A Chat with Snailmate (28.05.2020)

Formed in 2015 in Tempe, Arizona, synth-punk hip-hop band Snailmate have been building a strong reputation in the grassroots world. Years later, you can still find vocalist/keyboardist Kalen Lander and drummer/vocalist Bentley Monet creating and sharing music. We sat down with Kalen Lander (KL) to discuss Snailmate’s single ‘I Know What You Want’, the Covid-19 pandemic and challenges in music.

OSR: How was the band formed and, more interestingly, how did you come up with the name Snailmate?

KL: Snailmate was formed in 2015. Bentley was dissatisfied with his band and my old band had just broken up! Since we were both without a project, we decided to give a new project a try and see if it stuck. Obviously, we fell in love with playing and have been doing it non-stop ever since. We went with the name Snailmate because it just sounded very cute and sweet, but when you look at a snail they are kind of like little aliens. So it combined all the weirdness and love that we were trying to express with our music.

OSR: Can you tell us about the single ‘I Know What You Want’?

KL: ‘I Know What You Want’ was written before the lockdown, but it deals with self-imposed isolation and the desire to connect with other people even if you don’t know how. “I know what you want but you can’t have it” – that basically sums it up. It is a very quick song that hits hard from multiple angles. We start off with some soft “la la la’s” to lull you into a false sense of security, then we hit you with heavy drums, brutal screaming and synthesised voices when you least expect it. Just like life.

OSR: What can you tell us about official music video for ‘IKWYW’?

KL: I filmed the video in my home during quarantine. I had no contact with anyone else and I only had my pets to keep me company, so I came up with a video that deals with anxiety and OCD just like in the song. I also wanted it to be funny because even though our songs are tormented, they always have a good sense of humour.

OSR: What is your creative process?

KL: Bentley and myself will have fun and come up with a beat pretty quickly most times. Next thing you know we have written a whole song with synthesisers and drums. I will spend a few weeks slowly writing lyrics, that takes the longest amount of time because I am just a very slow writer. I know it causes Bentley a lot of frustration with how long it takes me sometimes, but once they are all written we will have to basically relearn the song because now we are playing our instruments and doing the vocals. So one song can be a surprisingly drawn out process. 

OSR: How are you dealing with the Covid lockdown?

KL: The lockdown has been frustrating as far as us not being able to play shows or go on tour. It has also affected our practice routines, but I think we are both finding other outlets for our creativity. We have both been experimenting with video editing, whether for our songs or for YouTube style streaming videos. I am also branching out into animation while Bentley has discovered a passion for makeup. So the silver lining is definitely us making time for some different pursuits we might have overlooked if we were touring all year.

OSR: How do you think the global pandemic will affect musicians and change the music industry?

KL: It has been really interesting and exciting to watch bands embrace streaming, but I think it is really going to blow people away when they finally attend a live concert again. I imagine most people are watching the streams on their laptops or their phones and the speakers on those are just so small. Nothing compares to the power and the volume of a live show. If artists can learn to split the difference and navigate both the live and the digital worlds I think they will really succeed in a post-pandemic world. I know we are learning so much about our online presences. 

OSR: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your music career?

KL: I think Snailmate’s biggest challenge has been the way we split and distort musical genres. One big thing about online music promotion is genre. Most forms and applications have a drop down menu for selecting genre. We find this very challenging for us because we combine live drums with synthetic instrumentation and we rap, scream and sing in ways that are not easily classifiable. Our music speaks for itself in terms of quality, but when we are relying on a digital submission to get us an opportunity, we find genre classification to be extremely limiting.

OSR: Who inspires you on a personal and professional level?

KL: I’m inspired by any musician that had to live in a car for years and years to make their dreams come true. The life of a touring band is not glamorous and not always fun. It is a lot of sweat and discomfort and pain. Anyone who has sacrificed jobs and relationships, friends and family to follow an uncertain life on the road gets my respect and admiration. Starving artists are real. 

OSR: Do you sing in the shower?

KL: I sing in the shower constantly. Lately, it’s ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ by Jimmy Cliff. I cannot get that song out of my head! I’m singing it right now! Bentley always has Christmas songs stuck in his head. ‘Jingle Bells’ is a huge hit in the shower.

OSR: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

KL: It would be a dream come true to have Les Claypool play bass on a Snailmate song. Bentley would love to do a song with Miley Cyrus.

OSR: What is the most trouble you’ve ever been in?

KL: Lucky for me I have managed to stay out of trouble for most my life. I did get in trouble a few years back for driving under the influence, but those days are long behind me! Now, the only trouble I ever get in is with Bentley. He likes to stick to a strict schedule as he was raised on drum line and marching band.

OSR: What’s next for Snailmate?

KL: Well, we just had to cancel our tour of Brazil and North America, so we are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to hit the road again. In the meantime we are writing songs and working on a new album! We have already recorded a few singles for it so we will slowly be releasing those throughout the year. As soon as we are able we are going to tour Japan and Europe again, but we don’t want to rush anything either.

OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?

KL: We just want everyone to stay safe and clean in these wild times. We all have to get through this together. Snailmate is all about fun, love and acceptance and we hope that everyone can get down with that! Life is so short so be yourself and treat everyone with respect. We love you!

Thanks to Kalen Lander from Snailmate for chatting with us! You can find more about Snailmate on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.

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