I’ve had a great admiration for Slowsie ever since I first heard them, and recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with the heart and soul of the group, Michael Pearson (C'21). As singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist, he's the main voice in one of Penn’s most creative bands.
This past July, Slowsie released one of the most anticipated albums in the Penn music community, Late at Night. The EP showcases their indie rock style and reveals traces of some of Pearson’s biggest influences, like Mac DeMarco and The Strokes. With its groovy and beachy feel, Late at Night is full of colorful harmonies and keen attention to sound.
“Tone is the most difficult part of music,” according to Pearson, who’s developed an ear for it by playing in a handful of Philly bands, including Georgey V and Peachy. But Pearson also attributes much of Slowsie's sophisticated style to lead guitarist Tomasz Tabernacki (C'21), whom he describes as the “king of tone.”
The proficiency of Tabernacki, drummer Brian Johnson, and bassist Jacob Alappatt has been critical to the band’s success as well. “I mostly just give my bandmates an outline and let them embellish," Pearson says. It was in this manner that Slowsie developed one of the most phenomenal parts of Late at Night: The outro of “Bedbugs,” a track that boasts 15,000 streams and had made it onto the Spotify editorial playlists Fresh Finds and Fresh Finds Indie. Brilliantly combining soft echoing vocals with heavy, feedback-intensive guitar, the outro was an “afterthought” and “basically an accident.”
While many of us have admittedly used COVID–19 as an excuse to veg out, Pearson has been on a productive streak of writing songs and working on guitar skills. Most of the EP consists of material that had been written and performed in 2019, but the available time that emerged from quarantine and the lack of school enabled Slowsie to finish recording, mixing, mastering, and finalizing their album. Pearson also mentioned that he has "albums and albums written." "Whenever I learn a new chord I write like 5–10 new songs," he says.
Slowsie is already working on a new album, and Pearson revealed that if he had to set a goal, he hopes to have it out by Jan. 2, 2021. However, with the vast majority of Philly music venues closed, and with Slowsie’s members currently split up between different cities, they have no intentions of resuming live shows in the near future.
This reality is a bummer, since Slowsie always brings lively energy during their concerts, unparalleled by all but a few Penn bands in recent years. "We stick out with live instrumentation," Pearson admits, but he credits Air Devi and Tabernacki's former band The Ratio, as excellent live acts too. Pearson has a deep respect for live music and views shows as conversations between the band and audience–“It’s about the people involved, most importantly the audience.”
But Slowsie’s ability to feed off of their crowd’s positivity isn’t a surprise. Pearson’s experience comes from performing for many live acts throughout Philly, working sound, and hosting frequent house concerts up until the past spring break. Of course, that’s all on top of his other work with Slowsie, founding Penn Records, and helping friends produce. Without a doubt, Pearson has solidified his spot as one of the most prominent faces in the music community at Penn.
Working in the world of music is Pearson’s dream, and he ultimately enjoys even the most challenging aspects which that entails. Referring to the music community at Penn, Pearson said, “I’ve really tried my hardest to cultivate that in my own way.” According to him, the truth is that “It’s definitely worse than any other major school around Philly by a wide margin.” Many music lovers on campus are aware of this sad reality and wonder why there isn’t more music being made despite there being so many talented musicians in the Penn community.
Pearson sees a few key reasons for this issue and hopes that Penn students will become more aware of them. He notes that “People are so preprofessional and don’t do anything original most of the time.” Furthermore, he explains that “There’s this bubble and people don’t want to form relationships with people from other schools.”
With most members of Slowsie approaching graduation, and given that all members except Pearson are pre–med students or are in medical school, Slowsie is likely to disband after their next record. Although Slowsie will be dearly missed, Pearson revealed that he’ll most likely begin solo projects afterwards, and will stay busy making music. In the end, Penn musicians will always have Pearson’s legacy to aspire to.