After playing 17 shows in six months, the NYC band—formed just last April—drops its two-track debut
Whether or not you’re familiar with the term, you’ve definitely experienced the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or frequency bias, in action.
You stumble upon something new to you—a word or a name, a brand or, say, a band—and all of the sudden, you see it everywhere. It’s popping up in books and on billboards, via your friends and through your feeds. While it was always there, you never noticed it before, and now you seem to see and hear it every time you leave your house or pick up your phone.
Anyway, that’s almost the case with Slow Fiction. I don’t remember the first time I saw them on a bill; they were just suddenly on every bill. Playing rooftops and house shows, battling bands on Manhattan stages and serenading BK audiences in DIY spaces. But that’s not to say they’d been around and simply flying under the radar. This was all happening within the first few months of the group’s inception.
A product of Craigslist ads and connections through mutual friends, after sitting down in a living room for their first band meeting on April 2nd, the band nonchalantly announced their existence on Instagram last May with a picture of a pile of photos and the casual caption, “we are Slow Fiction, a band based in nyc. follow for updates.” Over the course of the next six months, the band played a whopping 17 shows, making them one of a few new groups that cannonballed straight into the scene when live music made its glorious (first) return last summer.
Given the enthusiasm (not to mention endurance) for playing live that this kind of streak demands, it’s fitting that the band’s primary release thus far (along with three demos recorded live in May) would be a live album recorded at Pete’s Candy Store back in June, a set of songs featuring the atmospheric cherry on top that is the cheers and applause from the audience members present that evening.
And now, nine months since the group first sat down together in singer Julia Vassallo’s East Village apartment, their official debut has arrived, and I couldn’t be more stoked to premiere it here.
A day ahead its wide release, from Slow Fiction, this is The Cut / Niagara.
While these takes on “Cut” and “Niagara” have been professionally primed, polished and packaged for release on Paper Moon Records, they still manage to retain the energy of Slow Fiction’s live show and capture the chemistry that Julia, guitarists Joseph Skimmons and Paul Knepple, bassist Ryan Duffin and drummer Akiva Henig showed off on stages across the city for hungry audiences all summer and fall. While punk motivates you to mosh, shoegaze inspires staring at your laces and dream-rock kinda makes you cry (just me?!), this is music that forces you to dance in full on torso-twisting, hip-shaking, limb-flinging form.
Of course, at its best, rock music doesn’t just make you move but truly moves you, and when naming influences, the group demonstrates an equal commitment to meaningful lyrics and sonic expression, citing inspiration from poets including Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan and those of the New York School era while working to channel the spirit of Meet Me in the Bathroom-era NYC bands such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and The Walkmen.
Though the band’s live record boasts eight tracks, they chose just two for this first ~official~ drop, and ahead of the release, Slow Fiction’s frontwoman sent over some background on the killer songs they selected.
“It’s funny how writing a song or a set of lyrics can be like a bookmark for a time in your life. I hear a very pained story, but I think a lot of the times there’s also a layer of humor that masks the true intentions. I think that ‘The Cut’ being our first single is perfect for us as a group because it shows our ability to work from a narrative, while still keeping things vague enough where we don’t have to explain ourselves if we don’t want to.”
“I think ‘Niagara,’ besides being named after a bar in the East Village I’ve been to many times, is a track that signifies a turning point. It’s a song fueled by angst and figuring out how to move on from relationships in this city, where everyone knows everyone. We always have a good time playing this one because the arrangement gives you a jolt of energy, in my opinion.”
Next up: the band’s Paper Moon Records Live Session, out on January 13th. As for live shows, the band’s first of the year—originally set for tomorrow evening at TV Eye—was one of pretty much all performances to be postponed this week. As for the last half of the month, god- or whatever-else-willing, you can catch the band on January 20th at Berlin with Bad Waitress and Shred Flintstone and January 27th at The Sultan Room with Native Sun and The Wants.
And then, at the rate they’re going, ~2984720820 times after that.
If this is your introduction to Slow Fiction, welcome. It’s Baader-Meinhof meets the Brooklyn music scene, and good news: You’re going to be seeing—and hearing—a lot more from them.
Feature image provided by the band.