Spare Snare may be 21 years into their career, but to this writer they seem as vital as ever even if one of the tracks on their tenth LP (Our Jazz’ out on the 31st)is called ‘Distinctly Obsolete’. Ahead of the album’s release Snare mainman Jan Burnett took some time out from recording the second Grand Gestures LP to talk to MPT about politics and taking over YouTube.
First of all Jan talked about what had inspired the new record musically.
“Ourselves. Sounds a bit arsey, but we kind of know when it’s a Snare track and not a rip off of someone else. In our ears, we don’t really sound like anyone else. I was putting together the first Grand Gestures album at the same time, so in terms of editing, although it doesn’t sound like it, quite a few techniques crossed over.”
One of my first impressions of ‘Our Jazz’ was that at least some of the songs could be described as angry. Jan’s not sure how fair a description that it is of the whole LP.
“Interesting. It is a bit. Maybe because of the current political climate, maybe, having a child, I’m more aware of another point of view.”
Jan feels that ‘Our Jazz’ is unusually political for the band.
“Political with a small p. I am reminded of how sad and frightened I felt, early 80’s during and because of Thatcher and those times are recurring.”
One thing I’ve been surprised about over the last couple of years is that the reaction to those times seems muted in Scotland. Once it was possible for record companies to use a band’s political activism as a marketing angle. But today it seems that there’s not many bands – young or old – who seem to be take a stance on the issues of the day. However Jan identifies a couple of contemporaries as exceptions to that rule.
“Steve Mason seems to be having a go, as does Stuart Braithwaite. We’re not in that league, and I’m sure nobody cares about our opinions.
“The crap has been kicked out of everyone over so many years, I fear people don’t have the energy or will. It will take another poll tax to raise the temperature, and politicians are too savvy to do that now, though they are having a good go with the disability benefits.”
I was interested that on ‘Our Jazz’ Jan seems to sing from the viewpoints of diametrically opposed characters– for example those in ‘Zip-A-Dee’ and ‘Distinctly Obsolete’. But he feels that his lyrics owe more to improvisation than planning.
“They are less character based. It’s just how I’m feeling at the time, show me someone who says they are not a hypocrite, and I show you a liar, or something like that. There are quite a few lyrics on here that are made up as the tapes rolling, and I keep them. Quite a few first takes. It’s always been that way.”
Although the band’s current line-up features five members the press release states that ‘Our Jazz’ was recorded just by Jan and Adam Lockhart. But he explains that the band’s ways of recording vary according to circumstances.
“This album was put together over two distinct periods, sessions at my house, and a session in Dundee. Adam did the recording and engineering of the Dundee recordings, I wasn’t there. He did a grand job.
“We’ve all had an input throughout the years, and we’ve adjusted to everyone putting in what they want to. It can vary dramatically, and it just depends where their head is at. That’s ok, that’s life. It’s the end result that matters.”
After such a long existence, the Snare continue to keep making music and I was curious as to why it has persisted despite the many changes in personal circumstances that a couple of decades inevitably bring.
“I’m hoping we’re all involved at some point til we drop. Without being too pretentious, I kind of see it as art. It’s something we do, there doesn’t have to be a reason, or thought process behind the why, we just do.
“I’m enjoying the fact we are doing other things too; The Grand Gestures, Man Without Machines, Devotional Ensemble, The Beatles, etcetera, etc!”
Despite such longevity and an impressive body of work, Jan is self effacing as to where Spare Snare figure in the current Scottish music scene.
“I place ourselves near the very bottom. I am acutely aware nobody cares about us, so there is no danger what so ever of anything.”
That would be massively disappointing if that were true. And Jan has been ensuring that the band’s legacy is easily available by recently placing all the Snare LPs on You Tube. The inspiration for that, however, was fairly mundane.
“Getting cable TV, and seeing I can play You Tube on my telly. I’d rather the stuff was available than not, if someone comes across it, then great.
“To coincide with the new album, I’ve put all the previous albums up on bandcamp too. I’m planning on quite a few unreleased tracks to appear there soon.”
Returning to ‘Our Jazz’, Jan succinctly confirms that fans shouldn’t expect any significant live outings to promote the new album.
“No plans, but we’re open to offers.”
As the interviews draws to a close I’m curious as to what else excites Jan musically at the moment.
“That’s a dangerous question to ask, when I’m here on my own. We all listen to quite varied and different things. Everyone knows I’m a pop man, and I’m partial to a good long 1979 12”.”
Finally Jan took on the traditional MPT interview closing question – what’s the one question that you’ve never been asked in an interview before but always wanted to be asked? And what’s the answer!
“Can you tour the world? Yes, but you would need to pay the mortgage.”
MPT review of ‘Our Jazz’.
‘Our Jazz’ is released via the Spare Snare Bandcamp on Sunday 31st March. However if you pre-order the record before Sunday you will get an immediate download of four songs from the record. A physical version of the album may follow later in the year.
As mentioned above, the entire Snare back catalogue is also available from the Bandcamp as well.