Keeping up with Totally Slow
By: Katei Cranford
When Greensboro punkers Totally Slow got together in 2012, North Carolina was embroiled in the tensions of same-sex marriage bans, while the Greensboro City Council was entrenched in a dogfight against the music community over noise-ordinances. There was an energy circulating, which suited the (then) three-piece–far from totally positive, still unavoidably present.
Six crazy years later, Totally Slow has picked-up an extra guitarist, opened for a slew of legendary bands (Agent Orange, most recently) and continues to resonate with energy and an angrier version of what they call “hopeful nihilism” on their latest release: “Imperium.”
Naturally political (the band formed from three friends protesting Amendment 1), Totally Slow’s third album serves as a hard silver-lining, emboldened by the creative freedom they’ve found in the fallout of the 2016 election.
“We made a fairly conscious choice to just go ahead and be that scrappy pissed off skate-punk-band that was always lurking around on other records we’d made,” vocalist and guitarist Scott Hicks told New Noise Magazine.
But it isn’t all politics with these dudes. Personal elements weave throughout, and each of their albums progresses down a track of relatable experiences: the reactionary mid-life melancholy on their 2013 self-titled first LP flows into the neurotically self-reflective 2016 follow-up, “Bleed Out.” With “Imperium,” Totally Slow has arrived at the downright incendiary. “I see these first three [records] almost like a backwards existential crisis,“ Hicks said. “Our first LP was mostly stuff I had been banging around acoustically, and then we learned them as friends for fun. “Bleed Out” was me trying to figure out how to be a better person and feeling frustrated, and “Imperium” is more of an angry set the world on fire kind of teenaged attitude.”
That attitude was honed (and the volume heightened) after second-guitarist, Chuck Johnson, joined in 2016.
“Chuck has really helped us narrow-down where the energy should go in the music,” Hicks said of the addition. ”Before Totally Slow, I almost always was in two-guitar bands, that’s my favorite space to write, for sure.”
Hicks jests that the ideal space for Totally Slow to play would be “a house basement with the Cat’s Cradle” sound system.
“With Chuck on board, things got a lot louder, and that can make it hard to find a good balance sound-wise in a tiny space – it’s a relief sometimes to play spaces with a nice PA system,” Hicks said. “If [drummer, Andy Foster] can’t hear us, then we’re essentially playing a show on muscle memory. I’m happy when we get to do big spaces, but we’re essentially a DIY band who carry that ethos and still run in those circles.”
DIY comes with its own challenges. The most difficult of which for bands often involves the juggle to promote experiences without jeopardizing the spaces that host them. Keeping things sort-of secret is key. It’s a tight-rope, but one Totally Slow walks with grace.
“I try to book our release shows somewhere unusual to keep things interesting,” Hicks said. “Our first release was at Legit Biz, which hadn’t had a show in a really long time. Then we did Local Honey hair salon. It’s fun to try to make these parties not feel like a formal ‘show.’ Just come hang out and also incidentally some bands are gonna play.”
For the “Imperium” release, Totally Slow has a similar “one-off special” slated for Saturday night with Instant Regrets and Irata.
“DIY spaces are so crucial here that we can’t even mention their location,” Hicks said.
But it’s in these places Hicks’s hope shines brightest.
“I’ve been doing punk rock in Greensboro a really long time,” he said. “There’s honestly never been a solid run where things weren’t shifting in terms of energy or venue or audience. So our culture is our lack of a fixed culture, in a way.”
Continuing with a hopefully nihilistic slant, Hicks said, “there are chunks of time that I’m not super interested in playing Greensboro, frankly. “But OPOTW Studios really is a great space and GSOFest is a centering force for local bands to kinda be like ‘oh yeah – it’s not so bad at home.’ There are a lot of loops here, and I can’t always be in on them all. So I look forward to checking out stuff that might not be on my radar and making new friends.”
Totally Slow is totally looking forward to their release party on April 7 and playing GSOFest at Corner Bar on April 29. “Imperium” is out now on Self Aware Records.
Katei Cranford is a GSO rock-n-roller, NC mover-n-shaker, and all-around Triad music aficionado. She chats up tunes and towns as hostess of Mostly Local Monday, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands playing NC the following week. You can catch her on WUAG 103.1FM every Monday from 5-7pm or via live stream at www.wuag.net.