Having only been a band for the better part of a year and a half, …
One whole year has passed since Slowly Slowly released their ground-breaking album Race Car Blues. Almost a year to the day and the Melbourne indie-rockers have dropped the conclusion to the saga, Race Car Blues – Chapter 2.
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In knowing this is an end of sorts, memories of the journey stir deeply when Hysteria talks with the band’s vocalist, Ben Stewart. “I got a reminder on one of my social media platforms the other day, of a podcast chat I did in the lead up of Chapter 1 coming out,” he begins.
“It was so funny listening to myself talking about how excited I was–it was all under that amazing cloud of it being before Covid. It was just so funny to hear all the plans and the amazing ambition we had for the next 12 months. But it is what it is.
“Looking back on Chapter 1, it was such a turbo charge for our career, pushing us out there and to audiences. For a lot of people, it served as an isolation soundtrack. I think there’s always positives to be had there.”
With Chapter 2, Stewart admits the band are a little more tentative with their “great plans” for the future. “This is the one thing we have control over–our discography,” says Stewart, “touring can get swept away, but this is the one thing that remains.
“Touring is such a human connection to be in front of and meet people. But where bands are broken or made is in the studio, in your writing. It’s been nice to nestle into that.
“Those are the two different mind frames [I have] going from Chapter 1 to 2.”
Indeed, the way Chapter 1 was used by the listeners wasn’t the way Slowly Slowly intended, and there’s some disappointment, Stewart says, that the band’s original objective for the release–particularly with the domino effect in place going into the Chapter 2 journey–that the true potential for both albums hasn’t been realised. “I don’t think there’s one person on the global who isn’t feeling that in some sense toward an aspect of their life,” Stewart reasons. “As much as it’s disappointing, there were people who were about to embark on much more important things, or moments their whole lives have been leading to, and they were robbed of those moments.
I think it’s a very important and seminal period for me and the band, and so, I’m not necessarily moving on from it, I still want it to have its moment in the sun with touring and bring the songs to life on stage because that’s a whole other ball game. I really want to celebrate this album, both chapters, in person with our fans.
[ Ben Stewart ]
“Where this [Race Car Blues 1 and 2] might have felt at the very start of Covid, like, a real shock, now it’s all just a blip on the radar, and we’ve had time to kind of zoom out and decide where we want to go as a band.”
With an obvious tone of exhaustion, Stewart adds, “[In] the year leading up to Race Car Blues, I worked so hard on getting those songs together, and the plan to release Chapter 2 was always there.
“Chapter 2 was always going to come out on the birthday of Chapter 1, so we’re [now] living out that same fantasy we’ve envisaged.
“Who knows, if Covid hadn’t happened, we would have gone out on the Race Car tour, got really big, inflated heads, written a bunch of shit songs and released a crap album, and it would have all been over. It could have gone a million ways.”
The songs we hear on Chapter 2 were written during the same session as Chapter 1. Making a cut of his tracks into two albums meant Stewart had tough decisions to make–but an interesting time in revisiting the songs that didn’t make the first round. “I felt pretty strongly I wanted Chapter 1 to feel a certain way and tried to create a little narrative. We had that in the can. And there were these songs that were pushed to the side a bit.
“In terms of songs getting subbed out and others going in, it was a much more valuable pile of work.
“I started to see a pattern emerging as the year went on and what initially felt like B-sides, felt like the seeds that had sprouted new life in Slowly [Slowly] and pushed the boundary a little more. I was like, ‘I think these are an important part of where we’re headed. They’re the little stepping stones I think people should hear because they’ll give them the full picture.’”
Stewart, with his monotone voice and the undertone of sleepiness in his conversation, gives off heavily the impression that he’s very personally invested in these two albums. As Slowly Slowly’s primary songwriter, that’s a given, but there seems to be more. “[These albums] are the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep,” he says. “It’s my baby, I’m always thinking about it.”
And with so much time and energy spent on two albums in such a relatively short amount of time, is Stewart ready to let go of the whole Race Car experience, or will it be something he, with or without touring, will gravitate back to? “I think it’s a very important and seminal period for me and the band, and so, I’m not necessarily moving on from it, I still want it to have its moment in the sun with touring and bring the songs to life on stage because that’s a whole other ball game. I really want to celebrate this album, both chapters, in person with our fans.”
“At the same time, Covid’s really given me an opportunity at taking stock, and writing so much that I feel so far ahead of the discography.”
“We’ve got a long way to go up to where I’m [ready] to finish, so I definitely do want to celebrate Race Car, but there’s so much more to come.”