Interview: Snapcase

SNAPCASE
interview by mike bushman

The optimizing idealism of the breakdown of organized systems to perhaps find a better way and forge a new path. Or maybe just to destroy what we are forced to love. “End Transmission” is a statement of musical growth undeniable. A band that already pushed well past its post-hardcore definitions and straight edge allegiances is now just an entity unto itself. No rules are bothered with restrictions. Mood and impact are favored over speed and aggression. The latter of which is rarely lacking in Snapcase. Ambitious forays into slower, but immensely impacting songmanship shine through their newest release “End Transmission”. A concept album that easily mirrors the trends of the modern world and the general over indulgence in the negatives of our advanced culture. Heady material, which is precisely what draws a Snapcase fan to their mentality. With hardcore beginnings that have grown to ambitious attacks of focused aggression, presenting their material on levels that has surpassed most labels. Words fall short of the creation, so best to speak to one of the creators, Daryl Taberski.

How would you describe the mental state of Snapcase at end of this 2002 year?
Daryl: I think we are a little bit exhausted because we finished writing the album, recorded the album, mixed the album and toured for the album, just super busy. I think we are gonna take a month off over the holidays and regroup and then hit the road again in January.

How do you feel your band challenges the conventional thought process to making music?
I hope we challenge people in some way. I think with the methods behind the band, it asks people to think deeper about the things we take for granted.

Over 11 years, 4 releases all on Victory Records. That is apparently a good home for Snapcase.
Oh yeah, the label has grown with the band. We have a very high level of commitment and respect for one another, which is good with any label, the communication gaps are that much smaller. Not so much to represent us, but to promote the album and get them out and distributed and stay behind what our plans are. And they’ve done that.

Themes of a systematic decline and control seem to dominate Snapcase. Where do these feelings of oppression through the system originate?
I can’t really pinpoint any part of my life that spells it all out for me, or makes me wonder about those things. It just must be something with my personality that I don’t always trust the way things are going. I tend to be an optimistic person, but I am willing to go through a challenge and an adventure to get a positive result. I don’t like the easy way. Snapcase, lyrically, has mostly been on a personal level. It’s not so much a societal thing, this record more than others maybe so, but typically the lyrics have been more individual on a personal level. Personal confidence, personal struggle. I think learning to identify from within yourself before identifying with things that are bigger or surround you.

It seems there is a lot of thought put into the process of how a song is born into Snapcase’s music.
We’ve definitely never have been able to just bang out stuff. Maybe that comes from our upbringing. We are more patient. We come from a smaller town. We aren’t a New York or LA band. I do think there is a sense of urgency for us.

So you feel a lot of contemporary ‘popular’ music (meaning what is fed to the kids on the rock stations) is lacking in anything credible as far as contributing to intelligent music.
Some of it’s good. Some of it is definitely lacking. And what it lacks is creativity and originality. You take something like Blink182 for example, the next 3 to 5 years are gonna be basically, well produced, well manufactured bands that sound just like them following the same formula of sounds and production and song writing. To me, it’s just boring. ‘We found something that works. Let’s find a couple more of these.’

Do you think Snapcase is ‘intelligent’ music?
We are there for people who don’t want to think at all and just want to rock out, and we are there for people who want to dig deeper into the album. If you want to dig deeper, we provide stuff in the album for that.

You toured with the Refused. You’ve toured with Quicksand. You’ve toured with many bands that have since imploded, while Snapcase has managed to stay focused as a band, releasing more ambitious material as your career went on. To what do you attribute this staying power?
I think number one, the fact that we never had any expectations. We really started this band in the beginning just to have fun. Something on the side. We were all going to school and working jobs and things like that. And having a band was just something a little bit extra. All these tours and albums are just kind of like bonuses along the way. All the things we never imagined were gonna happen in the beginning. Now that we’ve reached a different level, you have to maintain a certain level. That’s definitely more challenging. We take things one day at a time and don’t take anything for granted. We are not looking for that immediate success. We’ve been a band for 10 years. It’s been a very slow climb, but it’s always been going up. Because of that, it’s kept us moving.

Why is there a 3-year gap between releases?
I don’t know I never think about that. I get asked that once in awhile… I guess that’s a long time.

Does Snapcase think out their new music that much or you just sit around doing drugs on your off time.
(slight pause)
We don’t work like a machine, we don’t work like, ‘Ok, release this album, do a bunch of touring, start working on a new album that comes out every year to two years.’ We don’t think like that. When it comes, it comes. No real agenda. We are a self-managed group. Maybe that has something to do with it. No manager telling us, “We need five more songs by the end of the month”

That drugs comment was a joke as I was under the impression that Snapcase was a Straight Edge band, and if not wearing the label, definitely associated with that movement in hardcore.
You know, we’ve always been careful to not associate ourselves with the term ‘straight edge’ too closely. But as individuals, the members of this band, none of us drink or smoke or do drugs.

So you would say that scene has adopted you more than you have adopted the scene?
Well we were all influenced and turned on to straight edge, through the hardcore straight edge scene. But we are talking over 10 years ago now, so at this point, it’s not something that we are that interested in or concerned with. It’s just the way we live our lives, it’s our lifestyle and being identified as ‘straight edgers’ is not important to us.

Do you think it would be important to other people who do strongly identify with that scene? It seems like a lot of people want to support it, but then don’t want to stand up and claim allegiance either. And I’m not sure where that hesitation comes from because it should be a positive association in general, correct?
Hopefully. But whenever you label yourself, you are bound to be misinterpreted. You are bound to be misrepresented by others.

Are you all still practicing vegans?
It never was all of us. Just myself and my drummer.

What made you choose that eating lifestyle?
Actually out of all the guys in my band and my friends, I was the last one to become a vegetarian. At one point in my life, I made the decision to not be so narrow-minded and not be so grumpy and stuff like that.

And that led to the not eating of cows?
Yeah, it led to understanding different ways. It made a lot of sense to me. It’s not a difficult thing to do. I would never go and kill an animal myself and then eat it. To me, it’s getting down to the bottom of things. Why would I just go and buy it then. It doesn’t make a difference because someone else killed it and processed it.

I grew up in the Midwest. My eating habits are basically anti-vegetarian. Vegans fascinate me. So Buffalo New York is home for Snapcase. Did you grow up there?
I grew up there and our guitar players John and Frank both grew up there. And we have a new drummer (about 4 months in the band), Ben Lythberg who is from New Zealand. And our bassplayer Justin is from Mankato, MN.

Do you think coming from a bigger city shaped your sound in any way?
I guess maybe a little bit. Growing up, when I first started going to see local bands, which is always the first step, two of the main local bands I would see back then was the Goo Goo Dolls, who were really like punk rock back then, and Cannibal Corpse. A lot of people probably wouldn’t think that those two bands knew each other well. To me, it’s a decent size city, but when it comes to the music scene, it’s pretty small. Snapcase has actually opened for both of those bands.

Where do you hang in Buffalo when you aren’t in Snapcase mode?
I got married just over a year ago, so I hang out with my wife a lot. We have a dog. We do a lot of outdoor stuff. We have a Labrador retriever so we do a lot of walking through the park and hiking. I’m also interested in photography so I’m into that. A pretty simple life at home.

What bands were you seeing in the clubs when you were a teenager that put you on the path to creating something like Snapcase.
Collectively, our influences were Helmet, Quicksand, Fugazi and Sick of It All.

The new album “End Transmission” is somewhat a concept album with a more subtle expression of the bands ‘views’ in lieu of a more artistic release. What was the inspiration for such an ambitious project?
We knew we wanted to make this record stand apart from all our other records, but still maintain our sound. Lyrically, we have three records that follow similar mood. So a change in the lyrics was planned. I came up with the idea of a concept that tied all the songs together. We were writing a lot of the music and it created visuals in my head that led to the concept. I could just kind of picture people like hiding and sneaking around for the good cause, and create something interesting. Basically, the idea revolves around the idea of a future society that has become somewhat of a prison culture. Within this prison culture there are people that are at the bottom of this caste system. They are the ones that are brave enough to plan an escape and put their lives on the line for the chance of starting a new culture.

Do you feel a literal prison culture developing in the US?
There are well-defined classes in America. A lot of times, people that are in lower income levels have stronger family values. And are also a little more fearless because they have gone through more struggle in their life. And at the same time, the fact the major corporations of the world are just getting more and more of a stronghold on international business. The world is becoming smaller in the sense that you can fly to Japan and get off the plane and go to Burger King and go to Starbucks after for a coffee. Just like you can anywhere in America, and anywhere in Canada and anywhere in Europe.

So you are using the word ‘prison’ as more of a cultural prison than a literal prison.
There are no right and wrong answers to the lyrics. Hopefully they are artistic enough to be interpreted in different ways. I think the album can almost be interpreted as just an inner struggle within oneself. I just think there needs to be more of an awareness of what we are doing. Even if the media does not. A lot of people don’t even think about what they are doing. Think of the influences of modern advertising campaigns and things like that. Very powerful.

Do you think ‘End Transmission’ is your most accessible work as a band?
Yeah maybe so. But not deliberately. I just know we wanted to make a record that was different than any of our others. We were more open minded in the writing process. We definitely like playing heavy music still. And our follow-up album will still include heavier songs. But definitely more atmospheric and slower tempos as well.

Your lyrics do not flow in what would be considered ‘typical’ song structure. They read out more like diary entries/observational snippets delivered in cryptic prose.
I guess I get caught up in the lyrics too much sometimes. A couple of reasons…we write almost all the music first, and then add lyrics and vocals. Then we adjust the music somewhat to the vocal patterns. I typically don’t sacrifice what I’m trying to say in a song just for the sake of make it sound better. A lot of times people will just stick in a word that doesn’t make any sense just because it sounds good. I’m not that concerned with that.

Your band stresses the idea of the lower class, rising up and questioning the status quo. But isn’t that based on the assumption that the masses are generally unhappy with the system? While most would agree, the system is damaged, most would not trade it for something unproven in this world of uncertainty.
People put higher and higher values these days on their cars, TV’s, their image… instead of being close with their families. I’m kind of an old school person. I’m the kind of person that won’t wear headphones when they are walking down the street. I like to hear what’s going on. I like to say ‘hi’ to people when I walk by them. I don’t like to shut myself out of my community. I am sort of old fashioned in that sense. To me, modern technology is just gearing people up for more and more of just separating themselves from everyone else. Living in their own personal little world. To me, that’s unattractive. I’m turned off by that.

What are some of the glaring holes in US Society? Have you any ideas how to fix it, or seen any examples in the world where they do it better?
I see myself as a political person in the sense that I don’t live my life blindly. But at the same time, I’m singer of a rock band. I’m not a student of political science. I just want to make sure you understand that I’m not making the claim that we are a politically charged band. We’ve toured with a lot of bands that like to get up on stage and make political statements. To me, they are just kind of like simple ways to get cheers out of the crowd. Pump the crowd up. There’s not any real passion behind it. I think a lot of times being political for bands is just something for them to be angry about. And that’s not the case with Snapcase.

How does pop-culture (movies, TV, music, video games) fit into your views of control?
They are all unnecessary things. They are luxuries. There are people living in other parts of the world that are happy and live full lives without CDs and video games and stuff.

So do you think those are bad things?
No, it’s just, to me, entertainment is just a luxury.

It almost sounds like you view it as a luxury that we shouldn’t have.
No, it’s definitely nice to have. I think that anything can be enjoyed on one level, but it can be abused like anything else. For example, the Internet, emailing… I think it’s a great advance and it allows us to do other things. But at the same time it gets abused. And there’s a lot of people who don’t like to communicate face to face and one and one anymore. They would rather send you an email. I hate that. I don’t want to have to turn my computer on to find out what’s next. People like the email because they don’t have to deal with people they don’t want to deal with or whatever. Like people who don’t ever answer their phones and make you leave a message. I’m not afraid to tell somebody I can’t talk right now.

What is the general atmosphere of a live Snapcase show?
The main goal, for me, is to lose myself in the show. And to see people walk away tired and sweaty. Can’t ask for much more than that.

When your band has such a strong belief system, I’m sure you tend to draw some pretty fanatic followers. Do you find they sometimes overlook the ‘think for yourself’ message you emphasize in their eagerness to belong to a movement?
Sometimes. I think, especially in the early albums, we are just providing options and things to think about and not making decisions for people. Growing up, all of the bands that I really loved, I liked a lot of their ideas. But in a way, they were kind of like presenting them as ‘Well, we believe this. This is the way things should be, or would be better. Those people suck.’ I wanted to be in a band that said ‘Hey, just because we are a band doesn’t mean we know what’s right for you. Only you know what’s right for you. We are only gonna help try to help you in the context of finding it yourself.’

What can the average kid do to make the world a better place?
Especially for kids, I know for me, the biggest challenge was kind of like, going back to our one record, “Progression through Unlearning” trying to unlearn parts of your life that limit the way that you think. Whether it’s family traditions, or cultural traditions or religious traditions. They are all positive and good things to have, but sometimes they can also limit you from understanding another person’s religion or culture. And I think to make the world a better place, different cultures need to unlearn what they think is right and wrong to understand the way different cultures think.

What do you think of people who have claimed Straight Edge allegiance, only to ‘move on’ to something else as they grow older?
To me, there doesn’t seem to be much of a straight edge presence anymore, as far as a scene or a movement. I hardly ever meet any kids at shows that are straight edge. Five to ten years ago, I’d say 80 to 90% of the bands we would go on the road with were straight edge, or had straight edge members. Now all the young bands that we tour with that are in their late teens or early twenties, almost none of them are straight edge. I find that funny, because I remember the way we were when we were young, we were straight edge and so many other bands that were… became not straight edge later, but these bands aren’t even straight edge at the onset of it. So I’m just thinking, “God, how could you be 17 or 18 years old and going on tour and getting free beer and drunk every night”? Where does that leave you ten years from now?

Motley Crue.
Yeah, it leaves you with a VH1 Special about how you had to clean up and what a challenge your life is to stay sober.

Do you think drugs are the problem?
Again, like anything, like the Internet, it can be abused.

Or is it the people who do drugs. Kind of like guns… are they the problem… or the people that abuse them?
It’s definitely the people who abuse them. There are a lot of people who use drugs that are good people.

What about someone like Timothy Leary? He abused the fuck out of drugs and was one of the most progressive thinkers of his time. And this time for that matter.
Yeah. That’s true. It’s just some people, their personalities just don’t mesh well with certain drugs and it becomes very destructive.

Have you ever done drugs?
No, aside from being drunk.

You’ve never even tried marijuana?
No.

Ok, how about from the open progressive thought line we were talking about, with so many people that are willing to be a vocal proponent to marijuana, how come you’ve never tried it? Just out of curiosity to expand your mind to be open to other thought processes. Not advocating regular use, but trying it.
Ahhhh, I don’t know. (laughs). Um, I’m fine the way I am. I just never had an interest or need I guess. I think a lot of times, drinking or drugs fills in the gaps for people and I guess I do other things. When I get in certain moods, what I need, is kind of like exercise or something like that.

Especially being in the music industry, how do you deal with that on a sociable level in a bar or a party situation where 99% of everybody is wasted? I do drugs and I can’t handle being around people that are wasted when I am not.
I’m not that interested in parties and bars that much anyways at this point in my life. The only reason I ever liked going to bars in the first place was to meet girls. I never really cared about talking with dudes and drinking and stuff. So now that I’m married I really can’t meet chicks in bars. We hang out with other bands on tour, been on tour with lots of bands who do drugs and drink and stuff. It’s never become that big of an issue. When it comes to being on tour and goofing around, we are just as fun as the next band. On tour, we play shows. We are here to perform well. Not be here to be hedonistic and goof around and just happen to perform music that night.

What about violence on TV and video games? Any belief that they lead to violent behavior?
With some people they definitely do. Most people I think can handle being stimulated by the violent parts of games. It definitely brings out something different in people. The guys in my band bought Grand Theft Auto 3 the second we got out here. I had never seen it before. I like video games, but I like playing against another person. I’d much rather play John Madden Football with one of my friends than move along in a computer game. But I can understand why those guys enjoy it. But when you see it, the game is full of stereotypes. You get out of your car and beat up a gay guy on roller-skates. You beat up the Latina prostitute. To me, it’s sorta funny, but at the same time, really repulsive. I would definitely have problems having my kids play games like that.

I know that was stamped with a Mature Rating and intended for adults.
Yeah, cause I mean, if somebody really hates gay people, they are going to play the game and find it really fun to go out and beat up the gay dudes on the game. But for people who are cultured and are accepting of different people, it’s not going to affect them as much. I worked at a miniature golf course that had a huge game room. I watched lots of people play fighting games and like, punching the screen and kicking the door on their way out then peeling out in their car in the parking lot because the game pissed them off. But there are people who can play those games and not be affected.

Do you watch much TV? What’s your favorite TV show?
I don’t watch a lot of TV. I love watching movies. I love the Simpsons. My big problem is I’m really addicted to watching sports. If I’m at home, I basically watch every Buffalo Bills Game. I watch baseball in the playoffs. I watch hockey playoffs. If I had a TV that provided an NBA game every night, I would watch an NBA game every night before bed. I love basketball. I watch SportsCenter on ESPN almost every single day when I’m at home. Part of my routine. I wake up and the first thing is I put on ESPN and make breakfast and then I eat breakfast and catch up on all the sports news. That’s a bad thing to because SportsCenter covers all sports, so if you start watching it enough, you start knowing more and more about sports you didn’t care about before. And suddenly you’re interested.

Do you play any organized sports?
Yeah I play in Men’s League Soccer sometimes. Besides that, I ride a bike a lot. I run. I did a couple of races just for fun in Buffalo. I grew up playing a lot of sports, neighborhood football and street hockey, basketball. I played organized baseball for about half of my life.

Do you feel how bands are marketed has changed in the last 4 years due to the internet and emerging videos channels offering more varied and groundbreaking music?
Just to show how long we have been a band, in the beginning, we were never thinking of putting out CDs. We were thinking of putting out vinyl and cassettes. So CDs are pretty wild on their own. We have a website. I’m not a big web guy, but our guitar player Frank, he monitors and takes care of the website and stuff. This is kind of funny, but we had a kid come up to us at one of the shows in Belgium. He wanted me to autograph a CD. This is the first time this has happened, but he brought me a burned CD of our album. And he said, “Oh I know it’s a burn, but I found out about you on the Internet, but I liked it enough and I came to the concert”.

That’s what I think people miss on the whole piracy issue, the end result is music makes it into the hands of people who would never had been turned on to that band.
And when somebody is so guiltless about bringing a band a burned copy of their CD to have them autograph, my reaction was like, “Wow, this guy sees absolutely nothing wrong with it”.

I take it you have an issue with that.
No, not that much. I don’t really think about it that much, only when it comes up. Our album was available on the Internet about a month and a half before the release date. We were playing shows in Canada, and the kids were singing words to the songs. I want people to be into the band, and to have fun shows, and we have that. So I’m not that concerned. I just hope it doesn’t really hurt record stores. Because I love going into record stores and looking at albums and seeing what’s new. Meeting other people face to face, doing the same thing. The kind of thing you get at independent stores. When it comes to music, a big part of it for me, is having that loyalty to one or two stores and knowing the employees and going to stores where employees know a good amount about the music. To me, that makes indie stores cooler than Tower or something.

What was the first concert you ever went to?
Blue Oyster Cult.

Where/when do you do your best writing?
In total complete solitude. I always do my best writing when I’m not prepared to write anything down that I’m thinking about. It’s always the worst times, like when I’m riding my bike or something.

What is your most prized possession?
My relationship with my wife. Sounds kinda sappy…

Naw, that will get you some extra loving when she sees this.
My wife tours with me now, so I don’t miss her being at home. But people miss their bed, or being on their computer, or their DVDs or TV, I really just miss my dog. When I come home, it’s all about seeing my dog and going out on a big walk. And my dog, to me, is really special. She doesn’t need a leash and she fits really well with my character. I can go run around and throw Frisbees and she catches Frisbees and she plays soccer with me and she loves to go swimming in the summer. A very athletic outdoorsy kind of dog.

Have you ever been in a fistfight?
It’s been a long time. The last time, I was trying to break up a fight and got clocked in the face. 20 something stitches.

And final and most relevant question, Is Motley Crue cool? (they did a LOT of drugs).
They are really cool.