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 weekend and on select dates in the summer, Slow Pulp with warm up the stage for their friends Post Animal, and it's only a matter of time before they're playing even bigger shows to new audiences across the country. Before they blow up, get to know Slow Pulp first with these five facts we learned while chatting to them at Daytrotter last month!
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 2x4 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.