Q&A with Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
The membership roster of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake includes former (and current, in the case of Andrew Warner) members of bands that left an indelible mark on the underground music scene in Colorado, acts like Space Team Electra, Red Cloud, Bad Luck City, Monofog, Hawks of Paradise and V-Tech Orchid.
Rather than taking bits and pieces of any of those bands, this quintet forged something markedly different. The songs are marked by flowing, textured rhythms that trace a propulsive, dancing cadence beneath brooding atmospheres, punctuated by pointed vocals. Although easy comparisons could be made to early offerings from the Rapture, with some aesthetic nods toward LCD Soundsystem, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake is darker than all of that, while embracing how that music is written for the dance floor.
We recently had a chat with the band about its use of two drummers, how friendship within the band affects the songwriting and the group's aspirations beyond the confines of Denver proper. Read the full interview after the jump.
Westword (Tom Murphy): Where did you record your new EP?
Andrew Warner: Briny Deep Studio with Greg Kammerer. It's mostly a digital set-up with a couple of pieces of analog equipment.
Westword: Why do you have two drummers and do you both have separate roles as percussionists?
Kit Peltzel: Andrew plays the acoustic sounds and I play the electronic sounds. We hold the bass drum down together. I do a lot of stuff that floats over the top like handclaps and bright sounds and he just does tribal badass-ness. Sometimes I throw in deep tribal stuff along the way too.
Andrew: I think the best part about working with another drummer is that you don't always have to take on the same roles that you traditionally do when you're the only drummer where you hold the backbeat down and provide texture. With this arrangement you can always jump back and just be color in a song. There are opportunities for each person to take the helm when we need to.
Kit: One thing I've noticed is that we do this call and response thing the more that we play together he'll come up with a phrase and I'll respond to it and vice versa.
Andrew: I don't know if "tribal" is wrong, but the rhythms are always going - there's not a lot of time when the drums stop but there are a few times when one drummer can take that lead role. It's pretty exciting as a drummer for that to happen because you almost never get to do that.
Hailey Helmericks: It depends on the song too. There are songs where Kit will carry it a lot and in others, Andrew carries it more. It opens up a lot more possibilities in terms of mood.
Andrew: It's also great that I'm not playing to a machine. Even though the sounds are electronic, they're still really organic the way we play so when we're on we can lock on. I have a definite sway in my timing, which is to say that I'm pretty terrible [laughs]. But we can catch each other.
Westword: James, do you play off Kit and Andrew or do you play more melodic bass?
James Yardley: I play off these guys but I'd say I play melodic too. I just try to find a groove that works. There's so much room for expression with everyone.
Westword: You've submitted to South By Southwest? Have you heard back about whether or not you've been accepted?
Hailey: No, we haven't heard yet but we're going anyway. We're playing a party and we'll try to get on a few others.
James: We're probably going to play Mile High Fidelity--that thing Adam Lancaster does every year. Overcasters played it last year. We may play with The Fresh and Onlys, Wymond Miles' latest band.
Westword: You were all friends before forming this band. Because of that, do you feel free to talk about when something doesn't work in a song?
Doug Spencer: I think everyone puts the art first. We're working on this project and we're trying to craft pieces of music.
Kit: At the same time I think we do all have strong presence and personality and we have a lot of ideas. We mish-mash and sometimes we fight for ideas.
Hailey: It's all for the benefit of writing a good song.
Westword: Wilson, you play both keyboard and guitar, when did you start doing that?
Wilson Helmericks: I've been playing guitar since I was fifteen, synth and keyboard for about four or five years. The synth came about Doug and I played guitar together and I wanted to buy a Nord Lead so I did. I brought it into the mix and I use it as a rhythm instrument and used it to reinforce the rhythm guitar ideas, backing the harmony and provide more texture--coating the sound even more and getting away from traditional guitar.
Westword: James, you play bass for this band. Is there a primary instrument you play?
James: Bass is the instrument that I started playing music with. My first band I think was called Misanthrope. I was fifteen and it was just a straight up punk rock band back in San Diego. I got more into indie rock when I moved to Colorado because of the skate boarding culture. I lived in Palisade, which is a weird coincidence because Hailey and Wilson were born there. My mom moved us there in 1999. She had a job as a flight attendant. She commuted by plane. She wanted out of the rat race. I think this band has a lot of that spirit of punk music we grew up with - Fugazi and stuff like that. I also think we have a lot of dark atmosphere and moodiness.
Westword: Whenever anyone writes about your band they often list the other projects of which some of you have been involved--some of the more prominent bands in underground music in Denver of recent years. Has this helped you in any way?
Doug: I think it has opened some doors because we know people. I don't want all the other bands to overshadow us.
Kit: I don't think we feel that the other bands we were a factor in this band. The contacts are great but beyond that I feel like the band is a new entity beyond our previous projects.
Hailey: I'm sure it makes people curious. Initially it probably pulled people out to our shows. I'm proud of everything we've ever done.
James: I think one of our goals in 2010 is to get out of Denver. We're well established here and we have a lot of friends and our friends are going to come to our shows and we're going to get a lot of feedback because of that. We'd like to play in front of strangers.
Hailey: It's exciting playing in front of new people.
James: Playing outside of Denver and getting exposure, hopefully the synchronicity of the universe will find us playing the right gigs and someone will talk about us to the right person who can pull it off.