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In conversation:The Snuts on their latest album, 'Millennials'

by Isabel Williams

"Sometimes having no direction’s a good direction"

With the introduction of their third album, ‘Millennials’, The Snuts are hoping to break into a new era. Released under their own newly established label ‘Happy Artists’, via music distribution company ‘The Orchard’, The Snuts are stepping away from the claustrophobia that came with the pressures of working under mainstream music management, choosing instead to focus on getting back in touch with their roots: making music they really love, at their own pace, for fans that really, truly enjoy it.

Having grown up in the same small town of Whitburn in Scotland, band members Jack Cochrane, Joe McGillveray, Callum Wilson and Jordan Mackey have been friends since childhood. There’s a close intimacy in their group dynamic that reflects their attitude towards music as a whole. “I think growing up, we’ve all kind of always been around more of that kind of live music culture. We were kind of just obsessed by that and going to shows and stuff like that, underage,” Cochrane says. “Instead of going to classes in school, we would just go play guitar together.”

The picture he paints for me of their early interactions with music is one of starry-eyed, booze-tinged adolescence, a period when indulging in music was as much about being involved with the community of the local scene as it was about the songs themselves. “There was no kind of correlation for us with being like, recording artists and in-life artists; for us it was always just about gigs,” Cochrane says, detailing how the band initially broke up in favour of “normal jobs” whilst still being avid attendees at gigs and festivals. It wasn’t until they reached their early 20s that the group of four decided to try reassembling.

Fast-forward to 2024 and The Snuts are gearing up to head off on yet another worldwide tour, including their first ever headline show in the USA. “Such a slog though,” Cochrane groans, with all the dread of a person overly acquainted with the demands of a tour this size. Whatever his personal reservations, the success of the band’s previous tours speaks for itself – not just commercially, but in terms of their creative development, too. It was during their last tour that The Snuts wrote and recorded ‘Millennials’, booking studios on days off and working on the fly in tour buses, hotel rooms and dressing rooms. It’s the kind of feat that would usually put a serious strain on the relationships between a group of musicians, but The Snuts have remained remarkably sturdy throughout. “I think sometimes it works in that we know kind of what buttons not to press with each other, in a sense,” says Cochrane. “I think a lot of bands meet in musical circles and stuff. There was none of that for us, we were just friends anyway. So it kinda made life on the road and stuff like that a bit easier.”

With the combined pressure of promoting their music and tour, playing live shows and putting together a new album, The Snuts found themselves becoming gradually exhausted with the entire process. Burnout hit like a punch to the gut, and it became evident that the relationship between the band and their record label was simply no longer sustainable. “There were a lot of fallouts and stuff like that for us,” Cochrane says, “and a real change in the vision of what we wanted to be and what the label wanted us to be.” As a result, The Snuts decided to take the risk of wriggling free from their contract, escaping to an isolated studio in the Highlands of Scotland to put the finishing touches on ‘Millennials’, their hearts focused on the sole endeavour of making music in a way that felt most appropriate to them.

“The name kind of came from that, because we were writing from a place of like, sometimes having no direction’s a good direction,” Cochrane explains in reference to the album’s title. “So instead of being like, we need to write about this current thing that’s happening; this future thing or this societal thing, it was more like, let’s kind of tap back into some of the ideas and themes and memories and emotions that we maybe brushed over in the last two records, you know, maybe we’ve been trying to be too cool or too current or maybe too hyped up at a time.”

Although the tracks on ‘Millennials’ take a turn away from the more socially-political lyrics of their earlier songs, their words are still true to The Snuts’ musical identity, delicately picking out the mundane minutiae embedded within the daily routine of the everyman. “We’ll always try to write from a human perspective,” Cochrane says, “and the themes and the songs aren’t these super art deco themes, you know; they’re kind of these everyday, human elements.”

The first track on the album, and one of the lead singer’s favourites, is a soaring, fast-paced tune called ‘Gloria’. Inspired by the silent movies the band would play in the studio whilst working, the song’s lyrics play off of the notion of idealised, silver screen romance in order to draw out the warm tenderness of real-world love. “This could be the only song of our box set romance” Cochrane sings in the initial bridge, before bursting into the chorus with his belting of the titular character’s name: “Gloria, we’re just so in love that it’s ordinary.” ‘Butterside Down’, another favourite of Cochrane’s, is similarly charming in its disclosing the simple beauty of everyday events. It’s not hard to find inspiration when you’re willing to look for it in the uncomplicated things, as Cochrane demonstrates. “I think like, I’d woken up in the morning and you know, done that thing you do when you’re looking at your phone and then you drop it on your face. Went downstairs, made a coffee and burnt all the coffee. Made a slice of toast; dropped the toast as well, and I was like, this is a song; this is a song called ‘Butterside Down’, in the sense of it being a metaphor for life kind of being tricky, but it will get better.”

Although the substance of their new album maintains the same distinctive Snuts persona, there is a tonal quality that makes this project stand apart from their others. As can perhaps be inferred from the collaged rainbow adorning the cover, ‘Millennials’ is noticeably more upbeat, particularly in comparison to their provocatively named last album, ‘Burn The Empire’. In ‘Millennials’, there’s brighter notes, fuller volume, and a generally pop-enthused spirit throughout, whether that shows up in the jubilant harmonising of ‘Millionaires’ or the skittering drum rhythms of ‘Dreams’. Even the names of the songs are imbued with a kind of feel-good energy. Cochrane considers it to be far less production heavy than their previous album, stating that when it comes to creating new tracks and inciting a new musical direction, “we’ve always been very conscious of like, recreating the past, in a sense. It’s always something that, if there’s one thing that we walk into a session and think, it’s like, let’s not be a carbon copy of 1) ourselves, and 2) some other band that people love.” He goes on to say that “there was no fear of it being poppy-sounding or floaty or anything like that. We were really quite happy with it being like that because we were feeling like that at that time.”

Just as The Snuts were keen to escape the confines of a somewhat domineering music system, they are equally keen to avoid being boxed in by how their music is perceived – whether that’s by external listeners, or by themselves. “We’ve always felt like we don’t actually have to stick to one specific, super genre-fied style of music”, Cochrane explains. “There’s never been really a fear of it changing our sound and what we’re doing and what people would describe it as.” He expresses his particular concern over defined as a “lad-rock” band, acknowledging there are certain expectations people may have when it comes to seeing “four guys with a guitar from a certain area or demographic”. “That’s certainly something that we are not, and it’s not something that we celebrate or we’d like our music to ever be attributed with,” he says, alluding to the connotations of misogyny and general exclusion that such a music culture may bring to mind for many.

Whilst there’s naturally a desire to maintain their signature stylistic flair, The Snuts are more than open to dipping into the genre melting-pot, especially if it provides something of a challenge. “I think it’s always nice if someone can’t try and go, oh, they sound like this. I’d much rather they go like, oh they sound a little bit like this, this, this and this. If you’re putting out music that people can’t like, put a finger on what it was that you’re ripping off, you’re doing a good job of ripping it off somewhere.”

It’s exactly this attitude of freedom and non-conformity that characterises the core values of the band’s new label, ‘Happy Artists’. The name was derived from a studio session in the early days of the band’s career, during which the “head honcho” of the studio solemnly told a bushy-tailed, eager-to-impress young Cochrane, “There’s nothing worse than a happy artist”. In their attempt to exorcise the more negative aspects of the record label industry, The Snuts are hoping to introduce a “safe, happy space for young artists to come and take their time to make their music and take their time to become who they’re trying to be”. Integrating the work of producers, song-writers and (hopefully) countless talented musicians, The Snuts are putting their love of community and authenticity into a new wave of musical talent, one that can create freely without the “crazy pressures” of a traditional record label.

Photographer
Gary Williamson
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