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Chicago rockers Slow Pulp find healing on debut album ‘Moveys’

We take you inside our favourite new albums with the artists who made them. We're sitting down with Chicago rockers Slow Pulp to chat about their debut album 'Moveys'.

Slow Pulp’s debut album Moveys is a true testament to the powerful art that can be created through adversity, of the healing and beauty that can only exist after overcoming – what may seem to be – impossible setbacks.  

The Chicago-based four-piece began working on new songs in mid-2019, right after the release of their EP Big Day, but after singer Emily Massey was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and chronic Mono, the band scrapped it all and started again. This time creating music more inline with the band’s – and Massey’s – new reality. 

The new album was starting to take shape, however in March, Massey’s parents were in a severe car accident forcing her to pause recording and return home to Madison, Wisconsin. Then, a week later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Slow Pulp shifted into gear once again, finishing the album miles apart and in isolation.

What resulted is Moveys, a 26-minute journey that reflects on the past, but isn’t weighed down by it. Instead,Moveys also looks to the future – it is as much about healing as it is about struggling, about winning small victories as it is about the fight to achieve them.

Awash with distorted, blistering guitars, dream pop melodies, and warm, layered soundscapes, Moveys couldn’t have come together with the unbreakable bond between every member of Slow Pulp. Truly a lifetime of friendship, Alexander Leeds (bass), Theodore Mathews (drums), and Henry Stoehr (guitar) have been performing in bands together since sixth grade, while Massey has been alongside them since Slow Pulp’s beginnings in 2017.

We sat down with Slow Pulp’s vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Emily Massey to learn more about their debut album and the journey to get to its release.

The Slow Pulp Story

From the beginning

Slow Pulp: “My parents actually found a notebook a couple of months ago with some of the first lyrics that I wrote when I was about 7 or 8. It was a very emotional track about being sad in the rain haha.  After that, I would write songs pretty sporadically only when it came naturally or as a way to procrastinate from something else I had to get done.

“It wasn’t until Slow Pulp that I really started to write music. The first songs that I had written with Henry, Teddy and Alex came about so easily but at a really slow pace. They were written more as a fun project here and there. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself as a front person of a band having to write a lot of music, and having no clue or no confidence to do so. It was a pretty difficult learning curve, and I’m still very much figuring it out. But, for the first time, I am so excited to write. For so long I was really afraid of it, or at least failing at it. Making this record gave me reassurance that I am capable of it. I can’t wait to make another one and learn even more.”

What you’ll hear

Slow Pulp: “When we set out to make this album we all wanted to make something pretty heavy and distorted. But when we started getting into a new groove of songwriting the sound became much more intimate and subdued. Before this record, we wrote songs by starting with a fully formed instrumental, and then I would add melody and lyrics to that. We found this process to be pretty challenging as we would also have to start over even if something small changed.

“For this album, all the songs instead started with guitar chords, melody and lyrics. Due to all of the difficult things I was processing during the making of this record, the songs came out much more emotionally driven and honest than the music we had written in the past. I was listening to a lot of folk music while writing, and I really wanted the songs to be able to stand on their own with just vocals and guitar. It still has a lot of shoegaze-heavy sounds like we set out to do, but there is this folk-country piece that ended up blending in as well.”

Influences & inspiration

Slow Pulp: “We had a lot of different inspirations. Musically, a few of us were listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac. Henry told us a story the other day about how he watched a documentary for the making of Rumors and that they recorded themselves tapping on their legs for a few songs, and how that helped him to open his view of what he could do production-wise on our album. I was listening to a lot of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell as we were touring around the West Coast.

“I think we all drew a lot of inspiration from the wide-open landscapes that we found ourselves in while touring. It was such a special time when things really started to click for us as a creative unit. We also talked a lot about movie soundtracks. ‘Whispers (In The Outfield)’ was inspired by the movie Rookie of the Year, and the music from Wild Thornberries was in discussion when we were working on the song ‘Track’.”

Inside the creative process

Slow Pulp: “The making of this record saw a lot of personal and logistical challenges. I think I can say that the album came to be in probably one of the hardest times thus far in my life. I was facing some of the worst mental health I have experienced, I got diagnosed with Lymes disease and chronic mono, my parents got into a horrible car accident, sending me back home to Madison right in the middle of the recording process to care for them, and then coronavirus.

“All that being said, I am so grateful to have had the time and support to make this album. My bandmates and our team were so understanding and loving, which helped to foster an environment that made me comfortable to open up creatively. Despite all the difficult things that were happening, the record somehow continued to be this positive force that helped me get through it all. I also got to work with my dad and spend so much time with my family, which was really healing and special.

“My creative process is always changing and I think it always will. That’s what’s exciting about making things, you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you’re in the thick of it, at least that’s something that I have found while making music. The biggest thing for me that has changed is confidence. At the beginning of this band, I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but felt like I was ok at pretending. I kind of stumbled my way into wanting to be a songwriter. For the first time, after finishing this record it is actually a goal. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was capable of writing enough things that I thought were worthy of an album, but somehow it happened. I owe so much to Henry, Alex and Teddy for trusting me before I trusted myself, I know that job must have been difficult for them. But we have all learned so much from making Moveys, we are ready to do it again.”

Tell us the story

Slow Pulp: “Lyrically this album is centred a lot about self-doubt and coming to terms with my mental health. When we started to write the record I had just come out of a pretty depressive state and for a long time, I felt like I couldn’t efficiently talk about it. The lyrics of this album is my way of explaining myself. There were so many twists and turns of life that I was experiencing, but I started to learn how to better take care of myself. I’m still learning but that is exactly what this record is about, not being where you want to be, but working towards getting somewhere close to it.”

Down memory lane

Slow Pulp: “A collective favourite song from all of us is ‘Track’. Each of us really had a big piece in that one, it felt like one of the first truly collaborative things we had done with all four of us. Teddy wrote the chord progression and sent it to me to write melody and lyrics over. I remember when Henry sent one of the final mixes of it, and we were all so excited with how it sounded. He added these fantastic flute synths and then Alex put all this feedback on at the very end. Once it took shape we felt like we had cracked a code – it was great. “

Audience Takeaway

Slow Pulp: “We have talked about this before, but we would never want to guide the listeners’ experience. Whatever people take out of this record is the right thing. If there are things that people find in this record that allows them to connect to it and resonate with it, then I feel like I’ve done my job. I went through a lot of tough things during the making of this record, but I’m still here, I made it out on another side. I hope that maybe other people who hear this can hear that they are not alone in feeling lost or sad, and that there is another side they can end up on too.”

Say it in a sentence

Slow Pulp: Moveys is…”Sad but hopeful thoughts, given to you through mostly slow music.”

Kicking goals

Slow Pulp: “I would say finishing this record and putting it out is a big highlight. It is our first time doing the whole album cycle process and it has been really nice. It feels so good to have it out into the world. It would have been really cool to have gone on our first headlining tour this fall but c’est la vie, still a big deal for us that someday that’s on the table.”

Overcoming struggle town

Slow Pulp: “For me, it was really overcoming my fear of songwriting. More often than not, when we started making this album I would sit down to work on a song and continually tell myself I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t do it. I said such terribly hateful things to myself all the time. This made writing pretty hard, and it took a lot of brainpower to get me out of it. I expected way too much of myself and would overthink everything – it was such a toxic environment. But I feel like I really learned how to let go and just let it happen.

“What ironically helped was having so many other, what I felt were, more important things to focus my energy on, like taking care of my parents, or my physical health. This left the smallest space in my brain to work on music and that’s when I found myself making the best stuff. I didn’t have time or space to overthink or doubt myself, I just had to do it.”

For the love of music

Slow Pulp: “There are so many special moments that happen in the making of a song. For me, one of them is the first time you hear back a melody that works exactly how you want it to. Sometimes I’ll sing hundreds of takes trying to find the right melody and when it all gets pieced together for the first time it’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve felt. I also really love playing a song for the first time with the boys live.”

Essential Listening

Slow Pulp – Whispers (In The Outfield)

“Something that I think is really cool, is that my dad, who is a musician, played the piano for ‘Whispers (In The Outfield)’. It was the first piece of music he played after his accident. He is so incredible at bringing out so much emotion in his playing and I think he really nailed it.”

Slow Pulp – Movey

“My favourite story comes from the song ‘Movey’. Henry had just found this keyboard in the trash in the alley behind our house and was making all these weird cartoon songs. He put ‘Movey’ in our shared google drive as a song idea and we were like what in the world, is this guy good, did he finally lose it? But then we all grew to love it and it felt right to end the album with it.”

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