By Nicholas Jason Lopez
You don’t need a pandemic to get down with this.
Topics like self-inflicted isolation and shortening one’s social circle as time goes on are things that you can find on Totally Slow’s third album ‘Casual Drag,’ which was put out this past June on Refresh Records, notable for high-energy singles like “Call The Pigs,” “Dead Skater” and “Found Factions,” the product of a bigger emphasis on collaborative songwriting.
‘Casual Drag’ was recorded and mixed by Kris Hilbert at Legit Biz and mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering.
Bridged somewhere between post-hardcore and punk, the Greensboro, N.C.-based band – composed of members Scott Hicks, Chuck Johnson, Kate Weigand and Andy Foster – falls in line with acts like Jawbox, Good Riddance and Adolescents since they formed in 2013.
They’ve even managed to make a fan out of one Laura Jane Grace, who endorsed the band with her stamp of approval on Twitter during the summer. A band like this can evidently do no wrong.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Hicks about ‘Casual Drag’ and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Greensboro, North Carolina to someone who has never been there before?
Scott Hicks – It’s a really nice, attractive city with a rich history that is just sprawling enough to not really be able to figure out an identity for itself. It’s got culture and punk houses and universities and sits a couple hours from the beach and the mountains. It’s also infuriatingly homogenized and cautious at times.
Music Bugle – How did you decide the name “Totally Slow”?
Scott Hicks – A friend was making neighborhood signs encouraging drivers to, you know, be careful and painted one with that phrase in neon colors as a funny nod towards the 80’s. It stuck in my head. It doesn’t really mean anything, just rolls off the tongue and turns out it’s Google-friendly.
Music Bugle – What made you want to release “Found Factions” as a single?
Scott Hicks – It’s the first song on the album and is a pretty good overhead map of what we do as a band. Chuck and I tend to do that dual-guitar attack, where the parts are different, but there’s no discernible “lead” and the general lyrical themes of isolation and fear are a good front door to where the record is headed when you drop the needle.
Music Bugle – What was it like making the video for “Found Factions”?
Scott Hicks – We found a dirt road with online maps, drove out and set up our shit in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, there was a group of folks even sketchier than us burying a body or something a half mile away. The cops came, but were more interested in them. Our studio engineer and good friend Kris Hilbert, who seems to have a rotating catalog of helpful vehicles, provided the rad truck. It was cold! There were disturbing mountains of trash everywhere. I guess we found the unofficial town landfill.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your new album ‘Casual Drag’?
Scott Hicks – Build something tight and aggressive that represents where we are at collectively right now. The first record was a lot more positive. That’s definitely not where I’m at emotionally or politically. It’s also got two newer people/brains helping pull the levers, so it needed to be a fresh start and I wanted it to grab you by the collar and scream. I think we pulled that off.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Scott Hicks – Oh man, I just landed on this band Hysterese from Germany, who are so great. Dual guitars and vocals, melodic hardcore. I’m always going back to straight-forward garage punky stuff like Marked Men and Tenement. It’s hard to nail down, really. I listen to a good bit of ambient stuff like Boards of Canada and Four Tet when I’m trying to work.
Music Bugle – What are your three favorite all-time albums?
Scott Hicks – This could always change, but without overthinking it, I’m gonna say Fugazi’s ‘Repeater,’ Unwound’s ‘New Plastic Ideas’ and Agent Orange’s ‘Living in Darkness.’
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Scott Hicks – Well, it seems to help the ones who are able to vibe with it. I’d rather drive around town staple-gunning posters than make a Facebook event or whatever, but here we are. Being able to see who listens to what and see who likes whom tends to have unfortunate ramifications for all kinds of human transactions. I participate, but I’m not stoked about it, usually.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest memory involving music?
Scott Hicks – I’ve been riding this thing for a really long time, so I work to stay in the present and not dwell too much on the past. I’m all about the process – everything else is just gravy. Stoked to get this record into the world and play shows and put stickers up in gas station bathrooms and meet cool folks.
Music Bugle – Of the shows you’ve played, which ones stand out the most?
Scott Hicks – This band has been fortunate to open for some really great newer bands and some legends too – Night Birds, Government Issue, Menzingers, Agent Orange, Tenement, too many to name. Our city hired us to play the opening of the local skate park, that was really cool. Fest is always a fun trip. Hopscotch festival was huge. I’m bad at giving succinct answers! We just love getting to be loud in front of people.