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Abby Koskinas, Ohio State fourth-year, Dance, minor in video arts
Dec 04, 2020
Timing is everything, but when emo-glitter pop band snarls released its debut album in March 2020, time was not in the band members’ favor—or so it seemed. When the album, Burst, came out, the band had a one-night-only live show to celebrate. What should have been a prolonged celebration was cut short by the lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, yielding the band members months to sit around and do little but reflect on their first album release.
As I sat down (virtually) with band members Riley Hall and Mick Martinez, snarls’s bassist and guitarist respectively, we discussed the surprising serendipity of this break, their November 5 Wex[EP] (Essential Performance), and the future of the band.
Listen to the lyrics of Burst and you will hear a story of young people eager to grow up. In the song “Twenty,” singer Chlo White announces, “I’m not who I thought I was gonna be / Twenty seems further than it ought to be.” When this song was written, the band members were in their late teens and ready to grow up. Riley remembers, “At that point in my life, I was just, I was so ready to be an adult, you know, I was so ready to be 21 years old and, ‘I can I do what I want.’”
Three years after those lyrics were written, upon reaching the elusive age, Riley reflected, “You know, now it's like I did not need to go so hard right there. I wanted to just go so fast, but now I'm like, you know what, I don't need to do that.” The band members now realize that sometimes it’s OK to slow down, although the pandemic shutdown was an extreme case.
Along with accepting that being 20 years old isn’t all it’s talked up to be, the band has also had to realize that, although the year had started off with a bang with the release of Burst, 2020 isn’t so great either. After the one night of celebration, the world apparently shut down. When asked about this star-crossed timing, Mick said, “Yeah, it feels weird … I feel like we never really got to celebrate our album releasing except for the one release show that we did thankfully get to do. I'm so grateful that happened.” While timing may not have been ideal for snarls, some good has definitely come from the band’s forced break.
As a part of Wex[EP], snarls decided to create an extended music video to accompany Burst. Throughout our conversation, Mick and Riley mentioned how important visual art is to them and other band members. Mick expressed excitement for being able to create a visual album, saying, “it’s just another facet of our music and our whole brand, for lack of a better term, that we finally get to showcase.” Without the pandemic, who knows whether snarls would have had the opportunity to take such a deep dive into video making.
For my part, snarls’s lyrics, sound, and visuals fill me with a bittersweet longing—nostalgia. When I first listened to Burst, memories from many different times in my life resurfaced. Watching their extended music video on November 5 was no different. The work is a visual scrapbook—as images of past performances, crowded concerts, polaroids, handwritten lyrics, and, of course, glitter, flashed across the screen, I was reminded of the joys of live music, crowds, and in-person-ness. To me, the video’s most striking aspect is that it does more than accompany the album, it’s a visual translation of the sounds of the music. Multiplicity is a theme throughout, as copies of single images are displayed. At some points, two, or even more, of the same image are shown side by side, capturing the harmonies of Riley and Chlo’s voices. The textural overlays of flowers and glitter elicit the gleaming feeling of the music, while the juxtaposition of the joyous band memories with the more emotional shots of Chlo singing express the simultaneously hopeful and somber aspects of snarls’s sound.
Another product of the band’s enforced slowing down: time to look forward. When asked about their plans for the future, Riley mentioned that they “definitely would like to spice things up,” and Mick furthered this sentiment. “We've been playing the songs for over two years. So, I'm excited to get something new in the works. And after some recent conversations, it looks like that's probably going to start happening soon. So I'm very excited.”
While the future is very uncertain right now, we could all use something to look forward to. As I eagerly await snarls’s sophomore album, I’m going to remember to slow down, because one can never know what surprises the present moment has in store.
This selection is part of Writing about the Performing Arts at Ohio State, an interdisciplinary student-led seminar during the 2020-21 academic year. With guidance from Department of Dance Professor Karen Eliot and the Wexner Center’s Alana Ryder (Manager, Public and University Programs) and Lane Czaplinski (Director of Performing Arts), students with backgrounds in dance, economics, math, microbiology, political science, psychology, statistics, and beyond will serve as ambassadors and advocates for the arts. As a cohort, they will approach broad theoretical and philosophical issues behind contemporary performance as well as questions about the roles of arts critics and of arts criticism, especially in the era of COVID-19 and racial equity and social justice movements.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional interviews and student writing will be presented here later in the academic year.
snarls photo: Brian Kaiser
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