Music Q&A: Slow Down Molasses

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Canadian indie rockers Slow Down Molasses are gearing up for UK shows and a set at End of The Road Festival (2-4 Sept). They tell Big Issue North they’re not deterred by the fact their worst show ever was here in the UK – because it turned out to be one of the best nights of their career.

Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
Most of us grew up during the 1990s, and therefore we all have plenty of the typical grunge, big guitar-type influences that most people cite. That said, we try and distil and dilute those sounds with songwriting flourishes that lend themselves to our live performances – it’s not unheard of for us to combine sweet shoegaze-pop swaying moments to something that’s more on the heavy, thrashy side of things. Also, we wrote many of the songs from our new record, 100% Sunshine, as a six-piece, and our collective influences definitely shine through under the sheen of delay pedals and fuzz noise.

How have you evolved as a band over the years?

The line-up of the band has changed numerous times since we first formed a decade ago. Our sound has matured naturally due to the influences of whoever was playing at any given time, but over the past four years we’ve arrived at a consistent line-up of musicians that play well together and contribute to the songwriting process. It’s been interesting as musicians to adapt our styles in order to accommodate the instrumentation during the different eras of the band, but this current iteration has likely been one of the most fun versions, since we all get to make the big noises we’ve been wanting to make since we first started learning how to play our guitars.

Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?

Not really. The band and the band name seemed to come about at the same time. I’d written the band name down in a notebook as an idea if I were to start a hazier, Mojave 3-influenced acoustic-based band (which is what we were going for when we started). The last four years or so, we’ve thought about changing the name to something that meshes better with our sound, but better opportunities keep coming our way under this name, so I think enough people know us as Slow Down Molasses that it would be foolish to change the name now.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
We’re putting the finishing touches on our new live show in support of the new album. It is always interesting once a recording is fully completed to then re-listen to it and figure out how best to play it live. We don’t use too much studio trickery, but inevitably through the recording process arrangements change and new sounds emerge, so it then gives us the chance to re-imagine how we want to perform the songs in a live setting. Additionally, we all tend to not really ever stop working on new songs. Levi has just completed an album with his solo project, The Pxrtals. And despite our new album just being released this month, Aaron and I have both been working on new Slow Down songs. We’re all pretty inspired by how this latest album came together and, in many ways, that just makes me more excited to get back writing with this iteration of the band.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?

It’s something we don’t consciously think about, but our songs are written in a way that lend themselves to being played energetically and ferociously on stage. It’s not exactly incredibly aggressive music, but we like to put a lot of energy into whatever we do, and we hope it translates through during our live performances.

What’s on your rider?
When it comes to riders, we’re very simple band. We all come from a DIY/punk rock background, each of us having put on many money-losing or barely successful (but obviously incredibly important to the community!) shows growing up, so I always feel a bit presumptuous asking for much, when I know most promoters we work with come from a similar DIY ethic. That said, we tend to just ask for beer and some healthy snacks like vegetables, hummus, pittas, etc. They nicely balance each other out. It’s amazing how ravenous I can be for fresh vegetables after a long, possibly hungover drive between shows.

Tell us about your worst live show.
I think we’ve been fortunate to never have anything too awful happen to us on stage, but we’ve definitely had some weird shows. In many ways our first ever UK show goes down as both one of the worst and best shows we’ve ever played. We took overnight flights from Canada and went straight to Oxford to pick up a van and backline and play the first show of tour. Everyone was over-tired and a bit frazzled and that likely led to the many technical issues we ran into. Our keyboard didn’t work, power didn’t seem to be getting to our effects pedals and our soundcheck was a mess (I’m sure due to our own fault). Once we finally got everything sorted out, we played an incredibly chaotic set. Chris somehow managed to break his bass strap, I broke a bunch of strings. I think we all assumed we sounded awful, but when the set ended, the audience erupted in applause and gave us one of the most genuine calls for an encore we’ve ever had. So despite us thinking we’d played a terrible show, the night ended up being great, and some of the people involved in that show have ended up being some of our best friends and supporters in the UK.

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