Slow Fiction are squeezing joy from life’s unrelenting grind

Slow Fiction. Photo by Miles Wilson


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The two songs from New York-based band Slow Fiction’s EP that have been released this year speak of a band in a rush to make things happen. Whether that’s writing sharp, grabby tracks to light up their stacked roster of live shows, or vocalist Julia Vassallo’s interrogation of her own mind, there is an urgency for movement and change. It’s exciting to hear a band sound hungry like this so I was glad to hear that same energy runs through the rest of Crush, due out on May 24 via So Young Records, a reliable incubator of buzzy guitar bands.

The EP opens with “Monday,” in which Vassallo grabs vainly at past memories as a means to recapture some form of lost happiness. She thinks back to when wearing a fun pair of socks and watching a properly scary movie were enough to put her in a good mood. Those days seem long gone as the intensity of making a living and finding joy in snatched moments between shifts takes its toll, leaving her weary and jaded. She hisses at those around her, blaming “your daddy’s capitalism” for the bind she’s in. The rest of the band Joseph Skimmons (guitar), Paul Knepple (guitar), Ryan Duffin (bass), and Akiva Henig (drums) conjure up that helpless feeling of time sprinting by with pacy guitars and drums that move faster than another calendar month.

“Monday”’s clanging post-punk spirit is a world away from “Apollo,” the second and, for my money, best, track on the EP. Named after the god of sunlight and poetry, it’s a song about overcoming the fear of ending a relationship. There’s a lightness to this song that, nonetheless, matches the emotional heft of Vassallo’s words. Scared of being alone, she questions everything and almost cracks as she admits, “I always thought that I knew how to sing but you wrote the notes so I don’t know anything.” Lyrically and musically it reminds me a little of another New York band, The Stills, and their song “Changes Are No Good.” Both capture a temporary confidence being undercut by self-doubt. Only one was released in 2003 but they could easily have come out on the same day.

In a statement accompanying news of the EP, the band acknowledges the influence of densely populated city life on their work: “A crowd of people pressed closely together. To squeeze forcefully so as to damage, or distort in shape. To violently subdue. To bring about an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. A brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable. Crush is an intimate snapshot of a life and a commentary on human nature as a whole. It represents the dual and cyclical nature of love and loss. To have, to hold, to break, to burn.”

There is a lot to say about the soaring cost of inner-city life and how it affects both creativity and personal relationships. Some artists lean into the political backdrop to this increasingly unworkable situation while others use their music as a form of escape. Slow Fiction are fighting their way through a middle lane, trying their damnedest to find some kind of romance in an unforgiving environment.