Interview! Fresh Snow

Purveyors of: Melodically entrancing krautrock from the Neu! School 
File next to: My Bloody Valentine, Oneida, Can, METZ 
Play #WL13 Thursday, February 14 @ The Shop under Parts & Labour

Fresh Snow is sometimes known as that band with those guys that work at Sonic Boom. And much like The Two Koreas are at times known as that band of music critics, they also go way beyond any such rote characterization to make some damn good music. This amazing sonic wall of psych drones features tense keys and exciting bass lines, spacey, woven with narrative lilts and dives that are impossible to ignore. I’d probably slot them somewhere in the middle of a wide creative scale between My Bloody Valentine and Oneida, with a dusting of Can. They’re very new, and have only released a 3” (with one song) and a split 7” with METZ so far, with a full-length on deck. They’re also one of Wavelength’s inaugural 2013 Artist Incubator bands. Ryan McLaren cornered guitarist Bradley Davis and badgered him excitedly.

You've got an album in the pipeline! Can you give us the details, when it's coming and what we can expect?

There isn’t a definite release date yet, as we have some artwork and mastering things to finalize, but it will be released by a Toronto label called Reel Cod Records. So far there are plans for vinyl, cassette and digital. No official CD plans at the moment. We trimmed it down to six songs so it could fit on a single record. I think it is a pretty good representation of the first stage of the band. It is surprisingly more melodic than I had anticipated it being. 

Where/how did you record it?

The album was recorded backwards. We recorded a day-long session of free-form jamming at our friends Mike and Rachel’s place. We then went about the process of turning eight-plus hours of noise into songs. We are fortunate to have a talented engineer in the form of Tim Condon in the band. The bulk of the process was done at his house. A few overdubs were recorded by me, but Tim really has a meticulous ear for frequencies and an eye for editing. He knows exactly how he wants you to feel the ice pick in your ear.

And you're working with James Plotkin! How'd that partnership come about?

When I was a young metalhead in love with anything bearing an inverted cross, bands like O.L.D. helped to introduce me to the other side. Grindcore introduced me to ambient, John Zorn and avant-garde music. I highly recommend Musical Dimensons of Sleastak by O.L.D. The Khanate records are fantastic as well. He was a pretty natural choice when it came down to choosing who would master the Fresh Snow album. He has a great understanding of dynamics. Our record goes from pretty quiet to really loud so that was something that was important to us. He has also worked on great records by bands we really respect like Nadja, Tim Hecker… the list goes on and on. Mastering is still voodoo to me. It is among the blackest of arts.

I feel like there are a lot of bands that take their visual presentation for granted. But visuals are a key component of your live set. How important is that visual component to Fresh Snow?

We were initially concerned that we wouldn’t be taken seriously as artists because we were so good-looking. That is why we devised this curtain/light show thing. This lets people focus on the music a bit more… Hey, my eyes are up here! But seriously... yeah, the visual component is important. When you are at a show and you are listening to lyrics, even if the singer isn’t a very dynamic performer, she/he is putting images and extra information into your brain. We don’t really have that word-based connection with the audience so we try to provide that extra stimulation in whatever form we can. Sometimes it is good to let your mind wander in public while listening to very loud music. Bryce Kushnier (of SHVRS and Blank Capsule) has been great in providing the images at our shows. Room to room, it can be difficult to pull off. It is like having a fifth member. It also contributes to us being an electrical nightmare on stage.

I know every instrumental band gets asked this, but what's your relationship to using vocals? Is it strictly verboten or, like Do Make, would you use them if they fit?

We have ever-changing and differing opinions in the band about the role of vocals. Our album does have vocals on two of the tracks. Perhaps the largest section of my heart is dedicated to vocal-driven melodic pop songs and I am starting to see how vocals can co-exist with what we do. Neu!, Faust, Yo La Tengo, Hawkwind, Oneida… these are all mammoth bands that in varying ways use vocals to good effect. We are all pretty open to change so I think whatever we can do to facilitate that is welcome. There
are no hard and fast rules. Vocals do make a brief appearance on our album. If you want to sing out, sing out.

That split 7" you did with Metz was incredible. Do you have another other partnerships or collaborations in the works?

That split 7” was such a great experience. To be part of Sonic Boom’s first Record Store Day release with a band as good as METZ on the other side was an honour. We have a couple collaborations in the pipeline, but I don’t want to jinx them by saying what they are. Some involve vocals! We have been very fortunate to have some talented people join us on stage and to help out on our album. It is always interesting to see how the dynamic is altered by the presence of a new musician or personality. For the time being as a live band we are trying to streamline things with just the four of us. That might change tomorrow.

What are you excited for in 2013?

I am very excited to have our record come out, to finish up some projects we’ve been working on, and to start record number two. I am looking forward to organizing our record release show. We had so much fun with the first Wavelength we participated in, where we played in the projection pod, and I would like to do something on that scale. You need the luxury of a day of set-up. I am also looking forward to playing some shows outside of Toronto.