Blood, the first album in 16 years by Seattle psych-stoners Snail (say that five times fast) is among 2009′s most pleasant surprises. Brought to light via the increasingly prolific MeteorCity, the album is comprised of 11 tracks the band had originally demoed before breaking up after releasing the All Channels are Open EP in 1994. It was to be their second full-length after their 1993 self-titled debut, and with the musical climate in Seattle at that time, the safer bet was it was going to get them noticed.
In the email interview below, Snail guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson cites the usual suspects as reasons for the band falling apart, but what’s even more important is the vibrant tones the trio-turned-four-piece calls forth from the ether on Blood. Johnson, original drummer Marty Dodson and bassist Matt Lynch are joined by new guitarist Eric Clausen, whose presence not only adds texture to the songs, but fitting and killer solos as well. All around, it’s a win.
Also worth noting that of all the emailers I’ve done (and I’ve done a bunch at this point), this one required the least editing or formatting, so a special thanks to Johnson for that and for his time in general. Interview is after the jump. Please enjoy.
What was the process of getting back together like? Had you kept in touch throughout the years? Was there something in particular that made you want to pick up Snail again?
It was pretty exciting to get back together. It felt good to get back to work and finish what we started for one thing. Plus we?re all really good friends who grew up together so we have a great time playing together. We all kept in touch over the years which gave us plenty of time to grow our friendships outside the context of a band and I think that helped us to feel more integrated and unified. The reason we got back together was sort of passive; I posted a Snail MySpace page for the hell of it, we got a great response from it, and it just sort of happened. At first we were just going to record the album and give it away, and then we thought it might be better to shop it so we get better distribution? and it just progressed from there. At this point we?re making tour plans.
How did adding a fourth member come about and what was it like bringing in Eric on guitar?
I think Eric saw our Snail MySpace profile and contacted me. He expressed to me that he had always wanted to be in Snail — even back in the day. We started talking about it and he actually started writing for the Blood album and came up with ?Via/Penny Dreadful.? So he was definitely serious about it. I told him we should go in the studio together and just see what happens. By the time we were done recording I said to Eric, ?So is this us?? and he said, ?I guess so.? That was it, he was in.
Eric?s contribution is amazing because he?s such an incredible player and writer. He did most of the solos on the album and really put an exclamation point in those tunes with his playing.
Do you feel like the band is picking up where left off? With all the time that?s passed, and all that?s changed in music, is such a thing possible?
I don?t really think in terms of picking up where we left off. I think we?re just playing what we like and the cherry on top is that people dig it! I think years ago we were a little more concerned with trying to ?make it big? and that had a bad effect on our creativity. Now we really don?t give a fuck so we?re free to just play what we like, for better or worse. Everyone?s older, wiser, and better players now too so it?s like we are finally able to live up to our ultimate potential as Snail. We?re having a great time.
How did it all fall apart the first time? How are the relationships between the members different now? Have your attitudes changed about the music?
It fell apart for a variety of reasons. Our label started dicking us around and not living up to their promises. I was on a variety of substances and essentially became a tyrant in the band. Shows were booked for us with no local promotion so we were playing great venues that were empty. It just sort of started falling apart and then died. I wanted it to die and I think the other guys did too. Snail had become a dead end.
Now our relationships are great and more based on our love for each other as people rather than music. If Snail stopped playing again we?d just carry on as friends.
How do you feel now about what you guys did back then musically?
I?m pretty proud of it. I mean, I?ve never been a great singer so that?s a weak point but I like the tunes and the tones we got.
Was this album always in back of your head? How was it to go back and relearn those songs? Was there any rewriting that took place or are they pretty much as they were on the demo recording?
I really forgot about the album over the years. I would bring it out once in awhile when I found the cassette and at one point I burned it to a disc but I never listened to it. The demos were pretty raw so we did do a little arrangement work and write some new parts. I like to write ?song seeds? that need further development so some of the songs were in that state when we picked them up. Other tunes we had been playing for some time and were essentially complete.
It was a joy relearning the tunes and the thing that surprised me was how simple the tunes are. They were like blank canvasses that made it easy to add oscillating effects and guitar noise and have it fit.
What was it like to be finally recording Blood? Did the sound in the end always match what you thought it would be?
Recording Blood was an unbelievable experience. First of all it was amazing to have all the guys together at one time. Secondly, Eric. Third, having Matt?s studio was incredible because there was no pressure. Right from the start Blood was going to be an album where we got exactly what we wanted, no compromise or corner-cutting. I feel that having the luxury of unlimited recording time really impacted the album in a good way. After recording the basic tracks I went home to Seattle and did overdubs over a few months. During that time we were able to do multiple mixes and fine-tune the album as it was recorded. We really took our time getting the mixes.
Are you guys planning on staying together now that Blood is done and released? Are you going to write again? Play shows?
Oh yes. We?ve talked about it specifically and decided we?re working on a long-term plan now with Snail, and plan on doing many more albums. We have our entire next album demoed out and we?re getting together in November to collaborate and play a few shows. I think we?ll be in the studio early next year. We also have plans to tour next spring.
How would a new Snail album be different from these songs?
We?re getting more metal! The next album will be much heavier but it?ll still sound like Snail.
Tags: MeteorCity, Seattle, Snail