Slow Pulp's Big Move

Photos by  Michael Salisbury

Upon our mid-afternoon arrival at Slow Pulp’s residence, drummer Teddy Mathews greeted us at the front gate with the warmth of a long-time friend. He proceeded to lead us up a single flight of stairs into a creative haven lined with paintings, posters, plants and colorful decor. Yet, it was the abundance of keyboards, guitars and recording equipment resting against the living room walls or tucked underneath the long mocha couch that gave the space its novel charm.

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Mathews no longer inhabits the Slow Pulp residence with his band mates (as he now lives with friends from Post Animal) but for the first time since he, bassist Alex Leeds, vocalist/guitarist Emily Massey and guitarist Henry Stoehr decided to merge as a collective, the four friends claim the same city, Chicago, as their home. Their relocation from Madison, Wisconsin - no doubt a buzzing topic of 2018 - marked significant milestones for the band: the discovery of a more streamlined collaborative process and the release of their EP Big Day

We first heard of Slow Pulp’s plans for the year during our Artist To Watch 2019 coverage. It was then that the band explicitly promised the release of their next EP. A project anchored by upbeat guitar riffs and woozy vocals, the quartet neatly ties Big Day’s tracks to complete the indie/psychedelic sound it helms. The most fine-tuned collection of music they have produced to date, Big Day exists as an experimental body of work full of firsts as it maintains one theme throughout, rather than a collection of loosely related tracks. It’s a project Slow Pulp was eager and proud to share.

“We’re just trying to take the right steps to bring [this] to the next level and release content and music that we all feel collectively proud about, and put it out in smart ways”, explained Andrew, the band’s longtime friend and manager. He and the four band members explained that as the project was coming together, the tracks unintentionally revealed a reflective take.

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“[Big Day] is reflective without getting stuck in nostalgia. It’s [both] rooted and reflective… while thinking about growing and moving forward”, was the first of two standout statements from Alex Leeds. His response prompted the band to share the thought process behind their new EP and they explained the project kick-started through a conversation about what the instrumental of “Young World” meant to them. The concept of birthdays (an ode to the title Big Day) transitioned to recollections of first memories. While writing the lyrics to the project’s closing track, Emily found herself intrigued with the psychological intricacies of memories and the feelings that come with first experiences. “One of the lines [of ‘Young World’] talks about feeling excited for the first time, and how poignant and important that moment is in your life… but you don't remember what that feels like, and as you get older you have different experiences and different emotions that you are feeling for the first time.” 

Slow Pulp pulled “Young World’s” reflective tone and used it to guide the lyrical content of the remaining songs. In one of their conversations about Big Day, the band revisited “High” - a track Henry had written a few years ago - and found it fitting to the overall theme. What may have been most interesting to hear was the thorough thought behind “New Media”’, which originated from Emily’s 7th birthday and the classic childhood game Red Rover. The song represents a recognition of resilience when facing challenges in adulthood while a solution or answer to overcome those challenges is clear. “I can’t seem to break the fence/overacted in all my plans/I won’t think to change the pace/running on the same mistakes”. 

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This pensive approach taken while creating Big Day enforced an even stronger bond between our new neighbors. Whether Emily is working on melodies in her greenhouse-like room, Henry playing one of his few guitars or mixing from his desk, Teddy in studio spaces for drumming, or Alex describing the band’s peaceful cabin retreats in Michigan, each member knows what the others need to be at their most creative. The process has never been more efficient.

As our afternoon conversation was nearing its end, we asked the band if they could pinpoint how it felt to be settled in the Windy city and how it felt to fully welcome this new chapter. Alex spoke for the band, making the second of his two standout statements. He confidently said the feeling “… sounds like this EP".