Interview with Dave Collis and Mercedes Webb | By Ben Sailer
Slow Mass set high expectations with their 2016 EP, Treasure Pains, delivering a sampling of confident post-hardcore that flashed promise. It was enough to earn touring slots alongside mewithoutYou and Rozwell Kid, as well as some early buzz in the press. Given the band’s pedigree, that probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Slow Mass guitarist Josh Parks toured with Into It. Over It. and previously played in the underground hardcore band Former Thieves, while drummer Josh Sparks—no, that’s not a typo—spent time in all three bands before departing to join Minus The Bear in 2017.
But don’t call Slow Mass a side project.
“To view it as a side project wouldn’t do justice to the love and care we put into the band,” guitarist and vocalist Dave Collis says.
Indeed, they are a full-time band—rounded out by bassist and vocalist Mercedes Webb and new drummer Dave Maruzzella—who come second to no one else, and that’s a fact they were certain to establish early on. Rather than leverage their connections to raise their profile, they’ve opted to let their music stand on its own. Whether that’s a byproduct of confidence or Midwestern humility—or neither—it shows they’re serious about succeeding on their own merit.
“It wasn’t a huge concern, but [it was] a little bit of an overlapping concern for a while having members playing in other projects, just making sure that it didn’t overshadow anything that we were doing,” Webb says. “It was a goal of ours to start something completely new.”
Just as Slow Mass are more than the sum of their associated acts, their sound is also more than a facsimile of any individual member’s influences, drawing on everything from the early Dischord catalog to folk and noise rock. That fits their goal of creating something fresh—the band’s website describes them as “Chicago weirdo rock”—setting them apart in a saturated scene.
The results speak for themselves with On Watch, the band’s debut full-length, out May 11 on LandLand Records. Its 13 tracks span driving post-hardcore like “Gray Havens” and “E.D.”; instrumental interludes such as “On Watch I” and “On Watch II”; and the slow-burning introspection of “Suburban Yellow” and “Oldest Youngest.” Familiar in feel yet distinct in execution, the band reach beyond tired tropes and genre clichés to truly create something of their own.
In keeping with Slow Mass’ collectivist approach, there’s no singular dominant player or personality here. While there isn’t a set songwriting process, they do as much together as possible, often setting aside multiple days a week to write and record. Whether one member brings in a single idea or a complete skeleton of a song, the end product is always the result of collaborative effort, reflecting the full scope of their creative input and diverse backgrounds.
“I don’t think any of us have come to a song where we’re like, ‘Let’s write a song like this,’” Webb says. “It’s all pieced together in a way that it’s impossible to pinpoint in the songs that ‘Oh, this sounds like that,’ you know? I think that’s why we try to collaborate so much, so that we can create something completely authentic.”
Top photo by Madi Ellis