Snuff Redux exists in a permanent haze of youth and nostalgia. I first saw the four-piece from Seattle at a house show in Bushwick that felt less like a underground secret and more like a dorm party gone rouge while the RA’s were away. As housemates and friends climbed on the fridge for optimal viewing, Snuff Redux erupted into a set that immediately transported me back to my days of missing curfew, speeding tickets, and falling in love far too fast. Somehow they manage to feel incredibly familiar and brand new all at the same time. A hybrid of Connor Oberst and White Reaper’s Tony Esposito, singer Skyler Ford’s lyrics and vocals are fraught with both reckless abandon and vulnerability. The instrumentation bounces between clean and spacious and furiously fuzzy as they bend in and out of genres. Every element appears to be rooted in a desperate passion to get this all consuming feeling out of their bodies and into the room they’re sharing with us all for the night. Despite their van breaking down that day, they managed to make it back to Pacific Northwest in one piece and with only one police encounter. I got together with the group on a recent trip out west to reminisce on the golden days of our youth, discuss the impact of the Amazon tech bro on Seattle, and hash out what it means to be American in 2018.
We’ve talked a little bit about the DIY scene in Seattle. How involved can you guys be in that now? Is there much of a DIY scene to be a part of?
Skyler Ford: Definitely. Daniel and I live together in Fremont and we’ve been busy all getting back to our jobs and whatever, but I feel pretty invigorated about where we stand as a band—where these ideas will go. As far as DIY is concerned I think collaboration is a big part of it to keep the city afloat culturally and artistically. Daniel and I have just been making a lot of art and been meeting with friends to try and just like explore, I don’t know, new things. Just trying new things with other people is like our DIY stuff. We have a studio in our basement so we’re trying to record our friends who’ve maybe never recorded before. I want to start a video podcast and interview local artists that I admire and kind of put a focus on people that, whether they get attention or not, you know I want to ask more questions and be more involved with how people’s art is being cultivated. I feel like a lot of people feel the same about the DIY situation in Seattle. Like some of us saw it back in the day and realized that it’s not the same at all and we gotta move on from that and it’s hard to like learn the Showbox, not DIY but, your favorite venues are going to be demolished, it’s just the never-ending story of our time. But you know, working on it.
Daniel Chesney: When we were in Missoula, somebody who put on the show asked us if we knew the band we were playing with cause they were also from Seattle and we didn’t even know of each other’s existence. I think we’d both be considered “DIY,” but we don’t even know each other. There’s this interesting thing about Seattle where there’s more musicians than you can count, but they don’t necessarily even know one another. There’s this DIY community, but there isn’t really a professional musician community.
Dylan Arlick: I think I disagree with you. My experience with it, and I imagine there’s different circles of it and that’s how I feel about the Mondegreens and us not really knowing them—but like for example, multiple musicians from different bands have gone through your [Daniel and Skyler’s] houses in the past. I live with a member of Salt Lick and Versing and like, there’s quite a big circle of people that are involved in the “scene” through music or other means. I’m seeing all these people like, “Oh they’re cool, oh they’re in a band, oh I really like their band, oh I want to play with their band,” I feel like that’s kinda how we even put together our lineups in the city.
Ziggy Comer: That’s how you joined the band, that’s how you met people. And it’s worth noting that Dylan moved here after our high school days and stuff like that. He moved from Battleground, Washington and it is a different view on kind of the same landscape, you know?
Dylan: But I think there are like so many bands that at a certain point maybe your roster gets full, you’re like, “Okay, I know enough people in bands,” or something.
Daniel: It seems to me the DIY scene in Seattle is the only scene in Seattle. There isn’t a professional scene. There’s the big venues and like three or four DIY venues and the rest is houses that crop up and fall down faster than you can keep track of a lot of the time.
Ziggy: A lot of venues, since I was younger at least, have gone away and the landscape has changed and really what bands have in common is the venue, they don’t, everyone’s alone in their practice spaces making their music, we come together to make the music for people and the fact that Healthy Times Fun Club, The Josephine, places like that have closed down have made it so there’s less of a communal thing. There’s a scene amongst bars for sure, there’s a lot of bands that play those places together frequently, but playing at a bar isn’t the same as playing at cool DIY clubhouse, you know, in Ballard, or something like that. There’s not as much of a glue between what’s going on. But I think the venue is what holds the scene together and I think the landscape has changed financially for a lot of venues and therefore for a lot of bands.
Do you think that that change has anything to do with like—I know that even in the past couple years something crazy like housing prices have increased by 29% and there’s an influx of tech bros from Amazon and Microsoft.
Ziggy: Oh definitely. You shut down old mom n’ pop shops and open new glitzy fucking things that have nothing to do with the people that originally lived there and that’s what’s happening.
Daniel: I think the process of gentrification is under investigated by people who are railing against it. Because the process seems pretty cut and dry to me. Communities originally start as whoever lived there for a long time and that community’s been made up of those people for a long time. And then as the industries around them change, people move in and whatever, but the original process of gentrification usually starts with artists. Artists move into cheap areas of the city, they make cool things, they start their practices and when a neighborhood becomes interesting and useful, industries take it over. They buy it out. The entire thing gets sold and the process starts anew. And Seattle’s not alone in it’s process with gentrification. It’s not really much different. Even though the Amazon, Microsoft, Google tech phenomenon is fairly new, it still has a lot to do with where’s the cheap housing? Where have people already started to move in? Because, you know, the tech people don’t go for the cheap neighborhoods that are far out of town, they go for the next least expensive. So whatever is like right on the border of being the next spot.
Ziggy: And the people who live there have changed at that point. It’s weird just to see a completely different demographic walking the same streets that were just a series of gay night clubs and shit like that and they’re still there, but—
Dylan: Saturday night’s aren’t the same
Daniel: It’s incredibly uncomfortable to walk around Capitol Hill on a Friday or Saturday night
Ziggy: I get gay bashed—I’m not even gay—on Capitol Hill all the time just walking around at 2 AM. Fucking terrible
Daniel: The “tech bros” as a phenomenon are you know so great a number that they clog everything.
Ziggy: It’s sucks that like “tech bros” is synonymous with our wealth, too, and I hate it. Like rich and arro- you know, I don’t need to get into it. I’m just gonna get carried away.
Skyler: Seattle talks about this a lot.
All that stuff being said, at least when I think about Seattle there’s an aspect of romanticism that comes along with being a musician in Seattle. Has the idea of being a musician in Seattle been a contributing factor to you guys doing what you’re doing now?
Skyler: I feel just lucky. I don’t know. I remember like third or fourth grade trying to understand what Nirvana was or something. I remember like Eddie Vedder’s voice and being like “Dad, what? What’s going on with this?” But like that is from Seattle. Jimmie Hendrix, Nirvana –
Ziggy: Pioneer Square in terms of jazz music
Skyler: Yeah, my dad would take me there like every weekend and you just grow into your own mythology. I don’t know. Seattle still is a mystical place regardless of construction, like, if you want it to be there. Daniel and I were talking about this earlier. Some of our peers – like I lived in LA last year and our peer Whitney Ballen lived in LA, but her work is so specific to the Pacific Northwest and I feel the same way. There’s a reason we haven’t left yet, we need this place just as – I don’t know, it’s a duty. I wouldn’t say spiritually for more than myself, but it’s just like, after touring the country twice I can’t really imagine myself living somewhere else.
I watched the feature you guys had on Band in Seattle and listened to the story you talked about of how you were just in nature and then you were looking at the sky and were like we should make a band. It was all very organic and in the moment. Is your creative process more effected by what is around you or more isolated like “I’m going to create now in this realm or void”?
Skyler: We’ve been trying to get this record out for a long time and with that Ziggy’s joined the band and it redefined where we are as people and as artists—it was a rebirth. It wasn’t like starting over, but it was like getting to know each other again as people. Ziggy and I met each other at those STRFKR shows at the Vera Project]back in the day and I hit him up and it’s worked out really well. With that we’ve made new songs, we’ve put out half a new album worth of new songs, and I think that this project, it’s careful. We are searching for new ways to make music faster, but when we get together, when it meshes it meshes, but we know where we’re going, I guess.
Dylan: Coming off of tour we were playing every night, but weren’t able to really play and jam and be creative, but the first couple practices back I feel like we wrote two or three songs in like an hour. And they’re not finished, but it’s like okay everyone looks around and it’s like we all know where that one should go.
Ok so I’m going to quote you guys back to you cause I was looking on your website
Dylan: It’s all lies
Word for word, “Snuff Redux still stands after all this time as a modern rock and roll band because they believe a new Golden Era can exist alongside age old heroes of the past. While many bands live in the shadow of giants, Snuff Redux has stepped forward to offer something in comparison.” I guess my questions regarding that, what makes you optimistic about this “golden era” and how do you avoid the trap of being a poorly veiled imitation of all these other bands that have come before you as many young artists fall victim to?
Daniel: I mean I’d ask you first do you think of us as some imitation of any band that you can think of? Even poorly veiled?
Daniel: I think we could think of a number of bands, a number of references for everything we’ve made but that nobody else would be able to pin down and I think that’s an important part of our identity. We’re stealing just as much of the old material as anyone else is, but we’re really trying to make it our own and make those references invisible to anybody but ourselves. As far as moving forward and trying to contribute to a new golden age, it takes believing that you’re not just stealing and I think a lot of people are content to be just more thieves. I mean there are lots of bands that I can think of and will not name that are doing really well in Seattle right now and aren’t doing anything original. Nothing. And you listen to them and you’re like they’re another high energy awesome rock n’ roll band and nobody’s saying what new cool things are they doing. Nobody. But they’re another cool, new band. They’re not going to go into the history books as someone who changed something. There are bands in Seattle that I think are changing things, are making waves as far as taking their references and pushing them into the future. I think Great Grandpa is one of them for example. They do not sound like they are ripping anybody off and anybody who thinks that. It’s easy to pigeonhole yourself as an artist. It’s easy to decide that you’re making this or that, that you’re this type of artist—that you’re a punk or a blues artist. It’s really hard to decide you’re not going to do those things. And I think that we couldn’t tell you where we fit into everything, but I think we can say that we don’t fit into a lot of those categories.
Dylan: I think a lot of that might come more organically too from the fact that we listen to a lot of different things and a lot of those aren’t rock, but that’s where like – either that’s the medium that we’re working in but is maybe not what’s inspiring it some of the time. And so that’s an interesting twist I think. And also the fact that I’m not interested in making the same thing twice – ever. So if I play something and I’m like, “I’ve done that before,” I’m going to switch up what I’m doing.
Skyler: We made an album—
You did make an album. I was going to ask about the title—I found it interesting being from where you guys are from and being the time that it is to call something Denim American. Do you get a lot of questions about that and what do you guys feel is America and to be American in 2018?
Skyler: Well this is the first time the questions been asked. The idea and the title came a long time ago and I stuck with it. I don’t know. It’s not cool to be—it’s not the best time to be American
What was your initial attraction to that title being representative of the body of work you guys were creating?
Dylan: I think it has a lot to do with initially, even that last question, about the fact that rock and roll and denim go together like punk and leather. And like you know, those terms together have a lot of imagery. When you read it, there’s sort of a whole visual component that you start thinking of immediately. I don’t ever feel like I ever want to explain things like, “That’s the concrete meaning of it,” or whatever but also with the American part of it, I don’t believe in letting people co-opt that. There’s a ton of really good Americans you know and there’s some bad shit going on and there always has been, but I think that you can’t give that away and be like, “That is America.”
Daniel: I think Denim American—just the words are a statement refusing the idea of what it is to be American, it recalls a very specific breed of person.
The album to me feels very nostalgic. A lot of the songs are phrased in talking about the past and you include specific places. Is this a very autobiographical pursuit?
Ziggy: Ask Skyler. Skyler is all about the lyrics. He wrote all of them.
Skyler: I wanted to tell a story and paint a picture of a version of youth that existed in myself and the people that were around me. It’s like this summer feels different than however many summers ago, but that’s what I’m talking about. That summertime when the world wasn’t going to end or the night wasn’t going to end. I was also inspired by movies that take place over the course of one night, like Dazed and Confused. We’re out of school or the world is ours and being young and in the city. And also, that’s what I was going to say before I trailed off – that I’ve been writing these songs for a minute to tell this story and it’s like as time went by the second half of this album is kind of reflective of like the growth in the songs I guess. I didn’t feel like the same person when we dropped the record as when I wrote the first songs then when I recorded it—I’m not even the same person I was when I recorded it. And the world isn’t in the same place. It wasn’t easy to be like we’re dropping this record called Denim America in the fucking Trump times because it’s not the best feeling. It had to come out when it did, you know because it was already—it feels emotionally far away from me in some respects.
Do you guys have any really memorable gigs where it’s like, “Ok there was time that existed before this and time that existed after this and this was the inciting moment?”
Dylan: I feel like a potential, one of those sort of breakthrough big shows is actually just about to happen. Next Friday we’re playing KEXP in studio and later that day we’re playing outside under the Space Needle with Tacocat and The Coathangers and I’m anticipating feeling really great after that. It’s the day after my birthday and it’s like those are two huge things. There’s like a lot of shows that feel landmark—the first time we play any venue really and you know going on tour – making it happen for the first time, making it happen for the second time, making it happen with way more showers on the third time. Coming back from this tour it was like I feel like that was professional. Like I feel like that wasn’t just you know we’re trying to figure it out, like we know what we’re doing. We had some problems on the way, we overcame every one, we made fans, you know.
Daniel: I always wanted to be in a band. And the second show we ever played was in a basement with the bands So Pitted and Dude York and after that show Peter, the singer of Dude York came up to me and he told me, “We’re going to be opening for you soon,” and it was like sort of after that when I was like okay. I mean I didn’t really know anything at that point but like, “This is going to keep going. We’re going to be doing this for a while.” His statement has not come to pass yet, but who knows, maybe one day.
The year is 2018 and grunge in Seattle is dead. In it’s place is an EDM/electric regime. The kids have traded in their flannels and guitars for computers and drum machines and I’m trying not to feel personally victimized. Growing up in Seattle, I was heavily influenced by all things Sub Pop and Nirvana and was hoping to return to those roots this year at Capitol Hill Block Party – a three day music festival in what is the most Portlandia-esque part of the city. The last time I went to the festival was in 2010. The lineup that year included MGMT, !!!, The Dead Weather, Fruit Bats, and Beach Fossils, as well as a strong contingent of local acts ranging from hip-hop and rap (a pre-Thrift Shop Macklemore made a bottom bill appearance) to folk and garage rock. A lot has changed in 8 years time. The lineup remains eclectic and incredibly diverse (almost confusingly so), the local acts continue to shine, but now there are people pressing buttons on a laptop in the headlining slots.
Capitol Hill Block Party is definitely a smaller scale festival compared to Seattle staples Bumbershoot and Sasquatch (RIP). It exists within 6 blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood giving the residents who fall within the grounds free balcony seats to the Mainstage shows (whether they want them or not). This seems to be pretty prized real estate, though, as people were hanging out the windows at all times and throwing otter pops to the groundlings below. Spanning three days and five stages, both indoor and out, it hosts acts that have just started getting local radio airplay to top 40 pop princesses like Betty Who.
Unfortunately, I missed the first day of block party which included local standouts Dude York and MONSTERWATCH, as well as Flasher, who will be on tour with Shame this fall, and Alvvays. Personally, I am much more into that kind of lineup and would have preferred that theme to carry through more strongly on days 2 and 3, but it is reassuring to see that different shades of guitar rock and indie pop are still being represented in some capacity. Day 2 started off strong, though, with local indie rockers, Spirit Award, on the mainstage. They have an expansive quality to their sound – rolling, dippy, trippy, with some psych moments, but it’s punctuated with strong percussion to break through the haze. I will hand it to block party, though, while I wasn’t always into the style of music being featured, the lineup did encourage me to scope out genres I wouldn’t necessarily seek out otherwise. There were some great R&B/soul bands like Busty and the Bass and The Dip, as well as soul pop princess, Gavin Turek (who I want to be when I grow up if we’re being completely honest). Block Party also does a great job at showcasing the best of the Pacific Northwest. I was constantly impressed by the local acts like Hibou, Sundries, and Great Grandpa. Pitted against the same time slot as America’s new favorite boy band, Brockhampton, Great Grandpa still managed to pack the Vera Stage audience for their closing set on Saturday night. Grunge pop at it’s finest, Great Grandpa is the Seattle band we all want and need. Anthemic crowd favorites “Teen Challenge” and “Favorite Show” balance cathartic release and catchy hooks with such skill that I’d be surprised if they don’t become the new classics.
Sunday was not as fun-filled as the day before. It started off strong with Bully on the mainstage, but petered off pretty quickly after that. There was a confusing Tennessee takeover in Neumos, one of the indoor venues, that was sponsored by Jameson Whiskey. With country music festival, Watershed, right around the corner and a Seattle staple for frat boys and aspiring Bachelor contestants alike, it seemed an odd choice to feature the genre so strongly when it’s target demo was probably not in attendance. It did provide solace to some of the 30-something block party attendees, though, who didn’t want to sweat it out by the mainstage dancing with the teenagers as Cashmere Cat pressed buttons and head-bobbed to a track featuring the not present Ariana Grande. I caught La Fonda at the Barboza stage, down the stairs from Nuemos, and got my indie pop fix. Another Seattle band, they skew more surfy and dreamy and could easily slip into an Urban Outfitters playlist rotation. The night closed out with Two Feet on the Vera Stage and Father John Misty taking it home on the mainstage. Fitting that Two Feet closed out the festival’s smaller stage as his sound was representative of a merger between things old and new – guitar fronted soul-infused indie “rock” backed by electronic beats. And last, but not least, Father John Misty closed things out once and for all. Everyone was smoking weed. Everyone was in love. It was a pretty perfect way to wrap things up.
The festival was not what I expected in ways both good and bad. I’m eternally grateful for the platform the festival gives to some really fucking good local bands and how they champion for their success. There seems to be a very strong and impassioned community supporting Seattle music and I couldn’t be happier about that. While I wish there were changes in what genres and artists were highlighted in the festival, unfortunately it does come down to what draws a crowd and sells tickets. Sadly, that’s not always guitar rock n’ roll. The diversity of genres was great, but for my taste, I hope they return closer back to their indie roots.