Slowly Slowly have really stepped into the forefront of Australian music over the past couple of years. Their 2018 album St Leonards was a major stepping stone into the spotlight, and now with Race Car Blues, set for release on Friday February 28 (our review here), the spotlight is getting brighter, the fans are falling more in love, and everyone will be taking more notice.
We caught up with frontman Ben Stewart for a discussion on favourite lyrics, thriving on stage and reflecting on the past couple of years.
Ben, hello! How’s your day?
Hey! Good thank you, yeah just been plodding through all things pre-tour, which is exciting, it’s about to feel real now.
The last time we spoke you’d just finished up the St Leonards album tour and had been announced for Bigsound 2018. Fast forward to 2020 and Slowly Slowly has reached such big heights playing festivals and sold out shows around the country. How do you feel when you look back at the band and yourself two years ago?
It’s something we don’t do enough. I think you just get really fixated on the future, trying to stay present and keep your feet on the ground, and you don’t look back probably as much as you should.
It has been a crazy couple of years, and that’s the thing about momentum you don’t feel it when it’s happening. But it’s so nice now to play shows in all corners of the country and not be scared that there won’t be anyone there that likes you. It’s really nice that we’ve got these pockets of people all over the country that are so loyal to us and love what we do.
So yeah, the biggest change from 2018 is taking the little template that we had in Melbourne and replicating it all over the country. And now we feel at home where ever we go, which is really quite a luxury.
And your Melbourne show sold out in two days, congratulations!
Thank you! Yeah it’s so wild, we were watching the tickets go up and just freaking out. There’s no other way to put it, we thought there was some glitch.
Let’s talk about Race Car Blues, you said to Browny back at Good Things Festival 2019 that you’re basically writing all the time. So how did this selection of songs actually end up on the album?
The last 18 months I’ve really been going really hard at writing and I think it has just been the case of the strongest survive. I kind of see the process as therapeutic now, and I don’t see myself writing for a particular project or to make a hit or anything like that.
So then I send all the songs to the band’s group chat and we’ll are on the same page with the strongest songs, the ones that survive. Because I think because I have so much rapid-fire writing happening, the cream is able to rise and you can see it really clearly because you’re not splitting hairs between, you know, having 15 demos and we need to release 10 songs. It’s more like, ok we have 60 demos and some of them are really bad, so it’s really easy to see the good ones.
I’m interested to know about Creature Of Habit Pt. 1 and 2, they’re like two sides of the same coin. How did you end up with 2 parts?
Part 2 was actually written first, and it felt like there was a little bit more to that narrative. I think I wanted to showcase the light and shade of it because Part 2, it’s a celebration and a real chest beating moment for us and it’s like we’re really stepping into our own. And I think Part 1 is more that side of our personality that’s a little more neurotic and nostalgic, and I just felt like, with that same sentiment that you get in the chorus, there were two sides to that.
I hope that came across! But at the same time, I still wanted to be a little cryptic. With a lot of writing, it’s like kicking the dust over your tracks or something. I heard a quote the other day that was ‘poets are people who muddy their waters to appear deep’.
(laughs) I don’t want to say that’s about me but I think it’s almost like a defense mechanism I’ve learned to use over the years. Because I write in such a personal, autobiographical way, it’s a way of protecting myself and those around me, because I need a home for these feelings.
In saying all that, do you have a favourite line that you’ve written for ‘Race Car Blues’?
I love that song, ‘Race Car Blues’, so I think the opening four lines: ‘Vignette eyes / race car blues / I miss myself / my friends do too’ that, for me, sums up the sentiment of the record. And it just sort of centres around having tunnel vision and feeling like you’re built for a purpose that you don’t get to do all the time. I’m a very dedicated and driven person when it comes to music, and that obviously has it’s cons sometimes in your personal life, so yeah, this album centres around that.
I’m really excited for everyone to hear this album and, even better, you’re touring Race Car Blues in April and May. And a lot of your songs seem to take on a new life when they’re played live, do you think that’ll happen with any songs off Race Car Blues?
Oh yeah, big time. We’re in the midst of rehearsals at the moment for the tour and it’s really cool finding all the kinks in the songs where you get to have a jump around and feel them out on stage. I think because we’ve been touring so much over the past 18 months we’ve grown to become a band that really thrives on stage, whereas previously we were and I know for myself that I felt a bit daunted performing the songs live. But now I see it almost as a different beast, and it’s a different interpretation of the songs. And I love that we get to do that, and all of this comes from a background of listening to heavier or punkier music than Slowly Slowly. And I think the thing that marries us all together is that energy that is brought to heavier music, and so when we play live things tend to get stepped up a little bit.
You really are one of my favourite bands to see live, and I feel like 2020 is going to be a big year for you guys, right?
I hope so yeah! We’d be coming back from tour and then on a Monday I’d be writing in my music room, so you can’t help but write for the stage when you’re on it so often. I think these songs will translate really nicely in a live setting and are a bit more maybe anthemic than some of our past work. Yeah, I think the live show will step up a bit, I’m really excited.
Ben we’re so excited for the album and the tour too, thank you so much for the chat!
No worries, thank you for having me.
Interview by Ebony Story
Slowly Slowly ‘Race Car Blues’ Tour
Friday April 17 – Manning Bar, Sydney, NSW
Saturday April 18 – The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Friday May 15 – 170 Russell, Melbourne, VIC (SOLD OUT)
Friday May 22 – Badlands Bar, Perth, WA
Friday May 29 – Altar Bar, Hobart, TAS
Saturday May 30 – Saloon Bar, Launceston, TAS