Essentially, their stage presence will continue to remain an extension of themselves. Steen muses further on the concept of immense stage personalities, saying, “When I would look up to all these people like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed or whatever like, it was always…if you’re constantly comparing yourself, that’s what I found damaging. I think like I was saying, I don’t believe anything can be separated from context. At this age as well, you’re in the middle of this identity crisis, so you want to absorb all of these different personalities and be these people you obsess over. Then it got to the point where I’d just rather be myself. I was just this chubby, shy stoner as a teenager. When we used to play, that was the whole point: If you’ve been insulted so much your whole life, what have you got to lose?”

TOURING HAS TAUGHT THEM THEIR LIMITS

Shame just finished another UK and European tour after returning from a North American run, which saw them playing upwards of five shows in a day at this year’s SXSW, but believe it or not their recent touring schedule is nothing compared to the previous year. “Last year we did like 140 gigs and 57 festivals in 3 months, like whilst recording an album and doing 5 tours. By the end I got a bit broken mentally,” Steen says. “It’s hereditary but I suffer from anxiety so now I can only speak for myself…On the road, I don’t drink as much and don’t do drugs as much as we used to. Every night used to be a party. I sound like an old man,” he laughs. “I feel like an old man. So that’s how I kind of deal with it.”

Their intense past experiences ended up acting as a learning experience, where Steen personally discovered where his breaking point is. “The period of what I went through in December, where we ended up having to cancel this tour in Germany, I learned a lot more about myself than I have in my entire life. So I know when is too much. I know when I need a good night’s sleep. Like I need a good night’s sleep now, but it’s a celebration. I know what I need to do. I guess I sort of learned the value of responsibility a bit more. As a person, and this is a little bit hypocritical of me to say after saying that, but I can’t do moderation. I can’t do it at all. So I know that if I have one drink, I won’t drink until I fall asleep. And I can’t do one line. I’ll do it until it runs out. I can’t do that. If I’m not doing that, I can’t do anything. So it’s either one or the other, but that’s me as a person,” he says.

While Steen may have personally learned to rein in his limits, he also realizes as a band they have to compromise sometimes. “We’ve known each other since we were kids. Sean has been my best mate since we were 8. We understand each other very well. I don’t particularly like playing a lot of shows, for my own personal reasons. If the rest of the band wants to do it, you have to find a middle ground. After what happened we’re looking through a sharper lens about how many gigs we do. So like this festival season we slashed loads of festivals cause it’s not worth flying from Poland to play to 40 people in Kent to fly back to the Ukraine the next day.”

As far as the biggest lesson that Steen has learned about the band through the years, besides learning his limits, he says, “You kind of lose a lot–this might sound very dramatic, but you kind of lose a lot of human rights. And by that, I don’t mean like I’m shackled in chains in a 4×4 room. I mean, in terms of you kind of lose the things that make you feel human. Eating a meal with your mum and dad or like going for a drink with your friends. You lose people you love, your friends and family. It sort of disappears. Familiarity becomes an abstract ideology. I still don’t think I know a lot about myself. I think as people we know each other so well, we [the band] went beyond friendship about 2 years ago. It’s almost like a cult. I guess, I don’t know, you have to deal with everything you deal within a normal life, like breaking up with someone, moving out of home… you have to do that through the band. The biggest amount of privacy I get is when I go to the toilet. Fact. For 6 and a half weeks. So I think you lose privacy. But you know I’m saying all this and we fucking enjoy it and we love it. Whatever we have to lose at this particular moment in time, personally, I feel is because we want to do this. I want to do this. We want to do this to the best of our ability.”

THEY’LL ALWAYS USE THEIR PLATFORM IN A POSITIVE WAY

Through their music, social media, and even past interviews, the members of Shame have made it clear that they’ll never shy away from standing up for what’s right. At one of their shows at SXSW, Steen jumped off stage mid-show to tell off an audience member who had gotten aggressive with some of the other crowd members. Touching on their habit to speak out, Steen says, “As a person, and a white man, we don’t want to…I don’t want to be the spokesperson for any problem or any inequalities with girls, or race, or religion. But as a human being, I don’t understand how you could not want to support all these people and fight against any inequality. I think we all feel it’s disgusting for anyone who has any sort of platform to not [use it].”

Steen also reflects on the tendency of the press to label them as a political band, but says they never saw it like that; they just realize it’s something that directly effects them. “At the end of the day, it’s the biggest bullshit that a person could say ‘I’m not political.’ Everyone has politics, it’s just whether or not they choose to share them. How could you not talk about it? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense to me. There are a lot of great bands who will speak on these issues, and I think particularly in the current climate, in the music industry, and every industry, but this is the one we’re most absorbed in because this is our life.” He continues, shouting out people like Princess Nokia who speak out on all these issues, adding, “As a guy, like who is constantly surrounded by the music industry all the time, it is without a doubt and without question, majority middle class, white men. That’s how it’s been for probably just under 100 years. With the birth of pop culture, all of these unforgivable acts of discrimination were erupted that weren’t extinguished. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but they should have been addressed and destroyed when it came out.”

Lastly, Steen asks that everyone remains respectful of others when they come to shows, especially one of their gigs. “At a guitar gig, like a mosh pit, it’s mainly like male aggression taken out. We don’t fucking want that at our shows. Like it’s a safe environment. I’ve never won a fight, I’ve only ever been beaten up. Honestly. We’re not the jocks, we’re not the cool kids, we’re the people who just want to enjoy ourselves and we want everyone else to enjoy themselves as well. It’s not fucking hard, it’s not a lot to ask. If you’re an asshole, don’t come to our show.”


Make sure you grab your tickets to Shame’s show at The Empty Bottle here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

You can also order your own copy of Songs of Praise here!

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Slow Pulp

The four members of Madison-based outfit Slow Pulp craft memorable songs with their ability to seamlessly blend dreamy vocals with psychedelic tones, pop melodies, and a dash of cheeky, punk attitude. Since the band self-released EP2 last March, the songs on the EP have made their way onto curated Spotify playlists and collectively racked up over 200,000 plays, standing out among the masses of young, indie bands. And rightfully so; there’s something about Slow Pulp that instantly clicks with listeners and fans of live music alike. Their live show captivatingly translates their recorded music to the stage, giving them a magnetic presence.

This past weekend, Slow Pulp warmed up the stage for their friends Post Animal and will join them again on select dates in the summer.  It’s only a matter of time before they’re playing even bigger shows to new audiences across the country, so before they blow up, get to know Slow Pulp first with these five facts we learned while chatting to them at Daytrotter last month!

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SCHOOL OF ROCK IS THE REASON THEY’RE PLAYING MUSIC

Well, one of them anyways. Lead singer Emily Massey admits that the Jack Black film is the reason she started taking guitar lessons, but says her past with music stems back to a very early age. “My dad is a musician so I have been playing music and performing for pretty much my whole life,” Massey says.  “The first time I sang onstage, I was like one and a half….I don’t remember that. I remember doing a talent show in kindergarten. I really didn’t want to do it, my parents made me do it. I was crying before I went and sang. I sang ‘This Little Light of Mine’,” she recalls, adding that her dad produced a hip-hop, R&B instrumental track of the song for her to sing along to. Although she initially dreaded it, Massey learned to love performing during that experience. “This was at Emerson Elementary school in Madison, WI. Talent show. Kindergarten. I was five and I had the time of my life playing onstage.”

Guitarist Henry Stoehr says his venture into playing music started a little later than that. “Alex [Leeds] and I were just talking about this earlier actually, but I think it was 6th grade for me. We went to see Modest Mouse in Madison, and this band called Man Man opened for them. I feel like that was the first really strange music I heard, or at least saw live. I don’t know exactly what it did, but I felt like it–I started caring about things I didn’t care about that before,” he says.

Bassist Alex Leeds chimes in, saying the Man Man show created an existential moment for him as well. “It was better than Modest Mouse, it was crazy. I don’t think it made me want to play music… It changed the kind of music that I wanted to make.” Leeds continued on, shouting out School of Rock. “I was playing cello in the strings program in my elementary school, and when Jack Black said ‘Cello, you’ve got a bass,’ I was like that’s what I’m gonna do! Then I got a 2×4 and I put some front marks on it and started practicing some Beatles songs and played in the school show that year on the bass.”

THEIR FRIENDSHIP WITH POST ANIMAL TRACES BACK TO SIXTH GRADE

Slow Pulp and Post Animal have shared the stage many times, but the friendship roots between some of the band members dig deep. Throughout the course of my talk with Slow Pulp after their show at Daytrotter, members of Post Animal would pop by to chime in. “Six grade chemistry,” Post Animal guitarist Javi Reyes interjects; explaining that Leeds, Stoehr, and drummer Teddy Matthews have so much chemistry as a group because they’ve been playing together since sixth grade.

That same sense of chemistry transfers to a strong bond with Post Animal, too. “Jake [Hirshland] actually played with one of Henry, Alex and I’s band in high school,” Matthews says. Besides playing in bands with each other, the members of both bands also share an instrumental bond. “I gotta give a shout out to my dad…He made Jake Hirshland and Emily’s guitars…and the bass that I play,” Leeds says.

Despite all the history, the current day line up of Slow Pulp actually hasn’t been around that long, with Emily Massey being the most recent addition. “It’s been about a year and a half,” says Stoehr. “We took this trip to Philly and just played two shows. That was the end of 2016.”

“[After those shows,] they were like wait, Emily is okay. She can stay. I started in this band as rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist. Then it evolved. Now I’m a lead guitarist and vocalist,” Massey adds.

THEY’RE MOVING TO….

Just like their lineup has changed over time, Slow Pulp’s home base will soon change. Although they’re currently based in Madison, Slow Pulp has already garnered buzz in Chicago by playing shows ranging from DIY gigs at Observatory to support slots at staples around the city, like Beat Kitchen and Lincoln Hall. It won’t be long until the group continues to tick off more and more Chicago venues from their list, though, since they’re moving here!

“There’s a rumor flying around,” says Massey. “It is true. We are moving to Chicago. Over Summer/Fall/Winter,” she continues. At the moment, Massey, Matthews, and Stoehr are currently Madison based, while Leeds lives in Minneapolis. Come September, the band will still be somewhat divided, but not for long. “The three of them, Emily, Henry and Alex, are moving to Chicago in September…then I’m still in school til January,” says Matthews.

The band members say they’re all excited to be based in one place again by the end of the year, but they still have a lot of love for the Madison music scene. “One thing I was talking about on the way down here about the Madison scene… we were noticing differences between the Madison scene and the Minneapolis scene specifically, but I think it might apply more broadly than that… People, when they come out to shows, in my experience, realize that they’re also performers in that situation. And give a lot to the bands. In Madison,” Leeds says. “I love playing in Madison for that reason. It’s a very responsive crowd and we feed off that and off each other. I don’t experience that anywhere else,” he continues.

“It can also change very drastically very fast. It’s like, most of the young people are there for a few years for school. It definitely feels like the music scene changes every few years,” Stoehr adds.

THEIR INFLUENCES RANGE FROM ST. VINCENT TO THEE OH SEES

Slow Pulp possesses a refreshingly unique aura onstage, but they have an array of artists whose stage presence they admire and get inspired by. The group all simultaneously agree on loving the stage presence of TOPS. “I’ve loved their music for a long time, and when I went to go see them live, I was unsure what to expect, but I was blown away. They have a really cool way of presenting chill music in an exciting way,” Leeds says.

“I think mine are maybe Thee Oh Sees cause they’re so nuts. Then Omni because they’re so controlled,” Stoehr says. The group also all agree on Omni and Khruangbin as huge inspirations, calling the latter the “psychedelic Preatures.”

Lastly, Massey throws out some more inspiration from all across the genre-sphere, starting off with her old pals. “Post Animal! Javier Reyes is my favorite onstage live performer. He goes hard,” she says, continuing, “I’ve seen St. Vincent play, and that was a life changing show. It was so theatrical.” She pauses, adding “David Bowie forever!” to round things out.

THEY’RE ALSO VISUAL ARTISTS

While making their music, Slow Pulp is usually heavily influenced by tones, colors, and visual art. The link to visual art inspiring their sonic scapes comes from the band members all dabbling in art themselves, and that also comes across clearly in the vision behind their “Preoccupied” music video.

“We were very involved with it,” Massey says about conceptualizing the video, and the band members all explain that they had a fleshed out concept, but the process remained flexible and fluid throughout the day. “We kept coming up with ideas as we were filming,” Massey adds, also shouting out their friend and director Damien Blue for helping with vision.

The band’s artistic vision and flexibility to work through ideas transfers into their writing process as well. “I think we definitely talk about music in a visual way, and use visual art that we like as reference points for emotions,” Stoehr says. “I think especially with colors. We talk about colors a lot in that way– And I think we usually get it, in terms of colors…We’ll be like ‘I want this song to be brown’,” Massey elaborates.

“I think the way I think of songwriting is pretty similar to painting. At least for me they’re very problem-solving oriented and reacting to what you’ve just done. In a really immediate sense. You kind of just make decisions,” Stoehr adds. Even with their somewhat long-distance writing situation, with Leeds residing in Minneapolis, the band say they focus on writing music with their live show in mind. “Even in our current situation, we’re still trying to write songs that are live songs,” they say.



There you have it! As for the new music and material that the band have been working on, they say they still aren’t exactly sure when it will be released. At the moment they’re working through the different pieces they’ve created, trying to thread them together in a way that makes the most sense.

While you wait for this new content, make sure you catch Slow Pulp in concert this summer. See all of their tour dates here.


This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine