This week we’re featuring the indie-pop band, Snowmine. The Brooklyn five-piece, having all met in New York during the college years, have created a sound rich in experimental tribal/electro beats. They released their debut record Laminate Pet Animal (say that backwards…cool, huh?) and most recently released a their single, Saucer Eyes back in April. Now they are on the brink of starting on a new November tour, making a stop at DC’s Red Palace.
We spoke to lead singer Grayson Sanders about the origin of their band name, their stream of awesome cover art, ties to DC, and more! Get to know Snowmine below.
Tell us about your band, what everyone does.
Snowmine is Calvin Pia (Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals), Austin Mendenhall (Guitar), Jay Goodman (Bass), Alex Beckmann (Drums). I’m Grayson and I sing.
Many bands have a story to accompany the choosing of their bandname, does the same follow true for you all in Snowmine?
Yes. My grandfather was a platoon leader in the Korean War. In the Winter of 1952, on a beautiful snowy evening in the mountains, he and his men were ordered out on a patrol. On this night, however, the platoon found their way into a minefield blanketed in snow too deep for the detectors to function. Bravely, he instructed each man to step where he had stepped to avoid the likely calamities that would ensue. He could not have foreseen that with every passing step the snow would become deeper packed onto the mines. They began to detonate in the back of the line… Below are words he wrote to me.
“It occurred to me that I and the other three lieutenants in our company were all younger than you are now. Responsibility for leading a night patrol rotated among us, so every fourth night I knew it was my night. On each of those afternoons I would sit in the snow on the back side of our ridge and read a passage from Psalm 91 or Psalm 121. Actually, I knew them both by heart. Later, when we were trapped in a minefield, and I had to lead men in and out several times to remove the dead, or rescue the wounded, I kept reciting to myself the closing line of Psalm 121, “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and even for evermore.”
Of the original 12-man patrol, only two men, I and my radio operator, survived unscathed.”
To me the story symbolizes a remarkable dichotomy between beauty, chance, and pain, elements that come to characterize the delicate balance of all of our lives. The story embodies a lot of the sound we find ourselves creating. Melancholy with a silver a lining. Acknowledging the dark to appreciate the light.
After meeting one another over the years in New York – what finally sparked you all to get together to form a band?
Jay, Alex and I met at College and were playing together immediately, tossing ideas around and playing in other projects. Austin moved from DC a couple years later. We met him after he’d been touring for years with another band and was looking for a change. After a couple times playing together we asked him to jump on. Calvin knew Alex already from school and they were already playing together in a couple bands, the most venerable of which was called “Ghostmeat,” who’s notorious slogan was “It’s so rare it’s not even there.” Calvin got involved in Fall ’11 and then we had our final lineup.
You all have some sweet artwork accompanying your records from Laminate Pet Animal to the latest, Saucer Eyes – could you talk a little about what went into each cover?
The artwork you see is by our friend and cohort Jesse Corinella. He’s a brilliant illustrator. Typically we start with ideas by sending over the lyrics and talking about the mood of the piece he’s trying to get into. For the LPA cover, we talked about having an animalistic human character that was somehow alive and dead. We talked about people a lot and the emotions expressed throughout the album, but then Jesse made the leap into actually featuring an animal. He wanted to show fur and bone but give the creature a living sparkle in its eye. It’s very much alive and beautiful, but has an awareness of melancholy to it as we see it’s cross section…potentially a harbinger for what’s ahead. What you’ll see in the next set of artwork is a lot more realism in the subject matter surrounding the new album.
Speaking of Saucer Eyes, could you speak on the songwriting and recording process of the track?
Actually, this song was written entirely on my iPhone in the van. The original demo was done in the Garageband app, and fully produced that way while we were on the road. Thought it would be a fun experiment. If we had the balls we’d have released that version, but it was a bit… rough. When we got home we took it, brought it into a friend’s studio, produced and mixed it in about a week and got it online as soon as we could….But the vocals were recorded on an iPhone.
Do you all have another full-length in the works?
We do. The album is done and on the way to mastering as we speak. Now to figure out when to put it out…
You’re playing DC’s Red Palace next month and have played DC before – what do you look forward to most in coming back to our city? Knowing that Austin is from DC, that must be special I’m sure.
DC holds a special place in Austin’s heart, yeah. We can’t wait. We were actually the openers at Red Palace in our second month as a band, so it’s really nice to get to come back a bit later after being away for awhile.
How can you explain your live show for someone who has yet to see you play?
It’s a very visual show, and not just because of the live visual projections, although you’ll definitely notice those first. (Our 6th band member Leia Doran tours with us as a live projection artist, working with an app we recently released for iPhone called Colorbeast) . But in terms of the music, it’s very enveloping. Big soundscapes, ambient textures, and big beats to move to.
What bands are you all currently loving right now?
I’ll unabashedly admit that I’m crushing on Die Antwoord right now. A vision those guys have! And the new video is ACE. Dig the new Four Tet. And there’s a girl we played with in the Spring who goes by Sea of Bees who’s voice fell from heaven.
Thanks for talking to us at Pick-Up Productions – any last words for the readers?
The key to all your problems is finding safety in an open mind.