The phrase “Laminate Pet Animal” is actually a palindrome. More specifically, a phrase that’s spelled the same backwards as it is forwards. From one end to the other, it’s fairly consistent. The same can’t be said for the Snowmine album of the same title. Their 2011 release - Laminate Pet Animal - is composed of well-crafted, singularly epic tracks - each a bit different from the last. From top to bottom, it’s one unique pop progression after another. And upon first listen, it may be the hooks that grab you, but ultimately, it’s the orchestration that pulls you in.
Snowmine will be taking the stage this Thursday at Midpoint. Prior to that, they were nice enough to sit down with us to talk about making the switch from classical to pop, their upcoming plans for a new album, and the artist they’re most interested in seeing while in town this weekend.
Cincymusic.com: First off, how’s it going and where are you guys right now?
Grayson: Hey there! We're great. We're home, getting ready for a very busy fall.
Jay, Alex and Grayson – you’ve been friends for a long time from what I’ve read. How long ago did you meet, and was music the first thing you bonded on?
Alex: Three of us met in NYU's jazz program in 2006. I think we nerded out together on heavy groove oriented stuff back then. Stuff that you make the stinker face to. I think we also all had an appreciation for "good" pop music too. This hasn't changed but we all focus more on sounds and space a bit more.
Grayson - you used to be a composer in the NY music scene, when and why did you decide to make the switch from composing classical music to fronting an indie pop five piece?
Grayson: Well, it may seem like giant leap but in many ways it actually felt like a logical side step. The best concert music has the same thematic attention as pop music, it's just delivered in a 10 course meal, instead of a tasty food truck taco. Honestly, some of the most important music ever written slips completely under the radar because it’s just not a part of the modern cultural education. It's not really worth lamenting evolution though, there's still a lot of amazing new music. All we can really do as appreciators of an older medium is make efforts to expose others to it in ways that makes more sense. So long story short, I saw crystal clear that you can pack similar musical statements in different boxes and more people will smile. That's good enough for me.
You recently posted on Facebook that there was an “album announcement on the way”. In your opinion, how does this upcoming album differ from to 2011’s Laminate Pet Animal?
Alex: It’s a bit darker, although still uplifting (hopefully). We think it’s more of a night time album. It also has the sweet sounds of Calvin's guitar, Yale's engineering and Jake's mixing.
Speaking of Laminate Pet Animal, “Danger in the Snow!” is a real oddball of a song. Don’t ask why, but every time I hear it, it brings to mind visions of that creepy voodoo henchman from Live and Let Die. It still haunts me to this day. So in return for all the mental anguish you’ve caused, could you at least let me in on what that song is all about?
Grayson: (Laughs) Well, actually that song is like The Ring. So... if you're reading this, you're already dead. But really, the song is actually about the story of our band name. It's about the dangerous mines in the snow that killed many men on my grandfathers note patrol in the Korean War. And it compares this snowy minefield to navigating a touchy conversation.
Huge fan of the song “Penny” - especially dig that little guitar solo. Doesn’t seem like solos are something you guys would throw in very often, so wondering what brought that on?
Alex: Thanks. Sometimes it’s helpful to set musical boundaries, like don't play guitar solos. Then it will stick out when you cross those boundaries. It’s also not the most conventional solo.
Grayson sings and plays keyboards which isn’t exactly the norm in most bands … do you guys have a favorite band – besides yourselves – with a keyboardist providing lead vocals?
Grayson: Hmm, Victoria from Beach House is dreamy. But yeah it is rarer and can be a bit tough because the keyboard is this barrier between you and the audience. For it to work, that subtle removal has to become a part of the sound I think, but I’m still not sure.
Grayson - are there any instruments you’ve worked with in the past that you’re itching to bring into the mix with Snowmine?
Grayson: Celeste Celeste Celeste !!!
You’re coming out of the crowded New York music scene where it can be hard to set yourselves apart. Have you ever thought of lying and just saying you’re from Milwaukee or something?
Grayson: That's so silly. Why would you choose Milwaukee (Laughs)?? No I mean it seems the Internet kind of globs everyone together anyway now, so the whole city 'scene' mentality has dissolved considerably. But then again we've been in New York for awhile now so we're just used to it.
Any other artists you’re listening to lately that you think people should really hear?
Calvin: This new Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote is kinda blowing my mind. Their sound is super eclectic - jazzy, progressive, R&B, electronic, experimental ... plus Q-Tip raps on a track. I also love Braids' new album. We played with them live this past year, great people and an incredible live show. Their sound completely envelopes you.
You’ll be playing Midpoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati in late September. Should fans expect to hear a few tracks off the new album at some point during your set?
Grayson: Definitely. I think we'll be doing about half and half.
Are there any bands on the Midpoint lineup that you guys plan on going out of your way to check out?
Calvin: I'm excited to check out Kurt Vile. I think his tunes are the perfect nostalgia/road-trip soundtrack. He's playing right after us, so I'm pretty sure we'll get to see him & his Violators.
If some wayward Cincinnati kid was - for some god forsaken reason - planning on seeing some other band during your time slot at Midpoint, what would you say/do to convince them to show up for your set instead?
Grayson: We'd threaten them by offering they/themselves for free download to our crowd. You don't even want to know what that means.