Slow Crush’s Isa Holliday On Finding Something You Love In Everything and Taking ‘Hush’ On The Road (INTERVIEW)

Belgian-based, multi-genre influenced band Slow Crush recently released their sophomore album Hush and have been gradually rolling out a series of alluring videos that highlight the worlds suggested by their highly atmospheric music, including “Hush”, “Swoon”, and “Lull”. Slow Crush have had a particularly eventful road in the recording and releasing of the album, since the label they were signed with collapsed during the pandemic period. Their triumph as a band was to continue making new music, and gradually work through ways to complete and release Hush as an international effort. 

I spoke with Isa Holliday about finding things you love in all kinds of music, jumping back into live events with a challenging new album to play, and the making of Slow Crush’s recent ethereal videos. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: I feel like the band has been on a huge road with this album. A lot of people have crazy stories about weathering the past two years, but this one seems pretty special. How do you feel about the idea of the whole album finally being released?

Isa Holliday: I can say that it’s going to be a relief once it’s all out and we can share it with everyone. It’s been a long wait and we’ve gone through a lot of stuff in the last two years as everyone has. It’s a literal and physical release to share these songs with everyone so we’re not sitting on it all by ourselves. We’ve all been really excited about these songs, and happy with how everything was recorded. Hopefully people like it as much as we do!

HMS: Well, you’re not totally in suspense, since a few songs have been released already, and also the most beautiful videos to go along with them. I feel like you have always done amazing videos, but you keep escalating that. What do you think reactions have been like to these songs?

IH: The reactions have been great so far, even though the first song, “Hush”, is pretty different from the previous record, Aurora, so it’s great to see that listeners that loved Aurora are also evolving along with us and enjoying the slight change. I think with the songs that have already been heard, there’s definitely the Slow Crush vibe that can be heard and that are still prominent in the sound, and of course, the vocals. But I think people are appreciating the slightly darker path that we’ve gone through.

HMS: With a critical success like you had on Aurora, I know there’s that challenge not to do exactly the same thing again, but also make sure you can bring fans with you to the next release. From what I’ve heard, this really seems like a great organic step in terms of sounds and ideas. 

IH: Absolutely. It really has been a learning experience, not only in songwriting, but also in sound and techniques, recording, and effects. With having played so many live shows over the last couple of years, we’ve been able to learn something from every show, pretty much. That has been incorporated into our writing as well. It’s also a natural kind of growth. 

I think we all listen to a huge range of musical styles, and though that was already picked up with Aurora, what we love is that a lot of people can listen to a song of ours and link us to a lot of bands that we may have never compared ourselves to before. I think it’s great that people coming from a lot of musical genres can find something that they can connect with in our music as well. I think with broad musical tastes as individuals in the band, that shines through in our songwriting and recording. 

HMS: Are there any genres that you all listen to, or like, that you think might be unexpected?

IH: It’s 2021, what’s considered acceptable these days? [Laughs] That being said, I think that people have maybe become more open-minded when it comes to listening, in general. It’s not so much of a taboo to listen to Dance music and Heavy Metal anymore. The four of us have grown up in the same area, geographically. But I have a British background and went to a British school for my education, so maybe my younger music influences were mainly British bands, whereas the other guys were into much heavier stuff growing up. But now, we can throw some Dance music on, or some loungey stuff, when we’re going up to shows. 80s Pop is also a classic that we throw on when we’re getting tired. We just put on whatever we fancy listening to, and if it gels then it stays.

HMS: I agree that things are changing. Because there’s so much available now, we can craft our own musical experiences and climates. We can go with a mood and choose a genre based on mood. Everything’s becoming more of a choice. I have a Metal background but also listen to Roots music a lot.

IH: If you listen to Metal music, you can also hear some Classical influences in there as well, including techniques and things like that. Everything is connected, I think, and you can find something you love in everything.

HMS: I’m going to be annoying and ask you about genre words like “Shoegaze”, which are sometimes applied to Slow Crush. I had been told that “Shoegaze” was an old and fusty term that referred to the 90s and shouldn’t be applied to current bands. Then, Ringo Deathstarr directly convinced me otherwise in a conversation. They changed my mind and made me think of it as an eternally young idea that’s constantly changed by whoever is working with it. How do you feel about the term?

IH: I don’t think it’s an old term at all. Everything kind of gets recycled now, anyway, right? Everyone is wearing 90s clothes right now. Stuff that’s probably in the very, very back of my closet is coming back now. Because everything is baggy, they probably still fit! I don’t think that anything should be considered too old in terms of a genre name. I never would have thought of that. 

HMS: It might tie into what we were just talking about. If there’s this reappraisal of genre going on, where people can just blend and choose depending on mood and attitude, then thinking terms are old is outmoded itself. If we’re going to say that Metal is still new and young, why should there be a difference for Shoegaze?

IH: Yes, and I think that your point that music is more of a choice depending on mood stands. Something that we’ve struggled with as well is that we get labelled as a Shoegaze or Dream Pop band a lot, since with a lot of the different styles that we bring, it’s very easy to pin us to that. We have soft, airy vocals, and effects, but there is a lot more going on underneath the veil that gets forgotten. It also seems like that pigeon-holing is limiting people as well. 

If there are people out there who think the term Shoegaze is old or passe, but then they might be huge fans of Post-Rock and would pick up those vibes in our music, they might pass on our album if they see it labelled as Shoegaze. They might not give it a chance. It’s tough. I understand how, from a marketing standpoint, it’s much easier to give a description based on a common term. But still, I feel that books shouldn’t be judged by their cover.

HMS: I totally agree. What it’s all really about is access and reach, and people being able to have that experience that introduces them to the music to decide whether it clicks for them. 

IH: It’s about whether people can connect emotionally through specific experiences that they’ve gone through. I know many teenagers have a connection to music that can be almost dangerous.

HMS: I guess “spiritual” probably isn’t the right word for it, but the alignment that you can have with music is very intense. A lot of that experience can come through attending live events and having that stay with you, too. I know that you all have finally been back to live events, having not played since February 2020. Are you playing new stuff, or things you didn’t get to play before?

IH: We’ve played one real live show with real people, and that was a festival. We did two prerecorded livestreams when everything was still locked down over here. For the livestreams, that was focused on the previously released songs. For the festival, one of the biggest Alternative Rock festivals in Belgium, there were Covid restrictions that made it smaller this year. Even though it wasn’t 60,000 people, we still got to play, and it was outside. 

It was the first time we had been in a crowd of people that large, though everyone had to present their vaccination passes or tests, so it was safe. But it was still a strange feeling after being so secluded for the past two years. It did feel great to be back on stage. We played “Hush” and two other new songs, so the people at the festival got a sneak preview of two other songs that haven’t been played yet. The response to “Hush”, and also to the two other new songs, was great. 

HMS: The new songs have a lot of layers, and textures that seem even more ambitious than on the previous album. Is that something that you have to specifically work out and translate how to play live so that you can achieve the atmosphere you’re going for?

IH: Yes, absolutely, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on all summer. We actually moved our practice space into the living room to create more space and be able to hear all the sounds and how they blend in a live setting. That’s something we’ve been paying attention to make sure that we can represent those different layers from the record live. For the first of our release shows [on October 22nd], we have PA rehearsals on a real stage, to make sure that we can iron out everything and get it as close to the record as we can.

HMS: Where will you be playing?

IH: We’ll be starting in Belgium, where we are located, then we’ll be heading off to the UK in December for a ten date stretch. We’ll be playing mostly new songs as well. The album will be out so people can, hopefully, sing along!

HMS: I have my fingers crossed that you’ll be able to make it to the United States. I see you have some dates coming up this Spring as well.

IH: The suspense is killing us on whether Covid will cancel it again, but let’s stay positive!

HMS: Is there anything you can tell me about filming the videos for “Swoon” and “Hush”? Is that something that you were able to do some time ago, or more recent work?

IH: The “Swoon” video is actually a combination of different images from longer ago and more recently. Our guitar player, Jeroen [Jullet] is also a filmmaker, so he made a short film back in 2010, and some of those images were then used in the “Swoon” video. The style he was filming in back then fits with the whole 90s revival now. He was ahead of the curve! It really fit with the vibe of the song as well. He and I then headed out into a forest and recorded some extra footage. He then just compiled it all together and we’re all really happy with how it turned out. 

The “Hush” video was made by Bobby Pook, who’s made a ton of videos for us as well, so he totally gets the vibe we’re after. We hardly have to give him any tips or hints about what we need. He can take off running and putting something incredible together, like what he did with “Hush”. He also headed out into a forest to record in the middle of the night!

HMS: There’s a pattern here! It is an incredible video. What do you think of the ritualistic aspects that came out in the “Hush” video? I found it really fascinating, but was that something that you were particularly wanting for the song?

IH: Yes, that was the vibe that we all agreed on to fit the song. It brought a little more spirituality into it, as you mentioned earlier, kind of fit with the emotion of the song. Musically, it all makes sense with the images that he was able to put together. We all kind of had the idea that it had to be something like the film Midsommar.  Bobby’s a huge A24 fan, so that spoke to him and he found a great crew to work with. The first time I saw the video, seeing the characters fitting with the music like that really sent chills down my spine.

HMS: It’s beautiful. I’m ready for the full film with Slow Crush doing the soundtrack.

IH: [Laughs] Maybe! Maybe we will get to that at some point. If somebody throws a shit-ton of money at us, who knows?

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