Slow Pulp’s Contemplative Shoegaze Grunge Fills Bar Le Ritz

Slow Pulp is a dreamy Chicago-based band that formed in elementary school as a trio between guitarist Henry Stoehr, bass player Alexander Leeds, and drummer Theodore Mathews, before Emily Massey joined the band as their vocalist in 2017. Yard, their second full-length LP, was just released in September 2023. The band’s use of unconventional instrumentation alongside mellow shoegaze and moody grunge textures is part of the band’s appeal — with violin on their hit track “Falling Apart,” and slide guitar, harmonica and banjo ornamenting their new song “Broadview.” Throw in fun, catchy melodies and comfortingly intimate lyrics that make it feel like your best friend is singing in your ear, and you’ve got a musical act that’s easy to fall in love with. 

It was evident on Monday, November 6th, at their show at Bar Le Ritz PDB, that this was the case. Their down-to-earth, relaxed performance style was perfectly suited for the rainy weather. Yet the room still buzzed with excitement and eagerly filled in the lyrics to their most popular songs anytime that Massey asked. In live performance, Slow Pulp’s music had a more stripped-down quality that had me missing some of the album’s fun vocal effects, like the vocal looping in the intro for “Slugs.” However, the sparseness also made ballads like “New Horse” somehow more gorgeous than they already were. Regardless, the core energy of each song was still translated well on stage and it was satisfying to get to hear all these songs that I’ve been obsessed with live. 

As the show went on, the band seemed to grow a little less shy and halfway through the set Massey started to regularly chat with the crowd, asking funny questions like “Anybody got a crush in the crowd tonight?” and “Is anyone on their period right now?” before launching into the track “Cramps.” After declaring that Vancouver did a hell of a job singing the verses to “High” last month, the crowd chanted it so ferociously that the band was visibly in awe and Massey declared that Montreal had won the singing competition. Seeing how Slow Pulp opened up more with the audience as the night went on, I would love to see how much more mobile and comfortable on stage the band will become with their next tour! The music was crisp and Massey’s breathy, introspective voice was just as emotionally moving as on their albums. With Slow Pulp’s latest release heading in a more bright, high-energy direction, I’m looking forward to how that will influence them to continue to take bigger risks with their stage presence.