Growing up and turning heartache to fireworks: A conversation with Snarls

Photo by Brian Kaiser.

What were Snarls inspired by while writing the album Burst? Heartache. Graduating high school. Moving out. Graduating college. Dropping out of college. “All of us at the same time were like, ‘Shit, we don’t want to grow up.’ Being an adult is hard. All of those big transitions were happening at the same time for everyone,” said guitarist Mick Martinez.

Burst is the band’s debut full-length album and it’s out today, March 6. Snarls recorded the album with engineer Jon Fintel at Relay Recording in their hometown of Columbus, Ohio. After self-recording their first EP, Snarls took their time with Burst, crafting their early 20’s malaise into shimmering and melodic rock songs.

I called up Snarls to learn more about Burst and the band’s origins. We talked about how they all met at a performing arts high school, their unlikely sources of inspiration (which range from Shawn Mendez to the video game Rock Band), and finding their place in Columbus’ bustling and supportive music scene.

To get started, do you all want to go around and introduce yourselves with your name, your pronouns, and the instrument that you play in Snarls?

Mick Martinez: My name is Mick Martinez. My pronouns are she/her, and I play guitar.

Max Martinez: My name is Max Martinez. I use he/him pronouns, and I play the drums.

Chlo White: I’m Chlo White. I use she/her pronouns and I sing and play guitar for Snarls.

Riley Hall: My name is Riley Dean. I use she/her pronouns and I play bass and I sing as well.

How long has Snarls been a band, and how did you all start playing together?

Riley: We’ve been a band for two years now. December was two years. Funny enough, me, Mick and Max, we’ve all known each other since we were babies because our moms were friends in high school. And then Chlo just came into the mix because we all went to the same high school.

Mick: We randomly stumbled across each other in weird ways and realized we all knew each other and were like, “Yeah, let’s do this thing!”

So you’re getting ready to put out your first full-length album Burst pretty soon. How does it feel to be putting out this project?

Mick: I’m so excited. It’s a relief — finally!

Chlo: Yeah we’ve been sitting on these songs for a while. 

Mick: Some of them have been around since the very beginning. With this being our first full-length, we’ve just been playing these songs at every show, so we’re just super stoked to finally have recordings be public for them and for people to be able to listen to them. We’re very excited.

How was the process of making this album different than for your EP, or some of the music you’ve done before?

Max: The EP, we kind of did DIY. We recorded ourselves. We didn’t necessarily rush it, but we did want to put something out for people to hear when we were first starting to play live shows. The way that the album was different was I guess we just took more time. We had it professionally recorded. I think we put a little more thought and intent into the songs that are on the full-length. And just overall took our time with it.

Riley: With the album, we wanted to explore more with the art and get more of a cohesive artistic scene going as well. There wasn’t really an artistic scene for the EP — it was like, let’s record some songs so that when we play shows, we can tell people we’re on Spotify. 

Mick: Yep. Definitely way more intentional with this album.

Chlo: We had a vision, bro.

I have heard a bunch of different terms thrown around to describe how your band sounds. I’ve heard glitter, emo, shoegaze, alternative. If you had to describe how you sound without using any genres or musical terms, what would you say?

Mick: The phrase “glitter firework” just keeps coming to my brain when I listen to anything, especially the song “Burst.”

Riley: Glitter firework angst sadness.

Chlo: For me it’s driving on the highway, crying to the song. That intensity of driving fast on the highway and you’re like, “Shit, I should drive and not cry.”

Mick: That’s actually a thing that I do.

Chlo: Me too!

Mick: Favorite hobby, I would say.

I feel like that all goes along with the feel of this album, especially imagining the visuals of glitter and burst, which are reflected in the artwork for the album. 

Mick: Yeah we definitely wanted all of our visual art that went along with the album to definitely be in tune with the songs and the overall vibe. So there are some common themes throughout all the album artwork.

Chlo: Mick made it.

Riley: We all collaborated!

Mick: I put it together physically, but it was a group effort.

How does your songwriting process work as a band?

Mick: Our songwriting process is super collaborative. Usually it just starts with the spark of an idea, whether it’s a guitar riff or a bass line, or even just a vocal melody that doesn’t have lyrics yet. We typically write all together in the same room. We usually finish [a song] in one sitting. Maybe not all of the lyrics, but typically it’s pretty much fleshed out instrumentally in one rehearsal. Everybody has very individual and impactful art in writing our songs.

What were all of your introductions to playing music? Had you all performed much before playing in Snarls, or do you have any other early memories of things that made you really excited about wanting to play music?

Mick: I started in middle school band.

Max: Same here.

Mick: And I got super stoked about being able to learn an instrument. And then really I think I owe everything to the video game Rock Band.

Max: Yeah, me too.

Mick: Actually, though. That video game made me get a drum kit. And that’s when I started getting really into playing rock music. But I shortly after transitioned to guitar. 

Riley: For me, I started playing guitar when I was like 10. My uncle got me this shitty little kids guitar, it was pink and it had a heart-shaped sound hole, it was an acoustic guitar. I learned covers and stuff, I never really wrote my own music until I met Chlo. I started with Taylor Swift, that was my girl back in the day. But then I started listening to more singer-songwriters, and eventually I found out who John Mayer was, and I thought I was hot shit because I knew who John Mayer was at the age of 14.

As we all do.

Riley: I started honing in on my guitar playing skills. But I never really considered performing until I played the school talent show. And then I got so much foundation from that and I was like, “Oh, okay. Maybe I could actually do this.” Because it was just me in my head being like, “No, I can’t do that, I can’t sing, I can’t perform.” And I was very nervous, and then I performed, and that validation — yeah.

Mick: Everybody needs some encouragement.

Chlo: As far as being excited about playing music, I’ve pretty much sang ever since I could talk. Some of my earliest memories are just sitting in my room daydreaming about being a popstar, being on a stage. I always knew that I wanted to do this. I didn’t actually pick up a guitar until I was 14 — it was my dad’s. He showed me a chord diagram and how to read it. I fell in love, and then I taught myself guitar. And then I started a band with Riley my sophomore year of high school, and then it all kind of blurs from there. Because now Snarls is here.

Mick: We all went to a performing arts high school, and we all took classes where we were able to form bands and experiment with writing songs. We would always perform in front of the class and in front of the whole school. That was definitely, I think for all of us, an opportunity to hone in on our individual interests in music and practice every day at school, and really blossom there. 

You all are still so young, and even before this album has come out you have gotten recognition from national outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, and recently NPR’s New Music Friday. How does it feel to have your music spread to so many different people?

Chlo: I’m sitting here cracking up at you saying that list. 

Max: I wasn’t processing what you were saying.

Mick: No, it really does not feel real to any of us. 

Chlo: It feels good. Of course, I love reading the write-ups, and the buzz is always exciting. It’s really cool. I remember you [Mick] saying a couple weeks ago, we were talking to someone on the phone and you said that you grew up reading Rolling Stone. 

Mick: Definitely Rolling Stone, specifically, was pretty crazy for me. I lost my mind when I got that email. It was like, “Hey, in the next two minutes can you give me a quote for Rolling Stone?” And I’m like, “Wait — for who?” That was crazy. I grew up subscribing to that magazine. All my idols were all over that magazine. I would cut out pictures of them and hang them on my walls. I would make so many collages from Rolling Stone magazine, so that one was pretty special for me personally.

Riley: Rolling Stone — and MTV, when that came out I was like, “Oh shit!” 

Speaking of MTV, you’ve released a music video for one of the singles from Burst, “Walk in the Woods.” Do you want to talk a little bit about that song and how it came together?

Riley: I wrote the first verse. I was kind of noodling around, and I had a chord progression, and I was like, “That sounds happy. How about we write a happy song for once?” And then I wrote the lyrics. I was definitely thinking of a hit — something that sounded like a radio hit or something. 

Mick: At that time we needed an upbeat song that we could just dance to.

Riley: Actually, I was very inspired by Shawn Mendez at that time. 

Mick: Oh my lord.

Riley: And I was literally thinking, while I was writing the lyrics, “What would Shawn Mendez say?”

Mick [laughing]: Oh my god, I did not know this.

Riley: And that’s how we wrote the verse!

Chlo: That is our quote from now on: “What would Shawn Mendez say?”

Besides Shawn Mendez, were there any other specific themes or events that you were inspired by when you were putting together the songs for Burst?

Chlo: My heart is just always broken.

Mick: Literally so many romantic and platonic relationships coming to an end. Graduating high school. Graduating college. Moving out.

Riley: I dropped out of college

Mick: Dropping out of college. Starting college.

Chlo: Breaking up.

Mick: Literally getting out of bed. 

Riley: Being a slave to capitalism.

Mick: All of us at the same time were like, “Shit, we don’t want to grow up.” Being an adult is hard. All of those big transitions were happening at the same time for everyone.

How does writing music about these changes help you process or feel about the things that are going on?

Chlo: When I’m writing it, I’ll be in the situation. I don’t write after the fact. And I don’t really consciously process it as I’m writing — it’s kind of strange how seamless the process of the song coming out of my brain from my actual emotion [is]. But I process it after I’ve written; “Oh, I could make meaning of that, or that’s symbolic of this happening.” It honestly helps me move on from situations. Sometimes for better or for worse. I don’t think I’ve dealt with things the best at the times that I was writing the record. I didn’t write the whole record anyway that’s for the lyrics of the songs. It’s helped me at this point in time, but it didn’t wasn’t so helpful in the midst of it. It differs for all of us. I hold the lyrics very close to me.

Yeah, it gives you something to look back on after the fact and be like, “Oh, that’s how I was feeling in that moment.”

Riley: And for me, also being able to play it is a physical —

Chlo: It’s like taking out anger.

Riley: Yeah having this physical thing — this physical manifestation of what we were feeling. And then I can just play it and wail on my bass. And then everyone can hear it and everyone can have their own opinion of it. That’s what helps me; letting people know what our perspective was.

Chlo: It’s like bitching or ranting to a whole room.

Riley: But in a pretty way.

Yeah. They get something back from that too. That’s the really cool thing, is that you get to release this emotion and feel whatever you feel through playing that music, and then every single person listening is going to take something different away from that and have their own emotional response in return.

Mick: That’s definitely scary to think about.

Riley: But we appreciate it at the same time. 

Mick: Yeah, for sure. I love that about music. You do that all the time with other artists’ music without thinking about it. It’s weird when the table is turned.

Riley: The fact that I’ve made such deep connections to songs and to music in the past, it’s like — someone could do that to our songs. That’s crazy.

Mick: That’s weird to think about.

Do you have any other favorite songs from the record, or any specific ones that you’re pumped for people to hear?

Chlo: “Concrete.”

Mick: “Better Off!”

Riley: I really want people to hear “Better Off.”

Max: I want people to hear “Burst.”

Mick: “Burst” — I always have loved that song. But my love and connection to that song post-recording it and doing the production on it has skyrocketed. I love that song so much. There’s a reason we named the album after it.

Chlo: It’s a great last track because it’s like, in the end, we’re all going to the same place. So it doesn’t really matter what happens

Mick: A little dark. But it’s exactly how we feel. I think that’s the most honest song about really hard feelings and thoughts to process. So I have a great appreciation for that song.

Riley: “Burst” to me — right now, post-writing it and post-recording it and hearing how beautiful Jon Fintel made us sound on that track — it’s like, yeah we’re all going to die. So then, since I know that, I’m putting my entire mind, body, soul, everything — I’m putting everything into this project, into this band. It’s with three people that I will love until I die. And I will love music until I die. That’s what it means to me. 

It’s amazing to hear how honest you’re able to be with your music, and how much of yourself you can throw into it. 

Chlo: I can’t speak for everyone, but I think people, especially in my circle, get caught up on what their art means and they get so, “I need to make meaning of this; I need to create something that is so profound.” But for me it’s just like, why not put it all out on the table? 

I know that you’re based in Columbus, Ohio, and I don’t know a ton about the music scene there. How would you describe the music scene in Columbus?

Max: I think it’s really diverse, actually. I think a lot of beautiful things come out of this city, and I don’t think any one is worried about sticking to one kind of sound. There’s folk bands that come out of this city, there’s hardcore bands, alternative bands, psych bands. Most people are really accepting of what art their friends are making and will support them.

Chlo: Yeah it’s cool seeing everybody pay to go to shows.

Mick: It’s very supportive. I have never felt like it’s been a race to the top or a competition. Everybody is constantly lifting one another up. It’s insane how many bands are in Columbus right now, and how many are really, really good. Everybody feels very confident and comfortable playing and expressing themselves because everybody is constantly hyping each other up.

Chlo: I predict in 5 or 10 years, they’ll be like — in a Times article or something — saying that Columbus is a great city for music. I feel like it’s a hidden gem.

Mick: Some of my absolute favorite bands who I listen to every single day are from here.

Riley: Actually, my all-time favorite band is from Columbus. Van Dale.

Do you have any other recommendations for people who want to listen to more Columbus bands?

Mick: Girl Fox and Van Dale are playing on our release show, and it’s going to be the most tight and insane thing ever. We love them so much.

Chlo: First Responders. Ghost Soul Trio. 

Mick: Mouth Movements. Of Two Minds. Palette Knife — I’ve been listening to them a lot right now. They’re a great twinkle emo band. Hydrone. I could seriously go on all day naming bands. WYD. Souther

Is there anything else that you all are looking forward to in 2020?

All: Tour!

Mick: We’re very excited for what tour opportunities we have confirmed and things that are floating around in the air.

Riley: I just want music to get out everywhere and I want to play everywhere.

Mick: The best part of tour is just meeting so many new amazing people and just connecting with people across the country. It’s so fun. Seeing people sing your songs in a state you’ve never been to is insane. And I can’t wait, I’m so excited.

Chlo: I am excited to try all of the restaurants in the areas.

Mick: Also, yes, we’re very into food.

Chlo: I’m always that bitch in the band, like, “Guys, I’m hungry.” 

Mick: Can confirm.

You can find Snarls on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and listen to their album Burst, out now.

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