Snowden dropped a clever, catchy rock record called Anti Anti this past Tuesday. They're touring behind it (Boston tonight, BK tomorrow, and then the rest of the country after that), check them if you can (and check their tracks out on MySpace). We talked to songwriter Jordan Jeffares a few days ago, and you can read what he had to say about the state of ATL indie rock, remixes, and Fleetwood Mac after the jump.
Where are you right now?
I am at my loft here in Atlanta. We’re downtown.
How did the group get started?
Well I had been writing music all through 17, 18,19, and towards the end of school I bought a couple of pieces of gear and was kind of deciding that I wasn’t going to kick into the 9-to-5 thing right out of college, and instead devote all my time to music. And I did. While at my senior year of college at UVA back in 2002, 2003, all I did was sit around and finish up school and record tons and tons of music. I wrote a lot of the early material of Snowden back then. My brother is a promoter here in Atlanta, and he started playing some of the demos to people who were coming out here at nights around town.
Was your brother promoting parties or shows?
He was doing parties and he was doing shows here and there. He was mostly doing rock dance nights at all the mid-sized indie places. Everything from the Earl to the old Echo Lounge, before they shut that down, those were all the places that UVA had and everybody used to come through. And then he built up a night at this dive bar, and he runs a website now called kissatlanta.com, which is picking up a lot of steam. He’s kind of like a budding tastemaker down here in town.
At this point when you were writing demos, was it mostly a one-man operation?
When you were writing those songs, what was inspiring you? What were you trying to get at musically?
When you are sitting alone writing music, you’re sitting there trying to get results really fast because its not five guys in a room cranking out something. So you’re sitting there with just drums and just bass and then maybe one guitarist, and through each of those steps I was unconsciously trying to make these parts strong enough that they could almost stand on their own, until I thought of something to go on top of it. That’s why I’ve got these really weird drum lines and so much distorted bass and lots of reverb and everything, because you never knew when you would be able to stop, and when it was going to be able to sit on its own.
What other music were you listening to at the time?
Back when I was doing all that writing it was 2002, so at that time I would be at the store at midnight whenever a Radiohead album came out, and Broken Social Scene had just cracked at that time, and I was still listening to all my old favorite records. I was always a huge Hum fan, and a lot of noise rock like Ride. I was really into those and old Cure, but I was never trying to emulate anything - those were the things that were staples in my collection.
When your brother started playing demos for people, were you doing shows at the time?
No…I knew no one anywhere in any scene. I was going out in Athens at the time trying to meet people, because everyone was like, ‘You know this is where its supposed to be at.’ And I now found out years later that was a really slow time in Athens. So I was going out every night to the North side of town over by Prince Avenue looking for Elf Power, and trying to find the guys from I Am The World Trade Center, and trying to find anyone from Elephant Six. It was just completely dead, so I would just go and play some pinball and go home and try and write some more music, hoping that one day things would snap. Back then I was a complete recluse, and my brother was the guy that knew people - fate pretty much assembled the band in the beginning. We pulled the band together the beginning of 2003 and we played our first show the end of that summer. That was the first line up, which lasted for a year, until we started getting on the road and going up to New York and back several times a year. Eventually vacation time started to run out for some of the guys and one of the girls just couldn’t take any more time off of school, so we had to change the band.
What was the response like going out of town?
Well, we were blown away that we were being invited up here to do a show by a cool club in New York. We didn’t know about Pianos at the time, but it was cool that the guy immediately grabbed our CD, and he didn’t care how many people we were going to bring to a show. He just wanted to get us up there and help us, he wanted to be the first guy to bring us up. So it was awesome to come from Atlanta - where we were really having to work really hard to build ourselves up cause Atlanta is kind of a hard town to draw people out to where we were - and go up to New York, where we had bloggers that were already writing about our music and coming up to us at our first two shows. It blew us away how many people were into music, and how many people were writing about music, kind of like the beginning of the explosion of the blog thing. It was really exciting that people talked about music so much up there, and that s all they did.
When people wrote about the band, were they picking up on the kinds of things in the music you hoped they would?
Back then I didn’t have any goals other than trying to get the music out, so it was very simple and juvenile because I was so new to everything. I had never played in a band before and never played music on stage before, so I just tried to keep an open mind and take things as they came, because I knew nothing about how anything worked. Which ended up us completely blowing our first release and everything. But no, I wasn’t looking to arouse anything preconceived, I just wanted to take it as it was. I still am not crazy about talking about the music, even though I know it is a necessary thing. I’m an idealist, like ‘Why can’t it stand on its own?’ - but you live with it and you do what you gotta do.
When did you start writing material for Anti-Anti?
There was never a planned point, I released and EP at the end of 2003 right after we had gotten the band together and we just wanted something to sell at shows and to give out at radio stations and stuff. So it was just known that whenever we did an LP, it was just going to be the best songs that we had written up to that point. I didn’t know that it was going to take three years for that to happen.
So you didn’t have any particular concept in mind for this album?
No I just kept writing songs and bumping off old ones, and it finally got to one point where I was kicking songs off of the tentative list, the heavy hitters that I thought were going to be singles on the new record. We just kept writing, and got over 35 songs over three years. The songs that made it to the record were for the most part the songs that were written last, because the sound was developing - but there were two songs on the record that were written back in my bedroom in 2003 not knowing anybody. They managed to stand the test of time and make it on the record.
Now that it’s all laid down to CD, can you see any common themes in the songs you ended up keeping? Is there like a running motif to this record?
Yeah the record is - even though I hate this fact, it ended up being a very personal record. You know I’m not going out here to try and spill my guts or anything, but in the lyrics, I’m trying to let myself out as quietly as I can, and try and do it in a way that’s symbolic. Even though it is personal, trying to make it all feel very impersonal, trying not to talk about myself as an individual but trying to speak by using imagery of places and feelings, and trying to project myself onto inanimate things and feelings. It’s hard to verbalize but that’s what’s going on.
Do you feel that the people who’ve heard the songs get that?
I really do and that’s just it. Whenever we are talking about what the next single is going to be or what we should do a video for or what one of the tracks on the record, I don’t even try and make those decisions or talk about that, because…I can’t. Because all of this stuff is what I do for a living fifty or sixty hours a week, I’m not able to talk about it or think about it that way, but people are getting it, and coming back unanimously and saying the same thing. Multiple people saying that the record is, not criticizing it, but saying you can see all the uncomfort in a lot of ways, both musically and lyrically. People say it’s a sad record.
Not as much sad but it’s a very bittersweet record in a lot of places.
Yeah and that’s like me and like a lot of people, so I think that’s very accurate.
I think my favorite cut on the record is probably “Counterfeit Rules” with the riff that repeats, but never kind of loops back perfectly, it just sort of rewinds onto itself. What was the process behind writing that song?
That song was luckily one of the songs that comes and ends up being finished in absolutely no time, I think I wrote the lyrics in two and a half minutes. Like I was sitting in a coffee shop to sit and read, and stuff never comes that fast for me but that one came so fast. I ran home and had a little riff that I had been working on, and the song was done in a day. That’s one fiftieth of the time it usually takes me to finish a song, so “Counterfeit” was a wonderful thing that literally just fell out. I’m very politically minded, although I try not to just press it too much, I try to hide it a little bit, but that song is a very political song.,
What’s the single for this record?
Jade Tree thought that “Anti Anti” would be the single for the record because its memorable and it sticks out at parts. It’s a weird song and the chorus is really catchy.
What is it like working with Jade Tree – how did you link up with them?
There’s a small label here in Atlanta called Stick Figure Records that is run by one guy who is very passionate about it. He was distributing our first EP and he was supporting us and throwing us on shows and getting our name out. He said that he knew the guys from Jade Tree Records and we were like, ‘Oh man that would be, great can you get our demo listened to?’ He was friends with Tim and Dan, and Tim loved the record and wanted to see us live. We didn’t feel like paying for gas to go up to New York to play, and back then gas was cheap, now it would be four hundred dollars to get there and back. So we just went ahead and flew him down here for one show, we threw a show together as fast as we could, literally in one month, we went to one of the venues that we’re friends with. We were pretty tired of waiting around and trying to break out of Atlanta, so we got him down there as fast as we could. At that exact same time, we had some bigwig lawyers that wanted us to do a showcase in New York. While we were negotiating with Jade Tree we went up there and did one big showcase with them. They didn’t see anything that was marketable, and that’s there loss.
Is it weird for you to have to think of your music as something that’s marketable?
Hmm. I don’t look at the system as something to be defeated, its unfortunate but Jade Tree are very modest people, and they have very modest bills to pay. Music is art and it should stand alone, but I have to literally put food in my mouth. We’re not looking to make money here, we’re looking to make more music, and I can’t make more music unless we’re at least moving something. This is a component that is undeniable, and I hate thinking of it that way but luckily, I don’t write art noise rock, nor do I want to. Luckily I get to make what I want to make and it just so happens that enough people are interested in it that I can hopefully get to make some more of it.
One thing I wanted to ask, is that the Snowden songs are so inherently rhythmic, have you had anyone take stabs at remixing them?
Yes we have, we’ve had, I think we’ve had four attempts and one success, and we’re finishing up a remix right now of one of the tracks. I’m [remixing] “Anti Anti.”
What was the other successful one?
“Black Eyes.” A friend of ours here in town, he’s a DJ, he used to be an electronic DJ but now he does rock and…bump and grind stuff. The mix is getting posted on a big remix site pretty soon. His name is Le Castlevania. You know its just, we’re definitely not dishing up tons of money for a MSTRKRFT remix or anything, its just something fun to do. There are people that are working on remixes, people that love the record, and so we’re not sitting here trying to force this whole remix thing, it just happens that we’re friends with a lot of people that like electronic music.
What other stuff from that scene are you into?
I’m a huge MSTRKRFT and Diplo fan, I love that style of production that they’re doing right now. Those are the people that are cool to me, my brother’s a lot more into it than I am but those are people that I consistently ask him about.
Are you into any of the hip-hop coming out of Atlanta?
What about any other local groups?
The coolest stuff going on in Atlanta right now is a band called Deerhunter. they’re about to be out on a cool label that they were dying to get onto. They have done some dates with the Liars, and they might be going to Europe with the Liars. But they are getting out of Atlanta and they make some awesome music, and it is very rare to hear what they are doing here in Atlanta. Another band is called the Seminaries. We do a lot of shows with those two. There’s also a band called Service Radio that’s doing some great stuff, some psychedelic, Beatles White Album type stuff.
Have you been playing more shows in Atlanta these days?
No, probably less. No we used to play every show we could get when we were a young band, now we try and keep it down to a show once a month if that, every six or seven weeks. Once the record comes out we can look at it a different way because we’ll finally have material people haven’t heard.
What’s the plan for the next couple months once the album is out?
We’re trying to get on the road as much as possible, if we could get on the road for all of fall we would. We are trying to solidify a booking agent, and tentatively we’ll be going to England in November, and doing Europe next February. We’re doing a full US tour starting August 22 around the country, and then we’ll take a little bit of time off, tour again around CMJ and that’s it. If we can squeeze in one more run at the end of the year we’ll probably do that too.
I’ve heard the Zombies cover you’ve done, are there any other covers in the touring repertoire?
We do others - that’s the only one we’ve ever played out loud, and that was one of the first songs that ever even put us on the map because people love to spread that one around. It’s maybe bigger than any of the other songs on the EP. We did that in the beginning and I’ve also done a Fleetwood Mac cover.
“Dreams” - that gets played around here quite a bit but I have to figure out how to release that, maybe get it pressed up or something and get it sent around, but that’s it.
What kind of angle did you take on it?
Total electro. I mean if I want to do that type of stuff, I have to do it completely separate from Snowden, so I did. Sometimes I need to completely not do rock for a song, and it’s easy. I just had a strong picture of what I wanted to do. I cranked it out in an afternoon and it came out really cool.