EXCLUSIVE Interview: Snowden

Atlanta-based Snowden was formed by front man Jordan Jeffares while he was at the University of Georgia in 2003. During the last three years, the band has matured greatly. They developed an avid fan base by playing shows regularly in Atlanta, New York and Boston.

Jeffares offers distinctively haunting vocal styling, and the band provides a complex and intricate sound. Snowden regularly draws comparisons to Ride, Joy Division, early Cure and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.

Along with vocalist Jeffares, Snowden is made up of guitarist David Payne, bassist Corinne Lee and drummer Chandler Rentz. Snowden’s debut full-length album, Anti-Anti, will be release by Jade Tree Records on August 4.

Songs from their forthcoming album are available on their Web site: www.snowden.info or on the band’s MySpace page: www.myspace.com/snowden.

Jeffares and Payne took time out of their tour preparation to discuss a variety of topics with DeadJournalist.com.

After graduating from college you had the choice of – among other things – medical school or music. What made you decide to try to make it in the music industry? Was it a tough choice?

JJ: It wasn’t a tough choice at all. I’d been killing myself to try to prepare for grad school throughout my college years and I had no desire to go straight into a profession. My personality, desires and my perception of the world were changing so fast that I knew I would be making a mistake if I dove into anything right out of college.

I was also pouring out music at the time. It was all I thought about outside of school and I was kind of obsessing over it every hour that I wasn’t studying. I’m very obsessive and I transitioned all of my academic ambition over to music.

And that was how Snowden started out.

How long did it take you to get the current Snowden lineup set? Did you know any of the members before they joined the band?

JJ: I was finishing school and my older brother Preston had started showing off some of my early demos to his friends at a dance rock night he was doing at the time. He found the first member, which lead to the other four members including Dave. I didn’t know any of them before we stepped in a room and played together.

After playing with that group for a while, scheduling demands became greater, and the band changed. Dave had been ready to leave his job since the beginning, so he stayed on. I found Chandler through a friend that said, "you’re drummer is amazing, but the only person that could hold a candle to him is my roommate Chandler."

Then I found Corinne through a friend in Austin, who said, "If you ever need a bassist, I know the coolest chick in Atlanta, who is amazing."

From then on, we decided to play as a four piece – instead of the original five.

Which do you enjoy more – the process of crafting a song or performing with the band?

JJ: I used to enjoy writing much more, but now I enjoy them both equally. In the beginning I didn’t know what I was doing on stage. I couldn’t sing very well. I just wasn’t comfortable. But now we’ve really settled into our groove and we know who we are and what we’re doing.

DP: Well, they are completely different beasts. I think I prefer fiddling around with stuff in my bedroom and creating sound more than I do just playing a show, but there have been some moments live that are really memorable.

Usually with Snowden, it’s just me learning a part Jordan already has and figuring out how to make it work live. Once you’ve played it hundreds of times though, you don’t even have to really think about it anymore.

I send most every little piece I record at home to Jordan, and he’s been trying to build off quite a few of them. He took one of the acoustic things I sent him and made a song out of it that’s on the album. That was cool. Hopefully some more will end up on the next record. We already have another album’s worth of material to choose from.

Who are the artists that influence you?

JJ: The Cure, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott Smith, Portishead, Wilco, The Zombies, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Sunny Day Real Estate – I always think of better ones later but that’s all I’ve got right now.

Really, what I take away from each of them is their unconventional approaches to everything from guitar work to songwriting. You can pick all of them out of the crowd.

DP: I spent a good deal of my high school years figuring out how to play Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Led Zeppelin and Beatles songs. I had a subscription to Guitar Player magazine and was into people like Steve Vai. That was a brief phase though.

Not long after that I discovered Jimi Hendrix and became obsessed. I listened to his albums and live recordings religiously in high school.

I no longer really view guitarists in terms of being technically good. Now, I’m into people who are unique, tasteful and expressive. As of late, I think Nick Zinner is really creative with how he approaches the guitar. His sound is huge and he’s a master of looping really cool sounding, simple riffs. I also think the acoustic work of Nick Drake is breathtaking. He had so many unusual guitar tunings.

One of my goals is to learn how to play the entire Pink Moon album. I know one song so far. I have a lot of work to do there.

What was the first thing you did after Snowden had been signed to Jade Tree?

JJ: I finished mixing the album then went up to New York for the mastering. After tha,t I took a month off and tried not to think about the record at all. It was a very stressful process.

DP: It was a long back-and-forth process with Jade Tree, I knew we had the deal before all the paperwork was done. I actually faxed them all the signed contracts from the fax machine at my work. I guess that’s the day it really sank in. That was a Friday, and I ended up at Decatur Social Club that night. It’s a celebration there every Friday night, but that was a special one I suppose.

Snowden’s debut full-length, Anti-Anti, comes out in August. You’ve spent years with many of the songs on the album, but are there still certain ones that you are eager to perform while onstage?

JJ: We’re eager to perform all of them to people who have never seen them. No matter how many times you’ve played a song, when you’re playing it for people who are hearing you for the first time, it’s like it’s the first time for you.

I never realized how entwined a band and the audience can be. You can feel everything, the stares, people mouthing the words, people stomping their feet.

Snowden has played extensively on the east coast in past years but you’re one month away from your first coast-to-coast tour. What’s been the biggest challenge of setting up the tour thus far?

JJ: Booking the shows. Booking without a booking agent is ridiculous. I have to work three times as hard to get the dates I want.

While Atlanta has been a haven for hip-hop artists for the past decade, it has had little success or relevance in other genres. Why do you think that is?

DP: That’s a hard question to answer. I have no clue really. I think lately there are some really good bands starting to pop up, and that can only help bring attention to the scene here.

I can honestly say that if Snowden does have any success on a national level, we hope to use it to bring more attention to the scene here in Atlanta.

Snowden’s first single, the title track "Anti-Anti", will be an animated video, which is quite an undertaking. Whose idea was it to use animation for the video and who is doing the animation for the band?

DP: Well, actually a really nice group of people offered to do a video for us and they filmed us playing in front of a green screen at Spitfire Studios over a weekend a while back. They already had a concept and had sent us some stills with the basics. We agreed, but to be honest we’ve yet to see anything come back yet.

These guys do video work for a large company and are working on our video in their spare time. Jordan’s usually very hands on with everything involving Snowden, but he’s just letting them do their thing and waiting to see what they come back with. Hopefully, it will be something we all like.

JJ: Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on with it right now but I think it’s still a go. When people are working for free and their idea is good, you just let them work.

Wouldn’t you like to see the return to prominence of the music video? I mean, where would the world be if Aerosmith hadn’t made the "Crazy" and "Amazing" videos and exposed millions of teenagers to Alicia Silverstone and virtual reality?

JJ: Oh yeah, we’d love to turn more kids on to Lindsay Lohan. She needs the attention and we need a video glamorizing the marvel of text messaging.

DP: Ha-ha, good point. Well, I see the Internet as a place where videos are still relevant, especially with the advent of sites like YouTube. MTV doesn’t really play that many videos anymore, but I still see a lot of bands making some really great videos.

I just came across a blog post this morning that had a link to a new Broken Social Scene video (Fire Eyed Boy) that’s hilarious. With the Internet it’s a lot more immediate, you can just go to a Web site and watch all the videos of your favorite band. There’s no need to wait around for one to show up on TV anymore.

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