Snowmine turns cold shoulder on recording contracts

By Copy Chief

When Snowmine frontman Grayson Sanders was in first grade, his classmates used to tease him for his thick southern dialect. Transplanted from Memphis, Tennessee, to southern California, it did not take long for him to ditch the accent because his classmates could not

understand him.

The same observation played into the Brooklyn-based band’s recent album, Dialects. Sanders said he traveled around the country for nine months with a backpack and a notebook, observing relationships and interactions between people. Those observations later became the lyrics behind the dreamlike songs on the album, which the band crowdfunded and released on its own label, Mystery Buildings.

Its first album, Laminate Pet Animal, was a collection of songs about the band’s members—Sanders, Alex Beckmann, Austin Mendenhall, Jay Goodman and Calvin Pia, who have been friends since their first year of college—navigating their early 20s and finding themselves, Sanders said. Snowmine is returning to Chicago Sept. 18 to play at Schuba’s Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave.

The Columbia Chronicle spoke with Sanders about the band’s name, its dynamic and the inspiration

 behind Dialects.

THE CHRONICLE: Where does the name Snowmine come from?

GRAYSON SANDERS: I named the project after my grandfather, who was a platoon leader in the Korean War. In the winter of 1952, he was stationed in Korea in the mountains, and he got radioed that he and his platoon had to go on a night walk  and when they were midway to this extremely snowy field, they got a call on the radio that said they had actually been placed in the middle of a minefield. They had a mine detector, but the snow was too deep to pick the mines up. So my grandfather decides that the most heroic option would be to take the first step and to have everyone fall into his footsteps. Unfortunately, what happened was that the more people who walked in his footsteps, the more the snow became compressed and put more weight down on the mines, and they started to go off. By the time they reached the other side, they had lost most of the men. When we first finished our album, we tried to find something that would match this feel

we have of the bittersweet elements to our sound.

How would you describe the band’s dynamic?

We’re all like blood brothers. We’ve been best friends for 10 years—all of us. The band formed out of a very close bond, and that has been the sole factor that has allowed us to do what we’ve done thus far without the legal support, without the corporate backing. We went through a pretty sizable period of blood, sweat and tears, not only doing it all

ourselves but playing for empty rooms, making no money, doing all those things.  I think the thing that got us through is the positive dynamic between us and we just like hanging

with each other.

What inspires your industrial-themed sounds?

We are inspired by found sounds, environmental sounds, and we record a lot of things. I keep a portable recorder with me sometimes, especially in recording periods where I’m trying to find environmental influences. We’ve done a lot of recording in halls and

stairways and concrete rooms. We actually recorded a lot of the guitars on our first album in

a bathtub.


How did your style change between Laminate Pet Animal and Dialects?


Once we started touring, everything changed about the way we play together. Laminate Pet Animal was pieced together, primarily home-recorded with an engineer to mix it, but Dialects was recorded all live with just the band in a room. It’s an entirely different process. That album feels more coherent sonically, from song to song, and there’s a lot of variation.


How do you think the process of recording albums has changed?

You can sit around all day lamenting the loss of tradition.. It’s a shame that larger imagined

bodies of work are not getting the same attention for the amount

of time put into them. It’s like if

you’re trying to do a full album or you want to do it artistically, you have to accept a fraction of those people—even the people who are your listeners—are going to spend the time to dig into

the album.