|Rich Indie Pop out of Bushwick
Dave Cromwell - January 7, 2012
The Brooklyn quintet
Snowmine came together out of a long-time friendship between bassist
Jay Goodman, drummer Alex Beckmann, and lead singer/composer Grayson
Sanders. Adding guitarists Austin Mendenhall and Calvin Pia helped
solidify their fascination with classic afrobeat, electro-acoustic
soundscapes and 20th century classical orchestrations. Grayson, the son
of an opera singer and oil painter, demonstrated an aptitude for
classical and intelligent dance music at an early age. The band
recorded their debut LP, Laminate Pet Animal, in the summer of 2010,
and continued to tinker with it until its eventual Bandcamp release
that November. With a vocal style that at times brings to mind Jim
James of My Morning Jacket and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, the
band’s overall sound sits favorably next to artists like Arcade Fire
and XTC as well.
Tell us a little bit
about your band. The significance of your name, and which members play
Grayson Sanders: Prior to January 2011, we'd just been a group of
friends who couldn't decide what style of music to play. We'd all come
up in the jazz and classical scenes and were sure of two things at the
very least: We didn't want to be a laptop band (albeit "a la mode"),
and we loved a good pop song. I think our first attempts were pretty
garbage – 10-minute prog rock epics with break-beat bridges.
But we finally assembled some songs which ended up becoming our first
album (released last May). Our name has a lot of significance to me
because it refers to the story of my Grandfather leading a platoon
through a snowy minefield in the Korean War – a story for another
You titled your latest
release Laminate Pet Animal. Animals as pets are, of course, a
universal theme, but the word "laminate" adds some mystery to it all.
What specifically does this refer to?
Grayson: That album deals quite a bit with confusion over one's
direction. (Relationship, Vocation, inability to read Google Maps – not
the last one). If the "pet animal" is your
affectionate, comforting friend or situation, then perhaps the
desirable (and macabre) thing to do would be to preserve it forever? To
willfully ignore or deny a murkier reality ahead or behind you? The
idea with the artwork (done by our awesome partner Jesse Corinella),
was to create a beautiful creature both alive and dead. Preserved
forever – laminated. Oh, and also, you can read it
backwards…LAMINA TEP ETANIMAL.
The first track on that
album "Beast in Air, Beast in Water" presents a songwriting style
emphasizing traditional structures – what was once referred to as "hit
radio" stuff. There is even, what sounds like, an orchestra string
section at the end. Is this the bands intention? To perfect a pop rock
radio friendly hit sound, on the level of say, a band like Coldplay or
Grayson: You used the "C" word. No, I don't think the idea of
engineering your sound like a science project will get you anywhere at
all, but writing melodies someone can remember is the best way to touch
as many people as possible. And isn’t that the goal of the popular
idiom? Oh, and if we ever write a song as popular as Clocks (The other,
other "C" word), I’ll retire and go back to sampling frogs croaking
over solo cello.
The song "Penny"
introduces other sonic elements to the overall audio palette. The use
of glockenspiel and vocals moving in and out of the falsetto range. At
what point during the songwriting process do these ideas develop? Are
they carefully worked out in advance or are they added at the time of
Grayson: A lot of what you're hearing in "Penny" is vibraphone and
re-amped vocals. We did most of those overdubs in my good friend’s
studio in Bushwick (RAD Studios). A lot happens between the basics
recording and the overdubs, as the foundation sounds of the band start
to shift around in favor of elements that can’t necessarily be brought
onstage. I guess the trick is keeping it interesting live and
trying to re-capture as much of the recording as possible.
album mixed by Dave Trumfio (Wilco, My Morning Jacket) and mastered by
Steve Berson (Sharon Jones and the Dapkings) adds an impressively
professional sheen to it all. Are you fans of those bands and artists?
Huge fan of Sharon - that woman's fire could erupt a dormant volcano. I
don't think our choice to work with Dave had as much to do with those
other bands, as much as it did where we were at the time and his
enthusiasm about working on it.
If you could
tour with any band or bands who would they be? Who do you see as a
complimentary fit for your particular sound?
Grayson: Right now we're into Twin Sister. We did a remix trade with
them and can really appreciate their approach to harmony. Both bands
commit a lot of attention to textural details, but where we tend to go
ambient, they tend to reel it in. We’re returning to the studio very
soon for our second album, and you’ll definitely be seeing a clearer
identity across the whole of it.
"The idea with the artwork (done by our awesome partner Jesse Corinella), was to create a beautiful creature both alive and dead. Preserved forever – laminated".
"Laminate Pet Animal "
listen to "
The 5-piece embraces an indie pop sound rich with echo pedals, tribal beats, electro-acoustic soundscapes and classical orchestrations.