These Arms Are Snakes’ debut full-length, ‘Oxeneers’, is like nothing else I’ve heard in ages – a volatile, unpredictable blend of hardcore, progressive and electronic influences. Yet even that pales in comparison to the pure insanity of the Seattle-based quartet’s live show; imagine Iggy Pop fronting a less self-indulgent Mars Volta, and you’ll get a vague idea of what I witnessed at London’s Camden Underworld last month. I caught up with Brian Cook (bass/keyboards), Ryan Frederiksen (guitar) and Steve Snere (vocals) before the show.
How’s the tour going so far?
BC: Awesome, yeah, it’s been really good. We were meant to come over to the UK a couple of times before, but that fell through, so it’s good to be here at last.
Your new record, ‘Oxeneers’, is very hard to categorise – how would you describe yourselves musically?
RF: Well, that’s the point really…we’d like to musically define ourselves as a band, but not as part of just one genre, like “we’re an emo band” or “we’re a hardcore band”. We don’t try to categories ourselves – most of my favourite bands cover a wide musical spectrum, but still stamp their own identity on everything they do. you know, if you hear a Beatles song, you’ll know it’s the Beatles, but their sound changed a lot over the years. We just try not to pay too much attention to whatever’s popular at the time, and just do our own thing.
Do you think that too many bands try to mould themselves on who/what’s popular at the time?
RF: Definitely…we read this review a while back, talking about our band…it said that we’re not a ‘screamo’ band, because we don’t scream that much, instead, we’re ‘yello’! I mean, ‘yello’?! That’s f**king ridiculous!
BC: The guy was kind of referencing himself with that review – “Hey look, I coined a new term, I get the credit on this one!” [mass laughter]
RF: So yeah, I guess we’re pioneers of the ‘yello’ scene! [more laughter]
Have fans of your previous bands (Botch and Kill Sadie) taken well to TAAS?
BC: Yeah, I think so, for the most part anyway. There’s been a few Botch comparisons, some people have said “Oh, they’re no Botch.” about us, but hey, we’re not supposed to be!
You’ve been touring almost non-stop lately – would you say that TAAS are primarily a live band?
SS: I think it’s two different things really. If you see our shows, they’re kind of sloppy and unstructured in comparison to our records. But that’s intentional, it keeps it more interesting for us and for the audience – we hope!
A boring question, I know…but where do you stand on the free music downloading issue?
SS: Yeah, I think it’s fine, so long as you’re reasonable about it…it’s a bit of a give-and-take thing, because it’s a great way to discover new bands, but those bands need people to support them by buying their records and coming to their shows.
RF: Personally, when I buy a record, I like having the whole package with the artwork and everything – I think if you like a record, you should buy it. It’s not as satisfying if you just download it.
BC: The trouble with downloading is that it almost makes things too easy…there’s not much effort needed to check out new bands these days, it kind of makes it all less special in my eyes. I can remember the days of mail-ordering records, and the excitement of waiting for them to arrive,,,it’s a shame that doesn’t happen as much these days.
Are there any new bands from Seattle that you think people should know about?
RF: Well, there’s Oxbow, Minus The Bear, too many to mention really! There’s a lot of great bands in Seattle; ever since the demise of bands like Murder City Devils and Kill Sadie, a whole load of great bands formed from their ashes.
What are your plans for the near future after this tour ends?
SS: We’ve got some more dates in Europe, then we’re gonna fly to New Jersey, and then drive all the way back to Seattle – that’s a 3000 mile drive! After that, we’ll do some writing and recording, and then more touring – we’re hoping to come back to the UK as soon as possible!
‘Oxeneers’ is out now on Jade Tree. Check out www.thesearmsaresnakes.com