After enchanting us earlier this year with “Don’t Believe,” retro-leaning Aussie Slow Dancer is back with another beguiling slice of laid-back sophisti-pop. “I Would,” premiering on NYLON today, is the second single from his upcoming album, In A Mood (out June 9), and shows off the Melbourne native’s penchant for pairing soulful ’70s instrumentation with devastating lyricism. Flickering acoustic guitar underscores Slow Dancer’s lilting croon, as he evocatively employs vintage sonics to depict modern heartbreak. We caught up with Slow Dancer (aka Simon Okely) to discuss this silken soft ballad.
“I Would” is a heart-wrenchingly specific love song. What’s the story behind it?
You are spot-on. “I Would” is a very specific love song, and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t writing to a specific person. But perhaps due to feeling that it often detracts rather than adds, I’m not comfortable telling people much about what my songs are about, or the story behind them. My favorite thing about it is that you can have a personal experience with it and never be wrong. There are not many places in the world you can still have that. Especially with Google at your fingertips.
You include the line, “All the others went and bought the cars/ And built their houses/ But I think we make for better dancers.” Are you finding a pressure from your peers to conform and settle down?
I grew up in western Australia. Urban sprawl hugs the coast in both directions for hours. Almost everyone owns a car, and the middle and working classes live in a suburb at least 40 minutes from the city. People generally partner and have children young. If you’re not careful, you can wake up a middle-aged 25-year-old. This culture, and pressure to conform to it, has shaped me for sure. But, in answer to your question, no, I have recently sold my car and my house and started tango lessons.
“I Would” is a deeply emotional and introspective song. Where would you ideally want fans to listen to it?
Ideally, you dub “In A Mood” from your record player onto cassette, and put the cassette into your Walkman with the bass boost on and the volume all the way up. You start walking to the park around the corner from the house you grew up in. As “I Would” starts, you are hanging upside down on a set of monkey bars. You give a thought to your first crush, and how they used to smell. Your chest relives how they made you feel when they walked past at recess on their way to the library. You’re sitting on top of the monkey bars now, and looking out onto the suburb you grew up in. You think about how far removed your life is now, how much lower the monkey bars are from the ground, yet how connected you still feel. You jump down, landing on both feet, but wobble. You put your hands on your knees, and you do a small watery vomit into the sand. It’s from hanging upside down and from being far too nostalgic. You walk back, hop into your rental car, drive to the airport, and sit at the darkest part of the bar. You’re drinking white wine, but you really feel like orange juice. You call that family member you always call when you’re waiting somewhere. The one who isn’t offended when you hang up when it’s time to board.