I first heard of Snowden about a year or so ago while listening to some internet radio site. The song was "Kill the Power" - a moody yet danceable, instantly catchy post-punk number - and I was hooked. Further investigation led to the Atlanta-based band's Web site (www.snowden.info) where I found the entire self-titled EP made available for free download. Fuzzy guitars, driving beats, thumping bass lines and a droning voice combined for an intriguing first listen that just begged to be expounded upon.
Thankfully, the four-piece soon followed up with Anti-Anti, their debut full-length available on Jade Tree. The 12-song disc is a dance-happy meets cool gloom blur of smoke and fuzzed-out melodies, powerful and thought provoking lyrics and flat-out strong song writing.
Jordan Jeffares, vocalist and main brain behind Snowden was kind enough to take time away from touring, marketing and setting up the release of Anti-Anti in order to answer a few of my inquiries via e-mail. Here's what we discussed:
So first, the boring, typical – How did you all come together? How long has Snowden been around? Did you have any common interests that led you to form a band, etc.?
The band began when I was graduating from college in 2003. I'd been working on songs for years but only at that point did they ever get to anything decent. My brother helped me meet up with the first line up. We played for a year under that line up before vacation time started to run out for some of the guys so the line up changed to its current state the summer of 2004. I met Dave (Payne, guitar) through our first drummer and bassist. They were all jamming in a practice space.
When the other guys ran out of vacation time, Chandler (Rentz, drums) had gotten wind that we were looking for a drummer from other people in the local Atlanta scene. A friend in Austin turned me onto Corinne (Lee, bass).
And of course the dreaded "How would you explain your sound?" question. What are you trying to do with your music? Where are you now musically, and where would you like to go in the future?
I'm trying to stay flexible and open to my view of Snowden and where it's going or been. There have been periods, especially in the very beginning of the band where I was trying really hard to make the music really different and it ended up making things too complicated. I constantly feel like good music is innovative, and since I want to make good music, I feel like I should always innovate.
I feel like I've finally found a style but I'm very wary of even thinking of it that way because I don't want to lock myself into any paths. I don't want to have to worry about a song fitting on an album. I want every song to belong to itself.
What are thoughts on "rock ‘n' roll" right now, and how do you separate yourselves from other bands out there?
The line between indie rock and ‘rock rock' used to be so clear, now there are ‘indie' bands on major labels and bland rock bands on ‘indie' labels. The terms that used to help you weed through music to get to the good stuff have fallen apart.
There's only so much you can do to try to separate yourselves. You try to do it with the music. Then we try to do it onstage every show. I used to be of the mindset that you should get on stage and let the music speak for itself, until one day we started going nuts and then people started responding like they never had before.
What's your live performance like? What can fans expect to see when they check out Snowden?
We go nuts. We all stomp and jitter to the music. I have lots of nervous ticks that my brother always makes fun of. At the end of the show we're soaked through.
Is there any message or theme behind your music? What do you hope people get out of hearing your stuff?
There are messages in every song, both introverted and extroverted. A lot of them are collages of situations or feelings. There are stories about places, disappointment, and revolution. I try to be dynamic with my lyrics. I never want to be a boring songwriter who writes about love all the time.
What was it like writing and recording your EP? What are your thoughts about it?
The EP was a learning experience that should have been done better, but I'd only been doing music seriously for about 6 months at the time and there was no one looking out for us to make sure we didn't mess up. So, I did everything wrong. We worked with a horrible engineer who ruined the first attempt at it. Then I did the best I could mixing it with a friend from out of town and pressed it up, only so that I would remix it 8 months later and start giving it away for free through the website.
I learned a lot from that EP. I learned not to rush things. I learned that an EP can be your ticket to bigger things if you can just wait and do it right and get people behind it instead of just trying to get something to sell at shows.
You decided to let people download the whole thing for free, how did that decision come about?
It just occurred to me that a band starting out has to give their music away, especially if they're unsigned/unmanaged/unconnected. The measly few grand that you could make off selling your music is nothing compared to the exposure you can get by giving it away. I tell all young bands to give away at least half of their songs if not more. Especially in the blog age, it's possible to do a blog campaign one week and have 50,000 people with your album on their hard drive/ipod the next week. You give it away today so that 1) people can learn about you and 2) so that you can sell them your debut LP next year.
You recently signed with Jade Tree, how did that come about, and what is it like now working with label support? Did it make things easier/harder when recording the full-length?
Jade Tree is about as indie as it gets. They're very responsive and active but we still decide on everything and do most stuff on our own. We have a publicist now, and college radio will get serviced, but we do our own Web design, our own recording, I'm booking the support tour right now, we do our merch, everything.
What are your thoughts on the full-length? How would you compare it to the EP? If someone takes one thing away from this album, what would you hope that to be?
It's more mature than the EP. Sonically, there's more space between things and I learned how to use my voice. Like the EP it's still moody. 8/12 are upbeat and the other 4 on the record are my favorites, the slow stuff.
"Victim Card" and "Kill the Power" are both songs on the EP which made the full-length as well. Was there anything particularly special about those two songs that helped them make the cut? Does it indicate what sort of direction you might be heading with your sound?
Those are both songs that really characterize our sound. Those songs are where we are right now, no question. "Victim Card" was originally a slow song that I rewrote because we didn't have enough upbeat stuff for our first show. On the full length it's the slow version and we close almost every show with this version. "Kill the Power" most indicates the direction we're going. It's got that weird powerful rhythm and the distorted bass line and all that.
What is next for you guys, and is there anything else in particular that you'd like people to read about?
I want people to read about our European tour and how we're blowing up in Turkey and why hasn't America caught on yet?!?!
- Nathaniel Deas | 2006-09-18