Jon Snodgrass is one of the most talented singers and songwriters in underground music today. He is one half of the outstanding Drag the River and previously fronted the Husker Du-esque pop punk band Armchair Martian. His latest release, the Tri-State Record seven inch is a collaboration project with members of ALL, the Descendents, Teenage Bottlerocket, and Hot Water Music and is one of the best things to come out this year (you can read my review of it here). On top of all of this Jon has found time to record and release a solo record (2009’s Visitor’s Band) and contribute to Stephen Egerton’s album The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton. And if all of that awesomeness wasn’t enough, Mr. Snodgrass is a super cool and humble guy.
This interview was conducted via email July 10-15, 2011.
For more information on Jon Snodgrass check out his Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Suburban Home Records, and Last.fm pages. For information on Drag the River check out their official website, Facebook, MySpace, BandCamp, Last.fm, AllMusic, and Wikipedia pages. For information on Armchair Martian check out their MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic, and Wikipedia pages.
Dave: When did you start playing and writing music?
Jon Snodgrass: I started making music in middle school with Chad Rex. We lived in St. Joseph Missouri.
Dave: Your most recent project is a collaboration with Stephen Egerton (ALL, Descendents), Chris Wollard (Hot Water Music, Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves), Brandon Carlisle (Teenage Bottlerocket) and Addison Burns. What gave you the idea to do this type of record? How did the record come to be released through Paper & Plastick Records?
Jon: I just have a lot of talented friends is all. And I like to play music with them. If it's good enough I put it on a record.
Dave: Armchair Martian was a pop punk band (with a healthy dose of Husker Du) that eventually grew to incorporate more alt country elements (that alt country direction is very evident in Who Wants to Play Bass which sounds like the perfect transition from what you had been doing to what Drag the River). Was that change a conscious one or just a natural progression for you?
Jon: I'd been living in St. Louis before I moved to Colorado (for good) in 1993. Anyhow, I wanted to start a band that didn't sound like Uncle Tupelo, so I started a band that sounded like Husker Du. I'm kidding....kinda. It's all just mid-western rock and roll to me. You're influenced and try not to be too derivative. I have my own thing but I come from that school of sound and region for sure.
Dave: I’ve seen a lot of your solo performances on YouTube and one thing I love is how you seamlessly go from playing Armchair Martian songs to Drag the River songs to your solo material. In those settings the songs all perfectly mesh and one would have no clue that they come from a variety of different times and projects. Do you have any type of writing process?
Jon: No. I've written every song except for one on the same guitar I've been playing since I was 15. I play that guitar at every show too. So, yeah. That's that I guess.
Dave: What’s happening with Drag the River? Are their any plans for a new record in the near future?
Jon: Yeah. We did that "pay what you want" download thing on our site to fund the next record. No matter what label we go with or whatever we like to pay for our own way. We've always tried to do that. It's easier. Anyhow, we're about to track real soon. later this month.
Dave: Speaking of Drag the River, most of the band’s releases have been on relatively small record labels (like Suburban Home Records and Upland Records). Considering how incredibly good all of those records have been, I’m surprised that you haven’t worked with a larger label. Have you ever been approached by any larger record labels (independent or major)? If so, what made you decide to stay with the smaller labels? Do you think there are advantages to working with smaller labels?
Jon: We've talked to different people over the years. We put out records when they are ready to be put out and whoever is ready at that time we go with. We don't do deadlines or any of that. A record is done when it's done and people are on board if they are on board. So we do them with friends.
Dave: What do you think of the increase of punk artists going acoustic and playing country/folk music? It seems like folks like Chuck Ragan, Austin Lucas, and Frank Turner and building up an acoustic scene with Revival Tours. How many of the Revival Tours have your participated in? Since Drag the Rive pre-dates a lot of these artists going acoustic, do you at all feel like an elder in the scene? Would you even consider that a scene (it looks a lot more like a family based on what I’ve seen online)? And any chance that you could suggest to those nice folks that they bring the Revival Tour to
Jon: I've done shows for both tours. It's one of the most fun things ever. Yeah, they're all friends and family. I'll suggest Oklahoma. I like Oklahoma.
I've played shows and toured like this when it was unpopular and I'll still be doing it when it's unpopular. It all goes around in a circle and people are always moving on or catching up in any genre. I never fit in with punk music and I'm too dangerous and not skilled enough to be a folk musician. I love country music but don't really play real country music. I really only think about which amp I'm bringing, if any at all. Like if there's gonna be a drummer or not and if he can really hit it. Ya take it from there. It's all rock and roll.
Dave: This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top 5 favorite bands, albums, movies, TV shows, books/authors?
Jon: Hmmm. Off the top of my head... I like the Beatles, Husker Du & Thin Lizzy. I watch The Rockford Files, most HBO shows & a lot of the History and Biography Channels. I like Kurt Vonnegut & Elmore Leonard books, and biographies on almost anyone.
Dave: What’s next for you?
Jon: I just tracked the Scorpios record with Joey Cape, Tony Sly & Brian Wahlstrom. It's a full length for a European Tour this October. Heading N. East (New York, Jersey, New England, Montreal, Toronto etc) with DTR Band in September. And Chad Price and I go to Seattle & Portland in August.
Dave: Any final thoughts?
Jon: Thanks for the interest. Clean up my spelling and grammar, please. I did this pretty quick. Sorry it took so long. Thanks, buddy. –Jon (Editor’s Note: There really wasn’t much that needed to be cleaned up. Also it didn't take long at all.)
After the interview, Jon let me know that he finished work on a new full-length record. I can’t wait to get my hands on that once it is released.
I’ve also got to share the signature line on Jon’s email because it made me giggle –
This message boomed out from the computer of Jon Snodgrass.