The G-Man Interview w/ Slow Down Molasses Part 1

A few weeks back you may remember I was raving on about a fantastically named band called Slow Down, Molasses (click here to jump up to speed). I couldn't resist getting in touch with Tyler (McShane - the band's songwriter and driving force) and telling him how much I enjoyed his band's performance at this year's End of the Road. Sure once I started gabbing I couldn't shut up...

Q. Starting right back at the beginning - how did Slow Down, Molasses come to be?

Once upon a time I played in a big, ridiculous pop orchestra called Carbon Dating Service and I was looking for something a bit more informal and a bit more of a folkier sounding band. I started Slow down, Molasses by playing a solo show with the idea that I’d want the band to be a bit of an open collective, making it so that I could play with lots of different people and it would be really, really hard for the band to break up. After that first show, the promoter, Ryan Drabble, asked if I wanted a drummer. Before long we’d gathered a rag tag 7 piece band and it’s maintained a consistent but frequently changing line up of between 6 and 9 people with additional guests occasionally join us.

Q. Apologies but I have to ask - where did the name come from?

The name comes from some random notes in an old notebook that I had with me on a tour with a previous band that I had played with. I had been messing around with song ideas that didn’t fit with that band and had an idea for the sound that I was going for and those three words seemed to evoke the feeling I had in mind. Kind of hazy, sepia toned, spacey prairie rock. Eventually it stuck in my head long enough and I had enough songs that I booked a solo show under that name and by the end of the night of that show I had a drummer (Ryan Drabble….who happened to also be the promoter of the show!). A few months later we had a full band and the rest is history.

Q. The majority of you guys are natives of Saskatoon. Tell us a little about the place?

Saskatoon is a city of 230,000 people located in the isolated middle of Canada, 2000 km from Vancouver and 2500 km from Toronto. It's in the prairie province of Saskatchewan that is roughly 3 times the geographic size of the United Kingdom, but has a total population of 1 million people. Half the province is farms and the north half, which is sparsely populated (less than 100,000) is all lakes, rivers and forests.

Saskatoon - The Paris of the prairie

Saskatoon, as a city, is an oasis in the middle of Canada for touring musicians and local bands and artists. Despite it's small size it has a fantastic music scene that is just starting to be heard across Canada and beyond. Being that it is a small place, everyone knows everyone and tends to play music or help each other out. Slow down is the perfect example of that. We exist as a 6 to 9 piece band, but on our records we usually have even more people playing with us. Walk Into the Sea (the band's current album) had 16 people playing on it and live right now we tend to play as an 11 piece with additional strings and horns whenever we are playing at home.

Bands from Saskatoon to check out include - The Deep Dark Woods, Foam Lake (our guitar player Paul Ross' band), Jeans Boots (our keyboard player Jeanette's band), Shuyler Jansen, soso and Shooting Guns.

Q, How far do you think you have come since the band’s formation compared to where you are right now with Walk Into The Sea?

Very, very far. Before playing in this band I’d written maybe 5 songs, all in the context of other bands with a strong group people to help arrange and flesh out the songs. My songs on our first ep and first album (I’m An Old Believer) were the first songs I’d written for my own project and it was the first real band for a couple members of Slow down. Initially we didn’t necessarily have a strong grasp of what we wanted to sound like or how to create the sounds we wanted to hear. Similarly as a live band, it was my first time fronting a band and a couple other peoples first time really being on stage. Early shows were fraught with stage fright and excessive drunkenness….inevitably the shows were a bit chaotic and awkward.

In the five years since we started, we’ve toured Canada many times, played innumerable local shows, shared the stage with some of our favorite bands, collaborated with one of our biggest inspirations and somewhere along the way fell into becoming a band with a very clear idea of what we want to do and how we’d like to do it.

Q. There is so much folk in your music but then, out of nowhere, it just seems to go off like a firecracker, often a very loud firecracker at that. As a band how do you approach the songwriting process that ends up with such output?

It’s always a bit of a mix. For the most part of the songs I write, I tend to write on my own at home before bringing almost complete ideas to the band. When I’m writing I usually have a pretty good idea of what the rest of the band (or other guests) can do and tend to just leave space for parts with vague ideas to describe who is going to do what where. I think everyone else who contributes to the writing process has a similar idea and we all definitely have a bit of split personality with our musically tastes.

We definitely all like a lot of introspective, folky stuff like Smog or Julie Doiron or Will Oldham, but we are also pretty smitten with the big, noisey, spacey sounds of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized and Mogwai, so essentially we try to leave space in our songs or on our albums for both sides of our personalities. It’s been really fun figuring out how we can make a live set work that incorporates both ends of the spectrum and this year it really seems to have come together. We played the Regina Folk Festival here in Saskatchewan this summer and played a mid-afternoon set to a very diverse crowd of folk music fans. For that set we included both a cover of Palace Music’s 'New Partner' and My Bloody Valentine’s 'When You Sleep'. Amazingly both of them went over incredibly well and seemed to fit into the context of our set.

Q. Are there certain members of the band that just want to crank the volume dial up to eleven?

Yes. Myself (Tyson – guitar/vocals), Chris (guitar/bass/mandolin) and Paul (guitar/lap steel) drove our drummer Ryan mad for the first few years with how loud we tended to play. He is a professional sound technician, so theoretically we should listen to him, but he’s also a band-mate so you have to balance everyone’s opinions, right?!?!

Click here to read part 2 of The G-Man interview with Slow Down, Molasses!