Words & Pictures by Chris Morin
Edited by Will Yannacoulias
Celebrated Saskatoon noise rockers Slow Down Molasses have returned in high style, embarking on a short European tour on the eve of the October 8th release of their latest album, Minor Deaths. A band renowned for overwhelming audiences with their dreamy, dissonant wall-of-sound live show, it’s been a punishment for the group not playing onstage. September unfolded and excitement mounted as the band announced overseas dates and a release day for the new album. Slow Down Molasses’s first European show in 2021 was a triumphant return to the hallowed Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, Germany on September 24th. Bassist Chris Morin kindly took a little downtime to check in with NSMZ, sharing his travel journal and a few select pictures from historic Hamburg. Enjoy!
“It’s been an insufferable one to say the least. It’s been a tense year and a half. Everything is stretched to the point of snapping and splitting at the seams entirely. Suffice to say, it’s a terrible time to leave the house. So why not leave the country?
It’s not exactly an ideal time to aspire to indie rock noise punk. Granted that’s never stopped me before, having been weaned on all things gutter DIY. Nowhere to go but up, am I right, but where do you go when no one is booking the venues, pouring the drinks, adjusting the levels or able to gather, grind and mosh?
While the music industry struggles to gain some semblance of momentum, and COVID cancellation still runs rampant, leave it to a group of German festival promoters to get their shit together. Depending on which member of Slow Down Molasses you ask, it’s our third or fourth time playing in Hamburg and our second playing the Reeperbahn Festival… and our first touring during a worldwide pandemic.
Despite being masked to the gills on an otherwise comfortable cross-Atlantic flight, we are not immune to disaster. Tyson’s guitar is inexplicably furloughed in Toronto. An apologetic airline agency promises to hand-deliver the wayward instrument before our show. Not much else to do now but wait, drink strong German drinks, and skulk about on the Reeperbahn strip, which is packed. Resembling a massive outdoor block party, the street is awash in a dizzying jam of party people who are crowded shoulder to shoulder, maskless with alcohol upon their lips. A wildly diverse collection of venues, patios and sex clubs, Hamburg fucking rules.
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At a point in time when no one can really seem to agree on much, it’s a nice change of pace to just sort of nod along to people talking at you.
My maternal grandparents, Mennonites to the max, may have instilled in me a lifelong love for all things rollkuchen and pfeffernusse, but not their birth language. My German, to say the least, sucks. A morning off wandering outside of the Hamburg hotel, I do the usual Chris things. Pinballing between pints and pals, putting up stickers on well-travelled street signs, forever adding noise to a vandals’ conversation. That exclusion does not keep me from sounding like an idiot, probably, as I fumble my way through an everyday ordering of coffee, black, and a donut, the pink one.
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“I learned something new today,” said our venue stage manager, whose name I’ve regretfully already forgotten. “The Italian word for this mic stand translates to giraffe.”
“Cute!” I say.
“But in Germany the word for this mic stand means ‘gallows,’” he laughs.
Due to COVID protocols, the venues have chairs out to keep capacity from overflowing, as well as to discourage hedonistic touching. Despite the evenings’ no-dance rules, the place is quickly sold out. I manage to sneak into our own show to catch the last song of Calgary super pals Meisha and the Spanks, who slam through an inspired ripper before an
appreciative audience roars back in delight. A cool cadre of Canadians doing cool things, it’s rad feeling like someone has our backs while abroad - see you on stage in Tallinn in a week.
Despite a tummy full of pins and needles, our show manages to be an inspired one. Tyson’s guitar arrives via courier literally minutes before sound check, which means we are able to play to our strengths: banging guitars against amps, smashing fists into Fenders. At one point I look up mid-set and notice multiple people furiously shaking their heads, air drumming frantically while managing to stay in their seats. It’s an amazing way to be welcomed back to live music after being unable to be a proper band for the past year and a half. We crash through the remainder of our songs and sign autographs afterwards, which is absolutely endearing. Within minutes, the entirety of the vinyl records we brought with us are snatched up. Wild. Thank you Hamburg. You are a total sweetie.
Kimmortal, another collection of Canadians, ends the night with a dreamy blend of spectral noise and hip-hop. I’m not allowed out front of the stage and listen instead behind the stage curtain. After the show, the night quickly dissolves into drunken conversations with a beautiful drunken German man about homegrown prairie punk rock and the awesomeness of The Weakerthans, something we can all agree upon despite our linguistic limitations.”
Slow Down Molasses are next scheduled to appear at the Tallinn Music Week Festival in Tallinn, Estonia, on October 1. The band’s current single, “I Need The Darkness”, is available on all streaming services. Their full length album Minor Deaths is scheduled for release on October 8th.