By Julijana Capone
WINNIPEG – Since their emergence on the Winnipeg music scene, self-described “genre-immune” five-piece Slow Spirit have opted to follow their creative whims rather than meet any predetermined expectations.
The band’s seven-song debut studio album, Unnatured, arrives independently on September 23. Recorded and mixed by Paul Yee at Stereobus Recording, it strikes a seamless balance between multi-instrumental precision and compositional spontaneity. The band’s five members—all skilled musicians who met while studying at the University of Brandon’s School of Music—draw from the worlds of jazz, punk, post-rock, pop and singer/bassist Natalie Bohrn’s lyrical prose to concoct something all their own.
“People are still really taking us for our jazz influence, which is something I think we kind of run from in our own artistic identities,” says guitarist Eric Roberts. “We try to think of ourselves as making loose pop music.”
Call it what you will. With aesthetics and influences abounding, the album shows the group’s mastery of bringing intricate ideas together. Lead tracks “Human” and “Legendary Mistake” are powerful, rhythmically complex numbers that reveal the group’s versatility. Elsewhere, “Last Night,” a portrait of the members’ time in Brandon, Manitoba and their interactions with the colourful characters that lived outside of their downtown apartment, bring their post-rock ambitions to light.
“Creatively, going to jazz school helped us be more equipped to understand some fundamental concepts about music,” says Bohrn.
Between the five members of the band, which also includes Justin Alcock (drums), Julian Beutel (keyboards), and Brady Allard (guitar), they now count at least four other bands that they contribute to between them. Noise troupe tunic, dream-popsters Living Hour, electro-pop act ATLAAS, and a cinematic instrumental project called Palm Trees are among them.
“It’s hard for us to schedule rehearsals, because we’re all so busy and have so many projects,” says Bohrn. “We’re always giving our time to other bands.”
It’s because of this that their first proper release feels more like a finale than it does a birth. After years of performing, refining, and adapting the songs on the album, Roberts and Bohrn both seem ready to write Slow Spirit’s next chapter.
“[Unnatured] captures what we’ve been able to accumulate in the last four years,” says Roberts. “Those songs we’ve reshaped a number of times, because often we don’t have the energy between our other projects to write new songs… Rearranging was always a way that we could keep things fresh and kind of grow as a band and as musicians.”
As a result, some of the songs on the album are unrecognizable live. Like living entities, they can transform depending on the situation. The song “Unknown,” a quieter piece on the record, for example, has been entirely altered into a full-blown rock tune for festival appearances, according to Roberts.
“It’s hard to know when inspiration is going to strike and you’re going to want to change a song completely,” he continues. “Sometimes we’re inspired by a certain performance opportunity.”
It remains to be seen what the future will hold for the purveyors of mercurial pop. What they are certain of, however, is their commitment to following whatever new creative pursuit may come their way.
“It has been such a long process to get this album out, and we kind of just want to be creative again,” says Roberts.
“We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do next… We’ve never been very good at the industry standard way of doing things.”
Slow Spirit perform September 23 at The Good Will Social Club (Winnipeg). To pre-order their new album, Unnatured, visit slowspiritband.com.Mercurial Pop, Slow Spirit, The Good Will Social Club, Unnatured