In a stripped down building that was once a grocery store in Avondale, the members of In Snow stand around, making their initial preparations to lay down a first track, each member casting curious glances at a large black stain sprayed across the ceiling like the lingering traces of some incendiary blast.
In fact, that’s exactly what they are staring at, as Emanual Ellinas, owner and producer of Feedback Music, is all too happy to explain. The previous owners of the building collected cannonballs, and the aforementioned iron-infused stain is the result of a miscalculated attempt to salvage the explosive as an antique.
What a fitting image to sit overhead as In Snow sets to the task of channeling their patented blend of fury and meditation into the recording of their first LP, Hailing from Birmingham. The band is becoming more and more renowned throughout the city for their experimentation with the young, yet already rich tradition of instrumental rock. Having only played their first show back in February of this year, the four-piece have continued to refine and expand upon their sound.
And as much as the hard work shows, each member of the band readily admits to an even more paramount factor to their recent success. “These are some of my closest friends,” says bassist Brooke McCarley. “We might butt heads, but we work out stuff, and it is always in good spirits.”
If there’s a story to be told of how In Snow came to be, then it is most certainly one championing the power of friendship. Guitarist Chris Suda and drummer Michael Pocus have been playing together continually since they were both 16, exploring the possibilities of instrumental music with their two-piece band Probably the Tornado. While not necessarily an evolution of that previous band, the experience undeniably laid the groundwork for what was to come.
Pocus also played with guitarist Sam Porter in several other bands during their teens, never reaching the exact creative form they were looking for. But even so, their early attempts at music had an effect on others, like McCarley. “I moved here, and I didn’t know them for three or four years after, but I remember going to Cave9 and watching them play, and thinking, ‘Man, I want to play bass for that band.’”
If anything, these experiences gave each of the three a better understanding that the friendship they had went beyond a matter of proximity, and was in fact grounded in their love for music and their desire to create.
One thing each of the band mates can certainly agree on is that they’ve never made music like this before. When In Snow meets for their weekly practice sessions, each member offers up different ideas, and then as a group they play off the idea, organically weaving it into previous material or venturing out into territories completely original and unexpected. “It’s really refreshing to do it that way,” explains Porter. “I’ve never played music like that before. But it’s really easy for us as a group being so tuned with each other.”
Suda can only second the motion. “We listen to each other without saying anything. It’s unique.” And in a lot of ways, the intricacies of communication are a recurring theme throughout their music. Where at one moment a piece will be chaotic and noise-drunk, the next will see the band coming together behind a driving and evocative riff from Suda or a flourish of strings from Porter on violin. It’s the ability to relay such a feeling that really compels the bandmates to do what they do.
“The music we make is instrumental, but it’s not that we’re thinking we’re going to make this music without vocals,” Pocus passionately explains. “It’s actually that we care about the music and want to make the music what people care about.”
“All day long people try to figure out what they meant to say,” Suda says, giving his own thoughtful take on the matter, “and no one actually says it, because it’s not possible. There’s an absolute disconnect between your brain and what you mean to say all the time. That’s why people fumble with their words. This way we don’t have to.”
“With instrumental music, you have to listen,” says Pocus. Which is exactly what people are doing. The city’s music scene has been more than just a matter of such inane, deprecating slogans as “Birmingham’s Best Kept Secret!” In recent times, venues such as the Forge, Bottletree, and the defunct Cave9 embodied diffuse interests in genres such as hardcore, post-rock, metal, garage rock and electronic music.
The fact that there is so much happening musically on a local level and that each of these respective niches are willing to embrace one another is something that still beguiles Pocus. “Complete strangers saying they like [our music] is still something difficult to deal with. It’s hard for me to express how much I appreciate that.”
But if anything, the band isn’t settling or growing complacent. The new album, ef·fort — which they were able to record due to a prize for studio time donated for a raffle at internet-zine DIY Birmingham‘s second anniversary celebration — is slated for a release date of December 26. The plan is to take the LP on the road and start touring other cities, sharing their music with a wider audience.
And, of course, the band is determined to keep on generating new material. “We come to these checkpoints,” says Pocus, “but there’s always another one.”