“Something Snider This Way Comes,” lifted fair and square from Rue’s Facebook Page
Revealing Yet Elusive
I’m fascinated with Brooklyn cause I’ve never been. Yes, I’m that guy. How long am I gonna tread water before I make the push up North? I know, I’m being impatient. I’ll make it up there one of these days. But let’s get real here.
I haven’t had that many relationships in my life and I’ve failed miserably with the ones I’ve had. Being candid about that shit is a load off but I’m not usually that straightforward about it with people, so regret tends to build up. But I’m also a bit of a dick so I don’t dwell on it.
Some days it weighs heavy and most days it doesn’t. Of course the further I get away from it the lighter the weight becomes with time.
“What the fuck are you talking about,” you ask?
I’m talking about Rue Snider’s super-honest album Alone Again Relax. When I heard this guy would be touring through from Brooklyn, I tuned in and discovered a songwriter who’s not afraid to wallow in the darkness and write about it.
Sure it’s not uncommon for singer/songwriters to go there but this guy is punk, baby! He’s got an edge that puts things in a straightforward and specifically sharp way, that sends the occasional shiver up and down my spine bones.
That’s why there’s a lot of range to uncover on this album that isn’t just rage specific. Anyone who’s had a successful relationship can appreciate the construction of the well-placed hooks and melodies all over this thing. Snider’s film-making chops is also important in having influence with the stories he tells.
While Rue gets ready to travel, I figured this would be a good time to find out what this dude is all about.
The Bottle With Me And Snider Makes Three
Zoe Dune: I love whiskey so much that I don’t have a preference. It’s like maple syrup to me, I feel like a fucking bear every time I’m near it, so I can totally relate when you applied “whiskey cry” as a genre or style for your music. Tell me that is or was a scene somewhere?
Rue Snider: Maple syrup, huh? Are you implying you put it on pancakes and toast? I love whiskey too although I try to limit how much of it I consume these days. I’m pretty crazy about Few Rye and Templeton Rye. They’re both out of the Chicago area I think. I drink bourbon most of the time though if I’m drinking whiskey. Usually something cheap but passable. Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, even Evan Williams. Bars in Brooklyn have dozens of whiskeys. Nobody drinks anything clear here. It’s strange.
Whiskey Slur (not whiskey cry) is a term I listed as a genre on our facebook page to be tongue in cheek. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a drinker (it’s all through the tunes) but I take the writing process very seriously and I don’t really produce anything of consequence under the influence. Recreational activities tend to seep in when you’re working on a song though, even if you’re stone cold sober when you create it.
As far as I know Whiskey Slur isn’t a scene anywhere. Although when you get a bunch of people from bands in Brooklyn together the spirits tend to flow pretty liberally, so I suppose we could create a sub genre of indie folk or something. I imagine most scenes across the country delve pretty heavily into the brown spirits so that probably would work a lot of places. I guess we’ll find out on this tour!
Zoe Dune: I would have gone all the way to whiskey sob, but I stand corrected. Whiskey slur reads better and doesn’t look completely pathetic. I mean, it was the breakfast of champions (H.S. Thompson), and if not completely on the mark, it was at least somewhere in the range of whiskey/bourbon/scotch. Whiskey snobs will correct me for sure!At a certain point in your album, I was kind of like, “Get it together man, she’s gone!” And while it looked weird to my roommate for me to be yelling at a bandcamp page, I do wonder if to get through your breakup, you might have blown off Aunt Jemima for a bottle of rye on your pancakes, during those regret-filled mornings?
Rue Snider: Ha! So you at least made it to the chorus of the first track. Yeah, the record has a theme. Here’s the thing Zoe, there wasn’t any regret on my part. I don’t think anyone should ever regret loving someone even though your time together will inevitably come to an end. I mean everything dies. I wrote the record in order to avoid pouring whiskey on my pancakes, to continue with your idea.
I didn’t start writing songs because I had “something to say.” I started writing songs to save myself, you know? After a while you get better at it and you learn the craft of songwriting. Now I can write songs about whatever. In fact the last two Januarys I participated in a song writing challenge with some other people where we wrote a song a day for 31 days based on a daily word that was picked randomly. You come up with some interesting stuff in those situations. This album that we’re touring now though, Alone Again Relax
, is very much about self preservation.
There are other songs, lots and lots of other songs. I’m touring with another guy names James Margolis. He does the heavy lifting when it comes to the guitar playing. We have around 50 originals of mine that we’ll do over the course of this tour. There was another record written that we started to work on that got shelved for Alone Again Relax. I just couldn’t go on and I didn’t want to wake up every morning and get fucked up and hate myself and be sad. So I wrote a bunch of songs about this one girl and it was a way to get over it. Sometimes yoga doesn’t work. The whiskey wasn’t broken, but every morning I woke up to a new day alone. So I wrote about that shit. Interestingly, some people really connect with the tunes because they’re so personal and specific. I’m glad.
Zoe Dune: I never took the long-term deterioration of bitterness seriously until recently. I think it’s true you have to wrestle it somehow and turn it into energy. I can’t imagine with your background in film and now getting into the muck of songwriting, that you could have been under for very long. But you stuck to it on that song writing challenge, which takes a lot of focus. What kind of battles did you have on those days you might not have come through with a song?
Rue Snider: I was under for a long time. A LONG time. There’s always a song, even if you’re not the one who writes it. There has to be, or else you get into those marathon Netfkix sessions that go on and on. House of Cards in 4 days. Stuff like that. Also, I ate pizza every day for like four months straight. That was a little crazy.The long term deterioration of bitterness is an interesting topic. I’m not impressed when people get over things quickly, whether it’s a lost love or something else traumatic. I got a text from a woman today who was dumped by a guy a week ago that she was head over heels for. Her text said, “There’s no use crying about the wrong guy when the right one is out there.” She had internalized that shit already. It’s true I suppose, but Jesus Christ, their relationship just ended. I think things have to deteriorate at their own pace or it can weird later.
Zoe Dune: Well that’s an interesting thing because I’m on this thing these days about forgetting our past. You know, like short term memories. But some things take hold and our crazy brains won’t let those things go. But then again, they begin to mutate into something else and translate differently. For Alone Again Relax, how does that release translate to you now as opposed to when you first put it out? Like you said, you have a colonic unit of songs that aren’t on it so, it’s not like it’s constantly torturing you?
Rue Snider: You know at the end of the first Nightmare on Elm Street when Nancy realizes that all she has to do is stop being afraid of Freddy and he won’t have power over her anymore? It’s kinda like that. But then in the next scene Johnny Depp’s convertible turns into Freddy sorta and they all drive off into, I don’t know what. and then her mom gets sucked into that tiny window in the front door. never understood that last scene.
We made the record really quickly because I was afraid I would start to edit the songs if I had too much time to live with them. Most of them were recorded within a day or two of being written. The way I approach songwriting means I kind of preserve the past. But that doesn’t mean holding onto things too tightly. It comes back to the art as survival idea. I make stuff to survive and part of that is letting go and moving on.
I’m surprised to hear a writer say she’s interested in forgetting the past, since writing captures it. Even if you’re telling someone else’s story or just making things up. There’s still a piece of time that gets saved in whatever you’re doing. Right?
: Well, it’s more like that we can’t help but forget the past. Saying that, it’s weird because I can almost say that I can remember everything up to three years and then everything is slim pickins, you know? But the writing process, whether it’s music or words; the most you can hope for is to just be engaged with what you’re doing and then move on when you’re done.But to come back and revisit that is usually someone else’s job I’m sure. There have been moments when I’ve looked back at some things and be like, “was I even present for that at all?” But yes, I’m pretty manic about documenting everything I can but also try to put it together in some cohesive and somewhat accessible form. It looks like you might have made a similar move with the help of Robin Irene Moss and E.W. Harris, and the Brooklyn singer songwriter scene for it to all make sense?
: EW Harris is a NYC musician who also engineers and produces records. He is in a band called The Sky Captains of Industry
. I wish the entire world knew their music. It’s awesome. So so awesome. He has a solo record too and is making another one. Everybody should look him up. He and I are going on tour in December with another Brooklyn songwriter, Don Paris Schlotman
, through the south east for 3 weeks. We’re calling ourselves Brooklyn Drinkers Union. It’s kind of a songwriters in the round deal. Should be fun.
Robin Irene Moss toured as a member of No Strand for a year and contributed a lot of really valuable ideas to the music. She was a big part of Alone Again Relax. She’s focusing on her solo stuff right now. The new material with the band is moving in a decidedly more rock direction and she’s very planted in the folk world.
Brooklyn has a very supportive songwriter scene. It’s refreshing. The quality is very high and that pushes you to always be on your toes and never settle. I could do an entire interview and just talk about the amazing musicians I know in New York who inspire me. It’s great to have really talented friends. I mean even the people in New York whose music I don’t like at all are still really fucking good. It’s a positive place to call home.
ZoeDune: Oh yeah, I’ve listened to some of their stuff. To get to that level of quality song writing, takes patience, meaning to not rush the ideas and take time to flesh them out. You’ve mentioned before how Harris was able to help build one of your tracks, adding things to it. Now, I’ve often wondered what it takes to be a good producer and I can only imagine they would have to be free to contribute as well as take away or at the very least, understand where things should be going. You know, getting your hands dirty. And with open mics, you usually come across the same people. Parts of Dallas and many other cities have that Brooklyn melting pot thing that I like. I’ve never been up there, but look forward to hitting up some of those open mics myself. Is everyone always held together pretty well on the road? Have you toured down South before?
Rue Snider: That’s a lot of questions. Okay, a producer has to contribute or else they’re just an engineer. EW Harris has a style and that’s why you hire him. It’s your record at the end of the day and you have to make the final decisions. But using a producer and tying their hands doesn’t make any sense to me.
There are a lot of people in New York City but as you pare things down and get involved in different activities the City gets smaller very quickly. It’s not that I saw the exact same people at every open mic all the time when I was doing that. You just kind of attach to certain groups and end up going to the same places. There’s a songwriter collective called BigCIty Folk run by a guy named Niall Connolly. You should check him out too. Everyone in No Strand and everyone who has played with us pretty much came out of that sort of umbrella. It’s good to have a community. Niall has worked very hard for years to really make something of BigCity Folk. I’m grateful for that. I kinda just plugged int to what was already happening.
Being on the road is really fun, but the most we’ve done at one time is 10 days. This tour is 5 weeks. I expect there will be new challenges. But this is what we want to do and you take the difficult stuff to have the satisfaction of playing for people every night. Or at least playing. At our level sometimes people don’t show up. I want to spend most of next year on the road really laying some solid groundwork and getting in front of lots of people. The internet is great for people having access to your music, but they’ve gotta know about it in the first place. And I don’t think anything replaces the excitement and energy of a live show. To answer your question though, no, everyone does not always hold it together on the road. But for the most part it’s cool.
This is our first time down south. We’ve toured a lot between Washington DC and Burlington, VT. We’re trying to expand our circle. After this tour I have a week off then go out for 3 weeks with Brooklyn Drinkers Union hitting a lot of the same towns in December. I don’t think we’re going to make it to Texas unfortunately. I’m excited to hit new places for the first time and then come through again really soon. Hopefully I can build some relationships that way.
ZoeDune: Since we are coming to the end of 2014, what does 2015 hold of Rue Snider?
Rue Snider: We’re working on a winter tour to Germany, then a trip to Austin for SXSW, then a big summer tour, a new record that’s about halfway done, more singles, a HUGE video that we shot for this song “Heaven,” and lots more songs. But mostly just meeting people and making music with my friends.
ZoeDune: Well that is damn swell Rue. Lots of luck with the tour, we’re definitely super stoked to hear that Brooklyn sound. Might even introduce you to a little Texas whiskey while you’re here! Oh hell, let’s do it!
Rue Snider: Thanks Zoe. See you in a few weeks!
Anderl, Timothy. “GHETTOBLASTER.” Ghettoblaster Magazine. GhettoBlaster Magazine, 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2014. <http://ghettoblastermagazine.com/2014/from-the-horses-mouth-rue-snider-rue-snider-and-no-strand-on-alone-again-relax/>.