Interview: Isa Holliday of Slow Crush

Slow Crush

Today I’m happy to share the interview I conducted with the lead vocalist of a band called Slow Crush, and Isa Holliday and I’s conversation on the band’s new album Hush, that will officially hit the streets on October 22nd. In this interview, I asked her about the contrast between the two singles the band has released including “Swoon,” the differences in their approach to performing as an opener versus a headlining stint, Slow Crush’s songwriting process, and what her and bandmates look to for inspiration in their music. The band plans to headline the United States next spring in April and May.

I’m here with Isa of Slow Crush. So I understand that your album just came out on Friday. Can you describe some of your emotions that have gone on?

Well, it’s not the full album yet…it will be fully released on the 22nd of October. But we just released the second single off the album last Friday. So that was really good. With the whole Corona thing everything feels like it’s taken really, really long to get going. So it’s great to finally be able to release some music and have everyone hear what we’ve been working on the last couple of years. The second track is called “Swoon,” and it was released on Friday, and it’s a stark contrast, I think, from the first single that was released. It’s a lot shorter in length, and a little bit more upbeat. So yeah, we’ve kind of given everyone a little bit of a hint of what to expect on the full record.

Sounds good, and my apologies for misunderstanding the release date! So let’s talk a little bit about the contrast between the two singles that have been released so far. Obviously, the first one was much longer, and a sprawling kind of effort. Did you have any input as to what singles would be released for this record? Or was it kind of like a conversation between you and the label?

Yeah, we work very openly together with the label, our management, and everyone involved. We find it important that we all have input on everything that goes out. This felt like the right, natural sequence for the single releases. “Hush”, being the title track, well what better introduction is there for any record than the title track. And it’s also just a very sort of, in your face, emotional whirlwind, encompassing a lot of stuff in what is it, five or six minutes, or whatever it is? And we wanted to show the different side of the album as well with “Swoon.” So it made sense for them to follow each other.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So can you describe what I’m seeing in the background? I’m guessing this is your practice space? And how have things been going with the pandemic and everything like that?

Well, actually straight after this interview, we’re gonna have band practice. We have been keeping busy, and we want to make sure that we’re all ready and tight for all the shows that are planned, in October and November. So yeah, we try to get together at least once a week, to go through all the songs. And if there’s time to work on some new ideas that we’ve been throwing around. But now, it’s mainly in preparation for those shows. But it’s been great to be able to play together again. So yeah, as you noticed, this is our regular practice space. But we’ve actually moved everything downstairs into the living room, because there’s a lot more open space there. So tonight, we’re actually gonna do a sort of an intimate PA rehearsal with our sound engineer. We needed more space than this small “padded room” to make sure that all of the sounds are in the right place. 

Can you talk a little bit about your tour preparations? When you guys play live, do you tend to  do a straight interpretation of how the record sounds, or do you put some nuances to it to make it feel like new and fresh? What’s your approach to that?

That’s a good question! I’m not sure…I think we try to stick to the record as much as possible. And it’s kind of hard to say now, because we haven’t played most of the new tracks live. We’ve only had one show since the first single was released, when we played three new songs. But that’s been the only show so far, thanks to Corona. Our next shows will be once the album is released so we’ll be able to play a lot more then. I think in general, we try to stick as much as possible to what has been recorded. But obviously, with the number of layered guitars that we have, that’s sometimes hard. Especially if you’ve only got two guitarists to bring that to life. So I think, for the guys, they may tend to sort of switch between parts if they feel that something works better in the type of room that we’re playing in. Especially with all the effects we work with and all of the different sounds, some may tend to work better in certain types of acoustics. I think that that may impact or influence the nuances between shows, perhaps.

Yeah, so how many tour dates do you have planned for this upcoming tour? Is it pretty extensive? And what venues are you playing? I assume you guys are overseas right now?

Well, we all live in Belgium right now. So for the first run, we will mainly be in Belgium. Four shows are planned between October and November for the <album> release, and that will be in Belgium. And then in December, we head off to the UK, together with Loathe. So that will be the first time that we go outside of Belgium since February, last year, before we locked down. And then we’ve got some more shows in Belgium and the Netherlands early next year, before we head off on tour with a band from Austin called, Grivo. So they’re coming over and we’ll take them all around Europe. And then we come over to the United States. So in April and May, we’re going to be in venues on your side of the pond! We’re hoping to hit as many cities as we can. I mean, that’s in the plan – we’ve got it all scheduled. But it’s not just a West Coast or East Coast tour, like we’ve done in the past. Instead we’re going to try and knock it all out in one go.

Are you going to be in a support slot? Or do you plan to do a headlining tour or when you do the States? I’m just curious…

It will be a headlining tour. All of our tours will be headlining tours, except for the tour with Loathe in December.

Oh ok, got it! So can you talk a little bit about the switching of roles between being the support band versus a headlining band, and what kind of things do you try to do differently? 

I guess that the main difference that we see, if anything, is in the time we’re allowed to play, I suppose. Depending, again, on what kind of bill it is. But mainly, I think we’ve been able to, in the support tours that we’ve done in the past, we’ve been able to play a decent amount of time to be able to give everyone a full Slow Crush experience. If we’re on a hardcore festival, or something like that, where you’re limited to 25 minute set time or something, then we can only play four songs. <Laughter>

You got to make them count, right! <Laughter>

Exactly! I mean, depending on the situation of course, we tried to taper it down into something that makes sense. But, yeah, in terms of support versus a headline tour, and getting our name out there, then I think the music pretty much speaks for itself. I think that the style that we play is kind of hard to pigeonhole to one certain genre and nothing else. I think shoegaze is thrown at us quite a lot. But then I think there are a lot more elements to be heard in our music that get picked up on by different types of crowds. So like, we’ve toured with Pelican with Torche, and then we’ve had people come up to us after the show, comparing us to sort of “doom bands.” And then somebody has even told us that we sound like The Melvins, which seems sort of far away from the shoegaze sound. But then again, if you think deeper, there could be some elements in some of our tracks that do lend well to them and to The Melvins’ tracks. I think it’s really magical. Especially how people can attach their own stories and interpretations to our songs that we might not have thought of by ourselves, you know? That’s what makes music so universal, right? 

And it seems like a lot of times these days, genre lines seem to be blending. If you just write great songs, and you guys are in that category luckily, people will care less about the pigeonholed genre you’re in. Can you speak a little bit about which songs you’re most excited to play live from this new album, and which tracks do you think fans will really connect with?

Oh, I don’t know. I think it really depends on what mood you’re in…I really enjoy playing a couple and I’m not sure if it makes sense saying the track names out now. But I really enjoy playing “Swivel.” I can really get into the vibe of the song. And I think that that might be something that will draw people in as well. Yeah, but there are some songs that can make you cry. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But yeah, I think there’s just a whole mix of emotions in there that can sort of latch on to you.

Yeah, and you might be able to better answer that question as you kind of go through the tour, and you kind of see how people are reacting to different parts of the set, firsthand. Another question I have for you guys is about your songwriting style, and how it’s evolved since the early days of the band?

I think it’s still something that we’re working on, and is something that is constantly evolving. Like for the main part, we have Jelle who comes up with the main ideas, so he’ll have something pop in his head and he’ll record it straightaway. That’s pretty much our writing process. We try to record everything as quickly as we can, so that the ideas are fresh in our heads, and then we just layer it up from there. So we’ll start off, either with a vocal melody or a guitar line, and they’ll just quickly get jotted down and recorded, send them round to each other through “WhatsApp” for ideas and stuff. Then we’ll try and record a really kind of brief demo version of that, and layer on the drums and put on more guitars, bass and vocals. So that’s pretty much how we’ve worked and how we find that it works well just to sort of record <the demo> as quickly as possible. And then when it comes to recording the real thing, it is helpful to go back to those original <demo> recordings because there might be some things in there that weren’t completely perfect to start off with. There can be little spontaneous elements in something that wasn’t completely thought out that could be perceived as a “mistake” but can actually end up being really cool to sneak into the final product.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool to hear that process, because some bands will have to kind of flesh it out more and more. It sounds like you guys process more organically, and when you think of a great idea, you’ll want to capture it right away, and then kind of go off and run with it later on in the studio. So it seems like that process is working well for you guys. My last question that I have for you today is if you were going to give a “short pitch” or a little “commercial” for your band about why people should come check out your live show, or even the new album. What would you tell them?

I’m such a bad salesman…<Laughter> My biggest pitch can be just that there’s bound to be a little something for everyone in there. So I’d really recommend for everyone to give the album a listen and let us know what you like, what you don’t like, come and see the live experience to see how I try not to fall off my heels because it’s been a while. <Laughter>

<Laughter> Alright, well, hopefully you get your sea legs back quickly, and you all stay safe on the road. I hope to see you guys when you come to the states! 

Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much!

All right, take care. Have a great day!