words by trev elkin
photograph by coool
Life is a series of moments, the most significant of which we sometimes take for granted. In a parallel universe, Madison/Chicago band Slow Pulp’s debut album was probably released earlier this year, an accumulation of their on-the-road experiences touring with Alex G. But this is not what happened. Singer Emily Massey’s diagnosis with Lyme Disease and chronic Mono last year led Slow Pulp to start again, writing an entirely different album more congruent with their new reality and Massey’s personal challenges. Then a global pandemic ensued, and Massey’s parents were involved in a serious car accident. Returning home to care for them, she and the band had adapt once more, completing Moveys in lockdown, miles apart.
Moveys keeps a sense of wonder and never loses its wry humour, even in its deepest lows. ‘Whispers (In The Outfield)’ is old-school baseball nostalgia, channelled by Massey’s father, Michael, on the piano. ‘Idaho’, an otherwise serious and powerful song about self-acceptance, is named for the disorienting effects of touring when Stoehr mistook one town for another in a completely different state. The funky, scratch-heavy 90’s TV show vignette ‘Movey’ is an in-joke, like the album title itself; a motivational jingle about dusting yourself down and carrying on. There’s a Swedish saying, “those who wish to sing, always find a song” and Slow Pulp have come a long, long way to find theirs.
Out in the world right now, you can stream the album in full here and scroll a little further down to read Emily Massey’s words on each of Movey’s songs in a special track-by-track guide.
This was one of the first songs on the album to take shape. It started off with just the guitar part and the vocal melody. A lot of the other layers came into focus over time which is an approach we ended up using for a good deal of the songs on the album.
Lyrically, this song came at a time when I started to gain more confidence in my songwriting abilities. Prior to this, I had a bit of a volatile relationship with writing as I was constantly putting myself down and doubting my capabilities as a working artist. This song felt like a departure from that mentality. (Emily)
Trade It came together in a similar way to New Horse, where the guitar part and vocal melody were figured out quickly. We let it sit for quite a while before fleshing out the rest of the parts. We recorded the drums and some congas a couple weeks before quarantine began, which gave the song more of a shape, and from there Henry experimented with a lot of the additional layers at home.
I wrote the lyrics for this song right after I got diagnosed with Chronic Epstein Barr virus, which basically means I have symptoms of mono all the time. I spent the year before feeling very sick, tired and sad haha. I thought there was something wrong with me, and said a lot of terrible things to myself. When I got my diagnosis I felt validated but also regretted being so hard on myself for being sick. (Emily)
Henry started writing the instrumental while we were on tour in an airbnb in Colorado and mistakenly thought we were in Idaho. We had finished writing the rest of the song as a group and started playing it live late last year, before we had started recording the album. We recorded the drums and guitar together first and built the rest of the song around that core.
This song came at a time where I had recently ended a relationship and not long after started a new one. I was going through so many personal changes in dealing with my health, and was not in a great place to start something new with someone. I realized patterns I had with dating where I chose to see people who weren’t really a good fit. I knew these relationships were doomed from the beginning but I went for them anyways, thinking it wasn’t possible to get too attached or hurt. (Emily)
This song started as an instrumental demo that Teddy had done. Emily and Teddy went back and forth with the chord progression and reshaped it to fit better with a melody that Emily had for it. We fleshed out the rest of the structure as a group and after recording the bones of the song, Henry added some additional keyboard layers which really filled out the song.
I was waiting for the train one day to go home to my parents. There was an older woman who was also waiting on the track and she reminded me of my late Grandmother who I had not thought of in a while. She passed away of alzheimers when I was in high school. My mother often worries she is going to get it as well. The song acts as a letter attempting to reassure her that she will never be forgotten even if she forgets. (Emily)
AT IT AGAIN
This song was one of the last songs to come together, and the only one that we made start to finish during quarantine. I was mixing some of the other songs on the album late one evening and hit a wall. I started playing guitar and the chords and vocal melody just kind of spilled out, so I put together a rough demo and sent it to the rest of the band. We all recorded our parts separately, and Emily worked out the melody and new lyrics (Henry)
At this point my parents were recovering from a horrible car accident and I was quarantined at their house in Madison, Wisconsin. Before quarantine started, I felt like I was finally getting better at taking care of my health and was coming out of a pretty low point of my depression. Everything felt like it was coming together with the album and tours were starting to get booked and I was so excited to start this next step of life. Then all of a sudden I found myself in and out of the hospital taking care of my parents during a pandemic. I stopped taking care of myself and had slipped right back into a low point, at it again with my damaging habits. (Emily)
This song went through a lot of different variations before it became what it is. We had been playing a pretty different version of it live since we started writing this album and when it came time to record it, we were having trouble translating it and felt confused. I was struggling through some core exercises one morning when a new melody came to mind. It solved a lot of the problems I’d been having with it and the rest materialized quickly. It shifted pretty drastically in mood and energy from a tighter, rounder groove to a bit heavier and turbulent. (Alex)
WHISPERS (IN THE OUTFIELD)
I had been thinking about some baseball-themed movies that I enjoyed as a kid and wanted to write a piano song that captures the kind of excitement I felt when I used to watch these movies. There’s this one scene in the movie “Rookie of the Year,” where all these people are riding on this smoky boat on a lake while this great kind of Bruce Hornsby-ish piano song is playing that I really loved. I didn’t realize it while I was writing the song necessarily, but upon reflection I feel that I was thinking about that scene in the back of my head. (Henry)
We had a rough instrumental demo of this song for a couple years, but weren’t sure where to go with it. Henry had written a rough vocal melody, but it still wasn’t clicking. We realized after a while that the key we were playing it in was not right for Emily’s voice, and once we switched it the rest of the parts started to come into focus. We recorded the drums and bass together and used a different mic setup , aiming for more of a room sound than the other songs. I (Henry) wanted the drums to sound like Champagne Supernova by Oasis. We had a strings part in the demo that we recorded on a keyboard which Molly Germer later recorded on violin for the album version.
Henry had brought the lyrics “why don’t you go back to falling apart” when he sent the song. I resonated with that so well and it became pretty easy to finish the rest of the lyrics. My family and I had been through quite a bit of trauma at the beginning of quarantine. I got to a point of being completely emotionally numb to get through the day. I didn’t let out any type of healthy emotion for a while, which was such a juxtaposition to the previous year I had. I felt like I was falling apart all the time. But, in the time I needed to the most I couldn’t. (Emily)
Henry had made an early demo of this song on tour that was kind of heavy and distorted. Emily had written a melody and rearranged the chords a bit, and when we went to play it together for the first time, it just came out a lot slower and cleaner. This was the first song that we finished recording on this album. Our friend Willie Christianson wrote and recorded the slide guitar and harmonica parts.
This song is about moving beyond defining myself in terms of my mental health. I’ve been working through this over the last couple of years and this song is a reflection of this process and where I am now. It was impossible to reflect on this while I was in the midst of it but I’ve gotten to a place where I have more perspective on it and am able to discuss it with others. (Emily)
The credits song, the end of the movie.
Moveys is out now, via Winspear.
Buy it here: