A chat with Slow Crush about effects, touring the States and how refugees are misrepresented in society.
In recent years, the influence of shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive has slowly begun to seep into the sounds of a wide range of metal acts, lending a natural evolution to genres as diverse as doom and black metal. One only has to look at the success of bands such as Deafheaven and Møl to see how the shoegaze sound is being not-so-subtly woven into much heavier genres. However, it is Belgium quartet Slow Crush who arguably wear that influence most proudly on their sleeve. Formed in 2017, the band had only a home-recorded EP to their name when Holy Roar Records snapped them up, putting out their debut album Aurora in 2018.
Made up of drummer Steve Commaerts, guitarists Jelle Ronsmans and Jan Jouck and Cheshire-born/Belgium-raised singer and bassist Isa Holliday, Slow Crush have quickly become one of Holy Roar’s most talked about signings and it’s not hard to understand why. From the shimmering, fuzzy guitars drenched in reverb to the driving drums and blissfully subtle vocals, the band have a sound all of their own that is working its way into the hearts of metal fans everywhere. Having just returned to Europe following an extensive tour in the US, we were able to catch up with Holliday before they took to the stage in Lincoln, one of a handful of dates on their current headline UK tour.
Take us back to the beginning, how did you originally know each other and how was the band formed?
Myself, Steven and Jelle have known each other for forever and we’ve all played in different bands on and off together, mainly hardcore. We all come from a hardcore punk background. Our other guitar player Jan still plays in a hardcore band as well as Slow Crush. In fact we have a fill in tonight called George, as Jan is playing with his other band in Belgium tonight. Having known each other forever we decided to try something different and the chemistry between us means we know how to play with each other especially though all the years of experience we’ve had together, we know how to tap into each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It just felt like a match meant to be. Jelle had been wanting to be in a more shoegaze band forever and we were looking for a second guitar player and Jan said he always wanted to play shoegaze too, so we all said “let’s just do this”.
How would you describe the metal scene in Belgium and where do Slow Crush fit in?
Belgium is a weird cookie to crack. The metal scene is quite strong, Jan’s other band is metalcore, they’re called X Devour, and the bills we play on in Europe are generally mixed bills anyway, so I think the crowd is quite open minded, it’s not strict. The music we play mixes a lot of aspects together and it tugs on everyone’s heart strings. The indie fan can find themselves in the whole Slowdive thing, and the more punky fans get that feeling from us too, especially in the drums and then the metal fans, with a song like ‘Tremble’ which is quite doomy in ways, they get their kicks from that. I think we bring all worlds together at a gig.
You’re currently touring your debut album extensively at the moment, taking in a wide variety of places and venues. Has anywhere in particular stood out?
The whole USA tour was a massive surprise to us, we went out there thinking this is just going to be a holiday for us all together, play a few shows and if we get anything out of it that would be great, but it just blew our minds. There were fans over there that had travelled across states to see us play. One guy flew in to Portland from Denver, just to see us. Crazy fans over there. The response we got was more than we could have ever expected. The venues were amazing too; quality sound installations, everything. In Europe we played Groezrock this year, which was a festival we’ve all been going to for years and now we’re able to play there. We played there quite early in the day, not expecting many people to show up but the tent was packed so it was way more than we could have expected.
We’ve mentioned how you’re influenced by shoegaze, what is it about this style of music you find so appealing?
Shoegaze is a great genre and I guess if you had to put us in a bucket it could be that but I think what we’re aiming for is the whole submersive appeal of shoegaze – how the effects take over and take you into another world, that’s our aim. To be honest, we’re just playing music that we love and we don’t go out there going “this must be a shoegaze song,” we just write stuff and if we’re getting a feeling from it then we’ll stick with it, whether it be shoegaze or punky or whatever, it becomes Slow Crush. The main drive behind our songs is the effects in a way.
Shoegaze has begun to influence a wide variety of metal genres. To what extent do you think it’s affecting what we consider ‘heavy’ music?
I don’t know. Sometimes I think it’s just pinning a name on something. I’m not sure if you need that to sell a record to someone, to convince them to listen to it. Obviously, if you go into a record store it’s helpful to reference other bands when describing unknown bands and I guess if you’re into shoegaze bands, you’ll pick it up. But it’s like classifying movies as a thriller. There are so many different styles out there, it’s hard to pinpoint anything really. Whether shoegaze is influencing how metal bands are sounding? I don’t know, I mean there’s still a lot of post-rock bands out there, if you can still call it post-rock. I would probably say just go and listen to a load of new stuff and if you want to call it shoegaze, that’s fine by me *laughs*.
The songs on Aurora feel much more weighty and dense than those on your debut EP, to what extent was this a conscious decision?
I think it was how we evolved and grew as a band playing together. When we recorded the Ease EP we went in thinking it was just going to be a quick demo. We’d found the sound that we wanted and as you can hear now, it’s a little more punky, we were perhaps listening to different bands at the time but we knew where we wanted to progress to and that became Aurora. But Ease was in fact recorded in our living room with equipment we borrowed from Jan who at the time wasn’t officially in the band, it turned out really well and we just thought “let’s release it”. By that point a couple of labels were already interested, so we released that. We then went to record Aurora in Southampton, sent that off to a couple of labels and Holy Roar were interested so we said yes. We’re so happy to be on that label, they’re absolute gems of people.
In a recent interview with Kerrang! you mentioned how the song ‘Tremble’ is partly inspired by how refugees are misrepresented in society. Can you expand on that?
So it’s more about beings being taken advantage of, so it’s speaking for the unheard or forgotten. We want to put their voice out there with that song, and I think the doomy sense of the instruments fits perfectly with the meaning behind the lyrics.
Do you think you would cover more sociopolitical topics in the future?
I think it really depends song to song. The instrumentation for ‘Tremble’ really spoke to those kind of lyrics so that’s what we wrote them for.
Did the music come first?
Yes. Mainly, we write the music first then we write the lyrics on top of that to go with the emotion of the song. We try and let the music speak. It’s mainly me and Jelle who write the lyrics, so we work together to make it fit the song.
You’re signed to Holy Roar records who have a strong reputation for signing exciting new bands, is there anyone who you as a band admire and would recommend?
The biggest one we’ve been pushing is Holy Fawn, who are also a Holy Roar band, they blew us away with their album and then we got to tour with them in the states and they are just the nicest people. We miss them very much and we really hope we can get them over to Europe sometime, they’re amazing. Another band we also played with in the states, Trauma Ray, they’re really good, also quite shoegaze, a little more on the grungy side. Another band we got to listen to at Groezrock is Press Club, they’re very punky but the singer is just so energetic, crowd surfs whilst singing perfectly – they’re amazing. As for what we listen to it’s a mixed bag, our drummer Steve is a big Slayer fan, we listen to Culture Abuse too, stuff like that. Jan is also a massive hardcore fan and was very excited to see Morning Again at Groezrock We also listen to ’80s pop of course and a bit of anything really, dance, whatever tickles our fancy.
Following the success of Aurora, fans will be eager to know whether album number two has begun to take shape yet. What can you tell us?
So we’ve pretty much got enough material written to put on a new record. We’re still figuring out which songs to officially record and we still need to fine tune stuff but being on the road a lot this year we have to find the right time to work on that. We practice at least once a week together and after this month things will be a little quieter so when we get back we will try and put a little more time into cleaning up the new songs and then at the beginning of next year, we’ll probably hit the studio again.
And how is it sounding?
It’s sounding pretty good *laughs*. You can’t write duplicates of songs you’ve already written. You’ll definitely hear it’s Slow Crush. We’re not going off on a completely different tangent, don’t worry about that, but I think it might be a more emotional record, but it’s definitely still got the punky and heavier, doomy stuff. There’s going to be a lot of effects too, a lot of reverb, that I can promise you *laughs*.
Aurora is out now on Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: Adam Pegg