Courtesy of Nic Snyder
Nic Snyder’s music is pretty, but there’s something rotten about it. That’s the quality that comes to mind with this guy: charming and woozy while smuggling something nasty on the sly. It tastes good, but it’ll make you sick.
That aestehtic was there in his former band Takeover UK, and boy, was it there in his following band 1,2,3, where his raspy vocals met with rural lo-fi Beatles-ish songwriting, talking about stuff like the apocalypse and JJ Cale. Or something like that. 1,2,3 sounded like Deer Tick as an Elephant 6 band, drunk and weird and creepy but fun to hang out with.
Last year, the former Pittsburgher relocated to the West Coast. Last month, he released his first new music since the move, under the name SANDMAN: an eight song EP called CHIV
. Full disclosure: some of that sentence is not true. The music isn’t all that new, he didn’t write it since the move, and “EP” doesn’t seem quite right for this group of songs. It is called CHIV
will sound familiar to Snyder’s fans, particularly those who fell hard for the sample-heavy interludes that dotted 1,2,3’s 2014 record Big Weather
. Like “Waiting For The Horsemen” and “In The House Of the Locust,” which paired cinematic string samples with Snyder’s witty, lively narration (“this show’s the fakest”), CHIV
pits Snyder & his guitar against dusty samples of drums and strings. The whole thing sounds like a nightmare, but a really good one.
Dirty Beaches’ Badlands
and Daughn Gibson’s All Hell
come to mind for comparisons, but mostly CHIV
just sounds like Nic Snyder. He might not live in Pittsburgh anymore, but he’ll answer emails from people who do. Here’s CP’s chat with Nic Snyder via email, from December.
You posted online that this release was actually finished a year ago but you’ve felt uncomfortable about releasing/promoting it. Can you tell me a bit about that discomfort/hesitation? What led you to finally release it?
Oh, that was only regarding the last month and I don't feel the need to dwell on it. The rest of the time was spent in doubt. Though it probably seems rather hunky dory up front, there are some serious personal things I was hashing out in this album. In fact, I had a few friends that told me "IT" made them feel uncomfortable. One even suggested I not include it. But they were also the same friends that urged me to just put it out in the end.
Releasing this album is a release in more than one way. It's the documentation of me transitioning from one life to another, keeping and enhancing the parts I love, the magic and sadness and leaving the hurt and discontentment behind. You know, that stuff was classified for awhile. This is me declassifying it. It just took a minute.
When I first heard CHIV, it was hard not to think of the interludes from Big Weather (“In The House Of The Locusts” & “Waiting for the Horsemen”). Is there any relationship between CHIV and those tracks?
Absolutely. I was starting this as I was finishing that. In fact, a handful of the tracks were done or started before we even released Big Weather
. It was really just something I was doing for myself. I had this little world in my head that I wanted to out-picture and I was using some pretty benign easy listening or classical records to do it. Those songs you mention, it was completely the same process, same time period.
What was the first song that you wrote for this album? Did you have a preconception for its sound? Or was it one at a time?
The first song was the first song, "DRIVING." My initial idea was to use all these obscure late 70's punk/pub rock records that I stole from my Dad when I was a teen and somehow mutate them into R&B Ballads or something like that, but with most of those songs the whole was greater than any of it's parts and I just couldn't find many interesting moments to crawl inside and redecorate. So I started going through my whole collection. I got bored after awhile though and began just dropping the needle randomly and there were so many magical things that came from that. I mean it's really just a compilation of very slow evolving happy accidents, serendipity and editing.
Most of the tracks weren't even done on a grid or click or anything. I was using very outdated software and basically hand stitching these little magical moments together. It's kind of like a quilt in that way. In fact, once I realized that, it helped me kind of understand not only the LP, but myself. I realized that what I was doing was folk-art. I don't mean that in a folk music kind of way. I mean it in a Grandma Moses sitting by the fire stitching a quilt kinda way. It's just something I do.
Are you completely solo on this record? Like cover art, production, all instruments? Is that liberating or daunting?
Pretty much. Unless you include the multitudes of people playing on the samples I used. The mystical Derek White played drums and bass on "DRIVING." But, yeah, I made the cover art and what not too.
It's liberating and daunting all at once. I always made music on my own, but usually just to demo or experiment. To try to make a whole album alone was definitely a handful. It wasn't that I missed musicians, but I missed the joyous camaraderie of when something goes right, the humor and friendship, but I've always been able to enjoy myself and create alone. It's a gift.
Did you write CHIV after moving to California? Did the change of scenery play a role in the record's sound?
No, It was nearly done when I moved. It sounds very Pittsburgh to me. Well, Monroeville/Trafford/Wall to be precise. That's where I was dwelling during the majority of its conception. I really only did some vocals and editing out here. My next record, however, will sound like 6th and Rampart. Look it up.
Were there any songs that didn't make the cut for CHIV? Why did you cut them?
Yeah, a few. One cut me, because it just stopped allowing me to open it without crashing my computer. The others just were't far enough along and I upgraded a lot of my equipment and they just got caught in a sonic purgatory.
"Animal Jen" immediately hooked me. It’s so overwhelming, so inviting while being implacably fucked up and upsetting. Can you tell me about writing that?
That song is a drunken fever dream. It was almost the lyrical template for the rest of the LP. Me slipping in and out of situations that may or may not have happened, hoping to fall asleep or wake up to some sort of lucid love. I was pretty unhappy with myself and a lot of the decisions I was making at the time, though it's probably hard to make out (it was for me, as well) I was working through these issues not only in that song, but in the album as a whole. I wanted it all to be almost as joyous as it was harrowing, because I'm past it, I'm here and I feel good. I learned so much while making this record.