It may be shy of an hour north of Boston, but Lowell has a community that could rival our city’s. Listen close enough and you can hear it. That buzzy, warm, emo sound you hear? That’s oldsoul, and they’re on the brink of bursting out from the city’s limits.
Like most bands from Massachusetts, oldsoul came together through school connections. The four-piece—singer-guitarist Jess Hall, singer-guitarist Tom Stevens, bassist Tyler Heisler, and drummer Chris Henault—met while studying at UMass Lowell. But originally, it was just Hall and Heisler writing songs together. Immediately after forming, the group played a few small shows around Lowell and Worcester. They recorded a “weird” EP, the four songs all stylistically different from one another. Once Stevens and Henault joined, though, things mellowed out. oldsoul found their voice, and by that, it means the band’s sound shifted on a song-by-song basis.
Most listeners would describe oldsoul as a shoegaze band. It’s a lazy descriptor. There’s obvious layers of alt-rock, dream pop, and emo in oldsoul’s music. The band’s debut EP, 2015’s loverboy, makes that clear immediately, but it’s their impressive 2016 split with Speirs that digs the shoegaze tag deeper. “Slow Down, Senpai” opens with cold, echoing guitar before it sloshes through a slowcore tempo and Hall’s voice comes in with a scratch. It’s like a blend of Paramore, Manchester Orchestra, and the Dear Hunter, not the shoegaze staples like My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive.
“Jess went through a pretty heavy shoegaze phase, but I don’t think any of us particularly love the genre now,” says Stevens. “I think the biggest reason for this shoegaze ‘revival’ is because effects pedals are so sick. We’re kind of in a golden age of music gear. Less people are buying guitars than in decades past, but the market keeps chugging out guitars, effects, amps, etc. Part of the appeal of being in a band is in the equipment itself. It just so happens that, when several guitar effects pedals are combined, it often tends to sound like shoegaze.”
All four members seem fond of the area. They cite the active college population as a breath of fresh air, Mill No. 5 as a rejuvenating community-oriented art space, and Uncharted Gallery as a key venue to see music and grab a slice of pizza. On top of all of that, there’s the house shows, a music outlet that’s louder than Boston’s house shows if only because there are fewer police scoping out the neighborhoods in hopes of shutting some down.
“It seems like more and more out-of-town musicians are realizing Lowell, MA, as a place to play. Although I don’t book many shows anymore, it’s been really rewarding to be a part of that growth,” says Stevens. “For a lot of people, inclusivity is as important as the music itself. Actually, more important. It’s wonderful to be a part of a scene which makes an effort to create more sensitive, equitable communities. At times, I’ve been a little concerned about how the scene’s progressive ideology becomes a sort of social capital. In other words, it’s conceivable that people may outwardly express certain beliefs for the sole purpose of endearing themselves to the music scene. It’s important that we create communities which are more empathetic as well as being more sensitive and inclusive.”
Those eager to devour more of their music are hopping on board just in time. This fall, oldsoul will release their debut full-length. “Our new album definitely packs more of a punch and is easier to connect to,” says Hall. “We tried to get away from the idea of being ‘shoegaze’—we still don’t know why people refer to us as shoegaze—by writing music that people could catch on to and that was more structurally sound.”
While the specific release date and title have yet to be revealed, oldsoul can share that Jake Checkoway of Honest Face Records helped record the LP, it includes rerecorded versions of the two songs on the split, and it currently sits as a nine-song track list that’s varied and thick. From what the four-piece can share, it seems like a perfect record to cradle close in the colder months to come. Given how big of a sound they’ve built out of Lowell already, it’s safe to say it’s worth the wait and entirely worth counting down to.
SHIVER, OLDSOUL, PUSHFLOWERS, ANOTHER MUSICIAN. THU 8.3. O’BRIEN’S PUB, 3 HARVARD AVE., ALLSTON. 8PM/21+/$8. OBRIENSPUBBOSTON.COM