Do you remember being small in a big confusing world? Do you remember feeling excitement for the first time or being cognizant of how clothes fell on your body for the first time? Not many people do, or most of us don’t dare to think back on it. For shoegazey Madison rockers Slow Pulp, this is not the case.
Teddy Mathews, Alex Leeds, and Henry Stoehr have known each other since they were kids. Stoehr can recall playing with Matthews in the ballpit at McDonalds when they were younger. Mathews recalls his first impression of Leeds as a “snowboard maniac” with a killer AIM username. Leeds retells coming over to Mathews’ house for the first time in grade school: “When I came over and they had mattresses on the stairs, and they’re sliding on the stairs on mattresses into a wall.”
They’ve grown through their young, reckless stages and have been making music all the while. They all laugh, refusing to tell me the many iterations they’ve gone through — although I do get to hear their first band name, PATH, each letter representing the member’s first names. Their styles and monikers have changed over the years, evolving along with their musical abilities, even repurposing parts from songs they wrote when they were 12.
It wasn’t until Emily Massey’s introduction to the group that Slow Pulp was fully complete. She gradually transitioned into the band, performing with Henry on the side for her high school band and then contributing guitar and backing vocals for the beta version of Slow Pulp. Eventually, the executive decision was made for her to be the lead singer. It only seemed logical.
More recently they’ve released a few singles, and a couple years ago they put out EP2 — there was an EP1, but it was taken down since it didn’t involve Massey. And even though Massey contributed vocals on EP2, it was mostly recorded before she joined the band. Thus, this week’s new EP Big Day marks the true Slow Pulp’s proper debut.
Although from Wisconsin, the four-piece moved to Chicago together last September. They wrote and mostly recorded Big Day in a Michigan cabin in January, finishing it up about a month ago. Halfway through the process they realized that the small collection of tracks related to feeling some sensation for the first time. The epic opener “Do You Feel It” blossoms with anticipation; staggered and modest piano plucks evolve into a cyclical guitar romp with spirituous drum punches. It sounds like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, slow and hesitant before sustaining balance and gaining speed, and later discovering how the gust of wind and speed against your cheeks make for the most freeing feeling.
Even as we grow older, the initial childhood mannerisms seep through and we’re reminded that there is some core of us that has never changed. Big Day is a celebration of youth, but not that of twentysomethings. Rather, it’s an exploration of a child’s perception. Some of the greatest lessons come from walking on this earth during our first few years. Those lessons grow as we grow, adapting to our experience with newer obstacles. Slow Pulp’s song “New Media” is about just that.
Specifically, it’s inspired by Massey’s seventh birthday. “I remember playing Red Rover,” she says. “I was playing with my cousins, who are older than me. It was my birthday. And I couldn’t break their hands. I got really mad. ‘Let me just win!’ But they weren’t. And I think I knew what I had to do differently in order to break through, but refused to take the harder route because I felt like it was my birthday and I deserved to have it easy. That song relates a lot to making mistakes as you get older and having habits that you don’t like about yourself, and you know, you need to in order to change. But there’s like, for some reason, it’s sometimes so difficult to get yourself to, like take those steps in order to change your habits.” Fittingly, they say “New Media” was the hardest song for them to write.
Massey trained to be a professional ballerina when she was younger but suffered a back injury, which pushed her to take music seriously. After moving to Chicago, she got a job teaching ballet to kids, sometimes babies. Teaching kids for the first time made her realize how strange and incredible being a child is. “They’re learning so much about their bodies and their emotions and how they’re interacting with other people. It’s easy to see their self-discovery and self-realization, like, ‘That’s my belly button, holy shit!’ They get so psyched,” she laughs. The experience prompted her to think about her childhood. “‘Young World’ is about experiencing emotion for the first time … knowing what excitement is, and feeling that and recognizing that you understand that’s something you can feel, and wondering what that’s like.”
“My first memory is on my birthday, my third birthday. I choked on a piece of pizza and my dad had to give me the Heimlich maneuver. And then I started thinking more back to the three-year-olds that I work with, and I started doing some research into cognitive development of kids at that age, and found out a lot of how a lot of things shift at three in terms of like relationships.” A birthday is one kind of big day, but Slow Pulp’s Big Day is about formative experiences that transcend the calendar. It’s waking up not knowing what new experience will be enjoyed or what mistake will be made. It’s feeling something for the first time.
Stream Big Day and check out Slow Pulp’s tour dates below.
05/30 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
05/31 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
06/01 Lakewood, OH @ Mahall’s
06/02 Ferndale, MI @ The Loving Touch
06/04 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
06/05 Montréal, PQ @ Le Ministère
06/06 Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
06/07 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
06/08 New York, NY @ The Bowery Ballroom
06/09 Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
06/11 Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry
06/12 Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall
06/13 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
06/14 Orlando, FL @ The Abbey
06/18 Austin, TX @ Barracuda
06/19 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
06/20 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
06/22 Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
06/23 San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
06/25 Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
06/26 Los Angeles, CA @ The Teregram Ballroom
06/27 San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
06/29 Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater
06/30 Seattle, WA @ Neaumos
07/02 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
07/03 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
Big Day is out 5/17.