Spare Snare really do remind me of that famous John Peel quote about The Fall – ‘Always the same, always different’. (writes Andy Wood)
Over nigh on a quarter of a century of recording and gigging, they are, without doubt, always recognisably the Snare but never treading water or sounding anything less than wonderful. For a good number of people, they are a well-cherished secret, ramshackle, beautiful and thrilling. For a larger number of people, they are still, I like to believe, the best band they have yet to hear. And that does work as over the years I’ve played them to newcomers who have went away converted by what they’ve heard.
To my ears they are a pop band. Even at their most leftfield and lo-fi they always have great songs. They send shivers down my spine and I always really look forward to hearing a new record or seeing them live. If you love them like I do you probably have your own ideal greatest hits collection compiled in your head. And each one is probably different. No less great though as each one being a collection of magical, musical gems. They have quietly (and noisily) put together a back catalogue that would be the envy of many bands, working away at their own pace and in their own way. Truly independent but reaching out to kindred spirits and collaborating with friends and musical comrades, whether it be split singles with bands such as Dakota Suite, Majesty Crush and New Bad Things to covering two songs by the Argentinian anti-folk musician Billordo for a 7” release then touring and playing with him next month.
Over the years gigs have been more sporadic but, since 2015, when they toured to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their fantastic debut album, Live At Home, a record that sounds as vital now as it did then, they seemed to find a bit of a taste for it and their Dundee show at the DCA was something special. There was brilliant song after song performed with an energy that seemed as though they were still callow youths with energy to burn and they felt as special as ever, even more so possibly as it was such a rare hometown show. That was followed by a small tour of the Highlands and now a rare chance to catch them on tour with Billordo. There’s also the no small matter of a new album this year. So with all that in mind I thought I’d ask Jan Burnett a few questions pertaining to the Snare.
Tell us a little bit about Billordo and how you hooked up with him for this tour.
“He contacted us via Facebook a few years ago, bit of a Snare fan, and interestingly, our Westfield Lane is his favourite album, probably the least distributed record at the time. We then learnt he did his own music and we were impressed. We were looking to do a 7”, and thought we’d surprise him by covering him. It was inevitable that if he ever came to Europe, he’d come to Scotland. So we’re aiming to show him the sights. Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to go to Argentina.”
What can audiences expect from these shows?
“A half hour of Spare Snare, a half hour of Billordo and a few songs together. We’ll be playing a couple of songs from the new album too.”
Outside of Spare Snare you all seem to be very busy people. How do you fit it all in?
“Yes, we are. Lots of projects, together and alone, plus the day jobs. Keeps us on our toes and a calendar is essential.”
Where are you with the new LP? What do you think distinguishes it from previous Snare records?
“It’s complete. Recorded, mastered. For the first time, I’m not doing the art. I was keen to have someone removed from the music. The artist hasn’t heard the album. That should be completed soon and we’re looking at a July release. It has a vague theme, and is rather tuneful. A couple of folk we respect have heard it and think it’s good. That’ll do me.”
You’ve been far more active live over the last couple of years- why? What has the reaction been to the shows?
“Initially it was an anniversary type thing for the first album, we seemed to enjoy that, and so did a week in September and the odd other date too. I feel there has to be a reason for the shows, and we all need to be up for doing them. As long as we enjoy them, I’m happy. It is nice to get a good reaction too, though.”
What plans have you got for shows around the release of the LP (if any)?
“None at the moment. I’d be keen to do a couple of things, let’s wait and see. At the moment we’re keen to give the Billordo shows all our attention.”
The music industry seems to have changed beyond all recognition since Spare Snare first formed. What changes have you witnessed and do you feel that they have had an effect at all on what you do?
“It’s easier to have something ‘released’ via download, but there is so much out there, it’s harder to get noticed. That’s a similar issue with radio and podcasts. So much out there, so how do you get the attention to get a play? We just get our heads down, make the records, send the stuff to various folk and hope for the best. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. Ultimately it is catalogue folk will dip in to in years to come, but it would be nice sometimes for something to go a little different.”
Where do you see Spare Snare’s place in the current music world?
“Haha. Absolutely nowhere. I find it difficult to recognise any kind of part of that world, I’m probably too close to what we do, and can’t really remove myself from it. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about us, why should they.”
Your book of flyers and posters was pretty well received. Do you have any future plans to venture further into the world of publishing?
“I’m going to do a similar book on Beer Mats. Doing print on demand is so straightforward now, it’s an interesting project to do in the evenings. I’ll be re printing my flyers book towards Christmas.”
Having released an album of Grand Gestures remixes would you ever consider a Spare Snare remix album? Who would you ideal collaborators be for such a project?
“There has been the odd mix done, I’m not sure that what we do would particularly work. Perhaps a dub album would be the way to go. We do like our dub.”
If you could put together your ultimate fantasy gig or festival (time, finance and mortality are no restrictions) who would you choose to play and where?
“Purely a Jan festival this one… Elvis Costello circa ‘Blood And Chocolate’, The Beatles circa 69, Pet Shop Boys, The The and the Sun Records Million Dollar Quartet.”
What question would you most like to be asked? And what would your answer be?
“I don’t think I’ve been ever asked ‘who would you like to produce the band?’ In alphabetical order; Albini, Bovell, Eno.”
Here’s the afore-mentioned Spare Snare cover of Billordo from a couple of years ago:
And a slightly older tune …
Spare Snare play the following dates with Billordo.
Glasgow, Bloc+ – Thursday 4th May
Dundee, The Cool Cat Club, Conroy’s Basement – Friday 5th May