If you’ve ever heard the likes of the folky, reminiscent Faye Webster or the more shoe-gazey sounds of Tanukichan, Slow Pulp is the perfect mesh of it all: sentimental lyricism and a range of musical genres throughout their discography.
The band’s first ever international-headlining tour for their second album, “Yard,” kicked off in their hometown of Wisconsin and will come to a close on Dec. 16 in Germany. But, on Oct. 22, the eyes and ears of Phoenix were graced with Slow Pulp’s performance at Rebel Lounge, an intimate bar and concert venue.
Starting the Phoenix concert on a strong high note, Slow Pulp performed one of their debut singles off of “Yard.” Entitled “Slugs” with a dreamy chorus accompanied by heavy guitar, the crowd immediately went into singing along, “You’re a summer hit, I’m singing it” back to the band.
“Yard” is a 10-track studio album from ANTI-Records that ranges in emotion, and genre, but has an overall powerfully reflective feeling with every song, each one being an individual story. The lead singer and guitarist, Emily Massey, explained that the album was largely written by her alone in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, bringing newfound inspirations and influences to her work.
“I think that made me reflect a lot on a ton of different things, whether it be familial relationships or other relationships with people in my life, being isolated like that,” Massey said.
This is not the band’s first time choosing a cabin as their homebase for songwriting. Additional band members include Alex Leeds (bassist/singer), Teddy Mathews (drummer) and Henry Stoehr (guitarist). When working on the “Big Day” EP released in 2019, Massey described that the band took time to write and make music together in a friend’s cabin in Michigan. However, Massey’s complete isolation charted the path of her songwriting and mindset for “Yard.”
“I learned that some sense of isolation is really important to my process and getting away from regular life and being alone allowed me to be a bit more vulnerable with myself than I think I had been allowing myself to go before,” Massey said. “I needed that moment to break through some things and also kind of learn how to trust myself better as a writer and as an artist.”
Other musical influences for Massey during the songwriting process were unexpectedly more “Americana-leaning” artists like Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow” and Lucinda Williams’ 2001 album, “Essence,” alongside folk artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
“We didn't know what the record was going to sound like before we made it, it just kind of happened naturally,” Massey said. “I think a lot of us were intentionally, or I know I was, intentionally kind of straying away from listening to music, just not to get too caught up with one thing–that kind of let my brain just make stuff as it wanted.”
“Yard” begins with the melancholic song “Gone 2” littered with strikingly humanistic lyrics like, “I’m living in between feelings/tell me it’s not too late/could you love me tomorrow or is it gone?” The album then moves through the ups and downs of the true feeling of nostalgia, with songs like the concert opener, “Slugs,” and “Cramps.”
Similarly, the concert weaved through songs off of the new album, as well as popular fan-favorites like “Falling Apart,” a soothing but downhearted melody that brought the crowd together. Of course though, when the band returned to the stage for their final encore song, it had to be the infamous, one and only “High,” a relatable, upbeat shoegaze anthem with over 17 million streams on Spotify.
Massey described the creative process varying for each song off of the album. Most times, it is a bit more laborious where she creates a few lyrics and builds a story out of that, while other times the story and entities of the song shine through almost immediately. The latter was the case for songs like “Fishes” and “Yard.”
“But that's my favorite thing about writing music is when that does happen. For like, the 2% of the time that has happened,” Massey laughed. “It feels kind of like magic, or like you're not controlling it. That it's something outside of you that's kind of filtering through you and yeah, those songs are both very, very special to me for that reason.”
Giving the song an even further sentimental value, Massey was able to dedicate the song “Yard” to her sister who was amidst the crowd in Phoenix, alongside their parents who were also at the show.
Massey and the entire band’s passion for their music was plain to see at the show in Arizona. The ethereal purple-blue stage lighting set the tone for the show: one of intensity, empathy, and pure joy that the crowd is able to sing these songs back to them, despite beginning their tour only a few days after releasing the album.
“I hope that people can take the songs and kind of let them have their own meaning to them and have their own relationship to the songs that's almost separate from us or separate from what they might even be about. Just to, to kind of have their ownership. I think that's one of my favorite parts of listening to music personally, is having a song that means so much in terms of time and place or like what it means to me,” Massey said.
Slow Pulp has done just that: On a personal level, songs like “Broadview” and “New Horse” nearly brought tears to my eyes for the perceptions I’ve created around the songs, but it isn’t always in this profoundly sad or depressing way. As Massey describes perfectly, she’s been told that the band’s music can feel like “a certain sense of companionship” through universal struggles.
“Something that's surprised me is some of our more sad songs or songs that deal with kind of difficult topics, there's this sense of celebration and joy that I that I've been feeling in the audience and like that's not necessarily an emotion I expected to see and that's just the coolest thing to me,” Massey said. “Like people smiling and holding their friends while singing ‘Falling Apart’ or something...but there's some sense of joy or hope I think wrapped up in it, and that feels like a visceral, communal experience so far in these shows, and that is just the best feeling that we can ask for.”