hat is it about Seattle? Something in the rain, perhaps, has helped produced more original bands and artists than any other far-flung region of the U.S. Long before (and after) grunge made the Washington state music scene famous in the early Nineties, its artsy nooks and crannies have sprouted new genres and artists who continue to redefine music and ambition. Experimental post-hardcore rockers These Arms Are Snakes are no exception.

Formed from the ashes of defunct metal outfits Botch and Kill Sadie, TAAS took a much different route from that of Minus The Bear, who also rose from the remains of those same mid-Nineties bands. Rather than striving for melodicism and lightheartedness, TAAS paints from a gritty, raw palette, preferring chaos to order and sheer volume to control. That’s not to say that the music of TAAS is sloppy—on the contrary, their brand of chaos consists of precisely executed odd-metered rhythms, fierce screaming, annihilating bass cuts, and arrant power.

Bassist Brian Cook, drummer Chris Common, guitarist Ryan Frederiksen, and singer Steve Snere have once again captured their obstreperous sound on Tail Swallower and Dove (Suicide Squeeze, 2008) which has been enthusiastically acclaimed by both critics and fans of post-hardcore music. The album manages to present a somewhat restrained version of the quartet while maintaining the exuberant factors that have defined the band’s five-year, three-album span.

Thanks to drummer Common’s production and engineering, the album’s overall sound is cleaner than on any previous TAAS effort, making it easier to appreciate the grittiness of the distorted basslines, the monstrous drums, the thrashing guitars, and the electric voice of Snere. The result is an immaculate presentation of a band performing and writing at their highest potential.

Much like the literal title of the band’s debut EP, This is Meant to Hurt You (Jade Tree, 2003), TAAS’s live shows are violent, loud, and painfully intemperate. Luckily for fans here and abroad, a few cracked ribs, bloodied faces, and callused hands are not enough to stop these Seattleites from touring every corner of the world on a regular basis. 

We caught up with Snere outside of a Seattle bar, where he and his bandmates were waiting for copies of their new album and contemplating their upcoming world tour. As he sipped at his beer and mulled over his answers, it was easy to understand why simplicity has been the key to success for a band that has survived a constantly redefining scene, left a mark on their genre, and built success from the scraps of the past. While that may seem like a complex design for such as simple band, it is not. After all, that was never their intention.

They just like being loud.

Story By Jonathan D’Auria - Photos By Renee McMahon

Congratulations on finishing up Tail Swallower and Dove—it must be nice to be on this end of the studio process.

It’s good. Now that we’re done, I can finally relax a bit and let it sink in. I’m really excited, though; the whole process felt really good, and there wasn’t much meandering through any of it.


How long were you in the studio?

We were only in the studio for about a month, which is definitely the shortest amount of time we’ve ever taken to record. It was easier to buckle down this time and focus without being distracted or over-critical.


Your drummer Chris produced and engineered this one. How did that affect the studio experience?  

Well, having him at the helm was a lot mellower for us. For Chris, however, there was a lot more pressure to take control and make things happen. But this time around, we all knew what we were going for, so it was pretty ideal having a band member putting our ideas to tape.


When did you guys write the music for this album?

Well, we took a much-needed break from the road. We were constantly touring, and it got to a point where we were like, “Why are we touring so much again?” So we hopped off the road and took about eight months to write and recover.


What other ways were these recording sessions different?

They were a lot more focused. We cut off a lot of the excess bullshit and kept the important stuff. This time around was a lot different because the band was more prepared and the music was close to finalized by the time we entered the booth. Vocally, I was a lot more melodic than I’ve ever been. I even tried vocal effects and different singing techniques.  It was fun to mess around with all that stuff.


So how do you write your vocal parts?

I’ve been tracking certain ideas into my laptop and really sitting with them for a while. It is a lot more personal that way to write in my private time.


Are there any recurring themes on this album?

I definitely started to dabble around on a spiritual tip before writing this album. I’ve been reading a lot about mythology and have been thinking about the “big picture.” I think a lot of that came out in my lyrics—a lot of, “Who am I? What am I? What is all of this?” It gave the record even more meaning for me.

I’ve admired bassist Brian Cook since his days in Botch. What does he bring to the table as a writer?

Brian actually writes a lot of our material. He’s definitely a very driving part of the band and a very intuitive and fluent writer. He plays bass like a guitar, but he’s still a sick bassist on top of it. Our rhythm section is a huge force for us. A lot of times they lay down the foundation of songs and we just fill in over it.


Describe the music of TAAS in your own words.

Usually, I just say that it’s annoying (laughing). It’s really up to the listener. We write it, so it’s hard for us to explain it. It takes an outside ear to put a label on it.


What compels you towards heavier, louder music?

To us, loud equals exciting, but saying that out loud doesn’t seem to make much sense. We love loud and heavy music because it is so much more physical than any other kind of music. Playing live is 90% of what we do, and it just feels so good to play powerful music for a crowd.


How has the TAAS sound developed over time?

We’ve definitely improved as musicians. I think we’ve gotten a little less heavy and little more thoughtful. It’s been a very natural progression; we’re a lot more comfortable in our own shoes now.


Being such veterans of life on the road, what’s your favorite part about touring?

Playing shows every night, not working a shitty 9-to-5 job, living on my own terms, traveling around and seeing places—the list goes on. It’s all good, really. Long tours just make me feel like I have more purpose in life. It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and be like, “Where are we? Oh yeah—Russia!”


How are overseas crowds different than in the States?

I feel like crowds are more receptive in Europe. They definitely have a lot more desire for louder music, and they go crazy when they really like something. It’s weird that we have a lot larger following out there. We also play larger venues overseas. It’s funny like that.


Tell us about a particularly memorable show for you.

We played Portugal last year and it was definitely a milestone in our careers. The place was completely packed and sold out. We played in this amazing venue under a bridge in the main part of town. It was chaos, beautiful chaos. We played our asses off and the crowd was going as crazy as we were. I broke a rib performing that night.


Well, broken ribs are always a good show indicator. Describe a TAAS show from your perspective.

It’s loud and ridiculous and annoying and fun and chaotic. I’m the one that never seems to know what’s going on, but the band always holds it together. I recently read a review of one of our shows and I thought it was perfect. It said, “I saw These Arms Are Snakes last night and it was very strange, but very awesome.” That kinda sums it up.


You guys have enjoyed a lot of success in Europe and other countries, but how instrumental has the Seattle, Washington scene been to your success?

It’s an awesome place to make music and be inspired by music. If you live in L.A., it’s nearly impossible to get noticed and blow up, and the scene is just way more pretentious. Seattle has a reputation to uphold when it comes to music, and I feel like people here are more critical of bands, but at the same time more receptive of good bands. It’s really cutthroat out here, but it’s a good kind of competitive.

And how does it feel to have recently joined the very well-respected, Seattle-based Suicide Squeeze Records?

Oh man, it’s miles ahead of our last label. Suicide Squeeze’s commitment to their bands is amazing. Records sales and promotion for this album are already up big time, thanks to Suicide Squeeze. They’re the friendliest, nicest people, and they’ve built such a community around them. It’s also good to be on board with our good friends in other bands like Minus The Bear.


How did you first get into making music?

I wanted to play in a band starting at a really young age. When I started to, it really felt natural. I started off playing drums in a band with some friends, but I wasn’t that good, so they got a different drummer, and I started singing. Unfortunately, I sucked at singing, so I went back with drums. As I got older, things started clicking for me as a singer, so I went with that. And here I am, still kinda sucking at singing (laughing).


And what keeps you making music?

It’s entertainment. It’s about trading something personal for something exciting. If you lose your excitement for making music then it just turns into a shitty 9-to-5 job, and I’ve seen that happen to a lot of musicians. That sucks. Music has been my absolute savior for most of my life, so I’m sticking with it. And it hasn’t done me wrong yet.


What do you do with your time away from music?

I listen to music, I read, I get drunk with friends. I’m finally learning how to play guitar, so that is a frustrating and challenging process. Nothing too insane, really.


And what’s next for you guys?

Well, we leave for Europe again and then we come back and hit the road with Narrow After, which is the singer from Botch’s new band. Then we’re going to release another EP and take it around the world again. We’re always touring and we’re always writing, so I guess you could say that we’ll be indefinitely busy.


                                                                                                                                       -GX-

These Arms Are Snakes- “Horse Girl”

These Arms Are Snakes- “Mescaline Eyes”

TAAS: Chris Common (Drums), Ryan Frederiksen (Guitar), Brian Cook (Bass), Steve Snere (Vox)

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