CMJ 2015: Slow Down Molasses x Vinyl Mag

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Slow Down Molasses is a quintet hailing from Saskatoon, Canada.  And I’m newly obsessed with them.  Reminding me of another Vinyl favorite, PacificUV, SDM is a shoegaze pop dream, and their recent album, Burnt Black Cars, definitely can’t be listened to just once.  The band is made up of members Tyson McShane, Jeanette Stewart, Chrix Morin, Levi Soulodre, and Aaron Scholz.

Post-CMJ madness, we grabbed a few minutes with Tyson to talk about the festival madness as well as future plans for the band.  Read on, and then go listen immediately.

Vinyl Mag: How was your CMJ? Did you get to see any other shows?

Tyson McShane: We had fun. It’s always great to get a chance to get to New York City, and as we always do at these types of festivals, we definitely made sure to catch some other bands. A personal highlight for me was seeing Mercury Rev and Ezra Furman at the Bella Union showcase. The Rev were stunning as usual, and Ezra fantastically delivered on all the hype I’d be hearing for him and his band. Otherwise, we played four shows, a couple of which were really great fun. You never know who’s around at these festivals, so it’s always a bit of a mystery as to whether the shows were a success or not, but we love to play, so no matter what, we enjoy playing the shows, and people to seemed to appreciate them.

VM: What was your favorite moment of the week?

TM: The end of our last show of the festival, a 1:15am set at Arlene’s Grocery, was really fun. We’re all big Sonic Youth fans, so we figured we’re playing New York’s Lower East Side, let’s end the set with a nicely destructive cover of their song “100%.” It was a nice, cathartic way to end our time at the festival. We then went straight from the venue to the airport and flew home.

VM: What was your favorite show that you played?

TM: The first show we played was easily our favorite. It was a show for #ImagineOct20th, put on by a bunch of Canadians in New York to motivate people to get out and vote out (our then) Prime Minster, Stephen Harper. The Canadian federal election was October 19th, and unfortunately we’ve had a very cynical, mean-spirited man as a Prime Minster for the last decade, and we were really happy to get to play a show to do our small part to encourage Canadians to get out and vote him out. The show was wonderfully fun to play, and it was great to connect with some fellow Canadians right as soon as we landed in New York. Also, I’m happy to say Stephen Harper was voted out, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the new Prime Minister, so I’d say the show was a success!

VM: How did working with Jace Lasek come about for Burnt Black Cars?

TM: Working with Jace was fantastic. We couldn’t afford to fly out and mix it with him, but it was a very easy process. We love the way his records sound, so we basically told him to do what comes naturally, and as a result the mixing was quite painless. Some songs on the record are his first attempt at a mix, with no revisions from us. It’s sort of incredible to start to learn how much of specific sound and personality the person mixer can have, and Jace has a pretty specific sound that we quite love.

VM: Do you have a favorite track from the album?

TM: Overall I’m really happy with every track on the album, but for me personally, “Resurrection Blues” was really exciting to do. I had not played that song for the band, as I had a pretty specific vision for it and I had all the parts laid out, but I’m pretty useless with recording myself and demo’ing things, so I’d never actually heard all the parts played at the same time. I was a bit nervous that it would sound like utter crap and we’d end up having to re-write the song or cut it altogether. Fortunately that was not the case, other than some minor editing that Jace did and tiny bit of glockenspiel that Ryan [drummer] added, it’s all the parts I had bouncing around my head.

VM: What is the writing process like for you guys?

TM: This album was a big change for us. Previously I’d write most of the songs and bring them to the band in a fairly finished state. This album we collaborated a lot more, either with me bringing in more skeletal ideas, or all of us being in the same room improvising around little ideas. So in general it is much more a band album. As a result I spend much less time just playing rhythm guitar, instead of playing more interesting bits to support the songs. It also meant the songs were a lot more refined going into the studio, so we all played a lot less on each song, but I think ended up with much stronger songs and a much better sounding album.

VM: Are there any collaborations that you’re dying to do?

TM: Despite touring in support of Burnt Black Cars, we’ve been writing a lot lately, so we’ve been pretty inward focused on that side of things. That said, I always have the in the back of my mind that I want to take a lot of the songs in a noisier direction and leave opportunities for the songs to go more out there. For something like that it would be amazing to collaborate with someone like (Swedish saxophonist) Mats Gustafson or the Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis, or some of the guys from Oneida. I’ve been really indulging in my love of more avant garde, improv based music the last couple years, so I could see that creeping in to some of what we do in the next while.

VM: What is next for Slow Down Molasses?

TM: We are heading back into the studio soon. We have a bunch of new songs, and we started recording a few of them at the end of August at our friend Barrett Ross’s studio. As I mentioned, we’ve been writing a lot lately as well, so I’m excited to get working on arrangements and get a few songs tracked, then figure out what we are doing for mixing them. We’ve got a few ideas on that.

Emily is an over-enthusiastic lover of music, books, movies, fashion, and culture in general. Her love of music spans across all genres (what is a genre anymore? she waxes poetic to herself), though she was nursed on true punk and will never understand “redneck country” music – tractors are not and cannot be sexy. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and considers herself to be a great wit, though she is still waiting on validation from a credible source.

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