This is a band that you look for, not one you stumble across listening to the radio. Vancouver darkwave group SNIT’s new release, Optimized, is an introspective album. Its songs radiate an odd binary feeling of being both over the moon, yet still trapped by clouds. Reflecting some of the more shadowy areas of the city, Optimized pops and gnashes its teeth, like little forceful bursts of anger. As guitarist Trevor puts it, SNIT is sulkily “purging a lifetime of guilt, frustration, and pain.”
The current members of SNIT are the band’s second incarnation, consisting of lyricist Jessie, bassist Rob, drummer Kati, and Trevor* on guitar. Optimized, the band’s second full length release, has made a move from Rob and Trevor’s synth heavy sound, by adding Kati on drums and switching out the mainly male vocals to female vocals. The less synthy sound in Optimized was not by choice, but instead became the result of the synthesizer frying while plugged into the wrong power supply. SNIT hopes to bring the machine’s musical elements back into their sound eventually. Rob explains, “We are having a lot of synthesizer nightmares, so this record will be barebones.”
SNIT’s music writing is a communal process, requiring time to fully take shape. Rob describes creating songs as the “bass first, then everybody else fills in their part … a skeleton of something … then everybody paints the flesh and the eyeballs, and Jessie, you’re the T-shirt and the dress.” Jessie’s vocals are some of the last layered elements of the songs on Optimized. He builds up rakish lyrics on top of the rest of the band’s music.
“Start your life over as somebody new / A brand new you / A younger you” — like most of SNIT’s lyrics, the main refrain from “Seconds,” the first track on Optimized, is fast paced. Each sentence, like the sudden change in tempo, is a jarringly upbeat reference to the movie Seconds, starring Rock Hudson. Trevor believes SNIT’s jangly lyrics and melodies in Optimized are internal monologues, reflecting Vancouver’s eternally grey effect. “Looking at what goes on, being part of the community, and whatever happens, affects us,” he explains.
Although Vancouver is an inspiration for SNIT, it is not the only city where SNIT has fans. They have a solid American fan base and even have sent a tape to a fan in the U.K. They also just completed a tour, which included playing a showcase at SXSW. As well as being Kati’s first tour with the band, this showcase attempted to reach out to American fans. Rob believes that Americans like SNIT’s music because they are still a little rough around the edges — but maybe that mentality has something to do with the NRA hat he sometimes likes to wear when playing shows.
While speaking about Austin and their ironic assertion that the band is non-partisan, SNIT was easily distracted — SXSW soon morphed into a conversation fueled by Kati’s question about where a bullet goes when you shoot it into the sky, in relation to Rob’s respect to the plight of the Sonoran cactus.
He began, “For the record SNIT is so against people that shoot Sonoran cacti. The Sonoran cactus population is depleted because people with guns shoot them up. We have a lot of fans in Arizona and New Mexico, and that’s one thing we really believe. Stop shooting the fucking cacti.”
Trevor agrees “That’s not what guns are for.”
Being a local band, finding rooms and venues to practice and to play in can be tough, but finding the right sound and the right crowd has really helped keep SNIT’s vibe alive. Trevor exclaims, “It sucks that all those amazing independent venues in people’s basements are just gone now. It feels like Toronto with all those new venues moving in.”
Red Gate, where the band is being interviewed, is an example of a performance space that SNIT loves. Rob describes Red Gate as “home ice,” because it’s where they have the most fun and are the most comfortable.
Although feeling at home at Red Gate, SNIT has a tight set up live, wherever they play. The band statement being: “we play shows, you should come to them;” SNIT is a whirlwind of sound, especially when playing for a room slightly unsure what to make of them, and too hip to pay complete attention. Rob’s heavy, rhythmic bass, combined with Kati’s sweet drum action creates a solid base for their jams. Topped by Trevor’s guitar’s confused wild static and the gritty sentiments of Jessie’s vocals, the band’s separate sounds mesh really well with each other. On stage, SNIT is able to embrace their beats to have excellent jam sessions, which, as an audience member, is incredibly fun to watch and is definitely captured in Optimized.
SNIT’s attitude matches the energy of their music. Both in conversation during the interview, and through their music, the band’s chatter and attitude enables them to weave in and out of intimacy using a layer of noise to protect themselves. Although lacking the synth of previous albums, Rob speaks about how on Optimized, SNIT’s noisy edge is still alive. “Trevor plays the guitar like a mosquito… it sounds like a mosquito buzzing around on the new record, I really like it. It’s really cool.”
Enjoyably moody, Optimized, SNIT’s current release, is a little burst of anger and annoyance, able to combine upbeat lyrics with dynamic sounds to create songs that are shady and a little unsettling.
SNIT have currently released Optimized on Napkin Records as a digital download, and are anticipating a physical release that includes more tracks in the near future.