The term ‘independent’ or ‘indie’ is a word thrown around these days in a musical context that can have many implications. It is frequently employed as an adjective (much to my chagrin) to blanket a genre of perhaps less-produced and non-traditional sounding artists, a categorization of artist that is either unsigned or signed to a label not affiliated with a major, and sometimes simply just an indication of a project with a low-budget. Brooklyn based rock band, Snowmine, is an exemplary group of the title “indie-rock band”. Self-releasing their newest album Dialects this past February with the assistance of a successful crowd-funding campaign on their newly created label, Mystery Buildings, the band oversaw every minute detail of the entire release process including recording, producing, ordering of merchandise, and even the rolling of hundreds of individual t-shirts to be sent out to fans both domestically and international. This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk to the extremely friendly five-piece band over dinner before the opening night of their first national headlining tour at Great Scott in Allston, MA.
With topics ranging from fictional DiGiorno Pizza commercials to the group’s admiration of Grammy winning neo-soul artist D’Angelo, the conversation throughout dinner couldn’t have been livelier for a group of guys running on 4-6 hours of sleep. Why so little sleep for a group only 4 hours out of Boston you ask? Jay Goodman, the bassist of the group, explained to me upon entering the venue that the band’s sound check took well over 10 hours throughout two days to meticulously perfect the synchronicity between lights and sound, along with making sure the instrument levels were in balance to allow the utmost stimulating listening experience, a task lengthy enough by itself.
The light patterns were organically designed by the group themselves in order to create a more indicative arrangement of their sound rather than just using the venue’s in-house lights. It is this type of attention to detail that places Snowmine above and beyond other bands when it comes to fan engagement and work ethic. At one point, Goodman proclaimed that the group was constantly trying to push forward not only the limitations of visual presentation itself, but also the array of sounds represented within their music. In response to a question concerning offbeat recording techniques, Grayson Sanders, the lead vocalist and keyboardist of the group, went into great detail about some of the more unorthodox and experimental methods of capturing sound that the band has explored both for the new album and in the past. Some of these included recording live choirs and string sections within an empty church to capture true stereo reverb, and even recording an Ikea lamp hooked up to a guitar pedal board for chaotic ambience.
From discussing the inspiration behind the unique line of merchandise offered for supporters of the band’s recent crowd funding campaign to the possibility of collaborating with local artists such as Brooklyn designer Kate Claughton in the future, it was clear from the get-go that the band’s every intention was geared towards creating a unique and rewarding experience for fans in every facet. In an age where artists frequently flock to sites like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic in hopes of creating one-of-a-kind rewards for devout fans, Grayson explained that they wanted to make it even more intimate by going direct-to-fan and bypass the traditional route. “These past shows have been amazing because we’ve been able to meet with fans who pledged money towards our campaign and connect with them on a level that otherwise might not have been possible.”
With drummer Alex Beckman leading the way into opening song “This One” off debut EP Laminate Pet Animal, the crowd inched closer to the stage with each and every carefully plotted note. The set consisted of a pretty even split of old material such as fan favorites “Let Me In” and “The Hill”, and the gracefully genre-blending material off of Dialects like more pop-based single’s “Columbus” and “Rome”. The premiere of the appropriately titled new song “Tidal Wave” was indisputably one of the high points of the night with a subtle yet clearly evident approval from the entirety of the crowd.
While swaying in tandem with the ebb and flow of the set’s wide array of dynamics, I gained a whole new appreciation for the intricacy and effortlessness of each member’s individual parts and performances throughout the night. From the flawless harmony between guitarists’ Austin Mendenhall and Calvin Pia, the underlying bass lines and delicate drums from Goodman and Beckman, and the feathery vocals of Sanders orchestrating the efforts, it was palpable that Snowmine is surely not a band that takes short cuts in writing their music. Layering is one element that plays a pivotal role in the group’s orchestral yet accessible ambient rock sound and creates a truly fulfilling listening experience that is only amplified in a live setting.
Regardless of their future plans and the possibility of label involvement, Snowmine is a band that stays true to both their sound and their fans. In an industry with anemic record sales and an oversaturated market of trend-hugging artists, it would surely be easy for a band consisting of well-versed musicians like Snowmine to buy into the archetypal hit formula, but after meeting these five genuine and benign musicians, I’d put my money against it. Check out the group’s remaining tour dates as well as their newest record on iTunes and Spotify at the links below, you wont be disappointed.