Interview: The Snowdroppers


Your music has been described as 1920s depression-era, Southern gospel rockabilly blues. Would you say that’s an accurate description? How did you get started with this style of music?

That could possibly ring true for our very early beginnings (I mean like the first few months), and we ran with it on various press releases for a while either as a kind of joke or just laziness. We’ve been described as turn of the century; 1920s; 1930s all through to 1960s; but I think that mainly comes as a shortcut from people seeing the clothes or press shots. Don’t underestimate the power of a flat cap and a pair of suspenders! We’re not really dedicated enough to a particular style to earn such an exacting description. How did it start? We actually got started just as a one off quick thing for a couple of shows a friend was putting on in the burlesque scene. Some of us were friends from uni and some of us had been in a few burlesque shows together before. People seemed to dig it and we were having fun so we decided to keep it going until those two things stopped, or we were too rich and drug addled to care.

You’re doing shows with hairy boys the Beards. How do you overcome the feeling of inadequacy when confronted with such awesome facial growth?! How have the shows been so far?

To be honest I recently had the first major trim in years, but from the time we first met them til now, I had a more impressive beard than at least two of them, so I never had any feelings of inadequacy whatsoever. Not about my beard.

The shows have been fun so far, Brisbane especially was a fantastic show. The Beards are lovely guys in a very strange vocation. I find the technicalities of a comedy band really interesting. Like, I’ve really noticed their musicianship is outstanding, which is important for the sake of the joke. It has to be seamless, because any hiccups would ruin the – what do they call it in movies? The suspension of disbelief. We’re really looking forward to the WA shows because Gay Paris are coming along. Last time we went to WA we had Slim (their bass player) filling in for London and he acquired a lady stalker in Fremantle. Very much looking forward to witnessing that reunion. I think he’s a terrified, little skinny man.

Your new single ‘White Dress’ has been getting a great reaction, and deservedly so. Is it a good indication of what to expect on the new album? Planning to throw any curveballs on there?

There’s no dubstep breakdowns on there if that’s what you’re asking! I’ll leave that to Muse. Or even Grinspoon, judging from their new single. Muse really painted themselves into a corner I think. Each album and each single had to be more and more epic and over the top than the last, and when everything’s all epic all the time, it means nothing’s epic, so it’s just white noise and you end up having to either do an acoustic album or in this case, a bullshit dubstep thing. There’s songs on our new album (Moving out of Eden) that we initially asked ourselves “is this too much of a departure?” but I think hearing the album as a whole it’s pretty cohesive. It’s fairly stripped back instrumentally, just guitar, bass, drums, banjo and harmonica. A few vocal harmonies and guitar doubling but we kept it pretty simple. We didn’t have the time or money to do otherwise.

Heaps of new bands are brandishing banjos these days! How do you account for the recent increase in banjo love? Is it something that goes in and out of fashion, or was it always there?

Well it’s always been there for certain types of music, like bluegrass and country for sure, but for bands on the rockier end of the spectrum I think it’s still pretty rare. Maybe if there’s a recent increase it’s because of Mumford & Sons. It’s got no sustain so you have to either do finger picking type stuff like our old mates Graveyard Train do, or just strum the shit out of it, which is the approach our lead banjo player Mr Johnny Wishbone takes. Any banjo companies out there want to give him an endorsement? They’re expensive, hard to tune and they break frequently. Even when working, they’re still irritating. It’s like the Gilbert Gottfried of musical instruments.

We caught your show at BIGSOUND, and really enjoyed it. How was your experience of the festival? Did you get a chance to catch many of the other bands?

Yeah we saw a few songs of a few bands, not a whole heap unfortunately. I thought Violent Soho sounded great live, I didn’t really get them til then, hearing them at a proper volume. I saw a kiwi band Cairo Knife Fight play a one song set, they were great too. Apart from that our flight was cancelled, so we arrived late and missed a lot. We just followed the free drinks around.

Some of your shows must go OFF. What is the craziest thing a fan has done while you’ve been playing?

We played this smallish room at Sydney Uni one time that had a catwalk extension from the front of the stage, and this girl got up who was absolutely hammered and grabbed the microphone off Johnny and just started screaming into it, then lay down on the catwalk and started trying to take her clothes off. It was awkward for everybody. One of her friends came up to her, initially we thought to get her off the stage, but just came up to help undo her dress. Another time we played the after party gig at Queenscliff music festival, this middle aged woman kept coming up to the front of the stage and pulling the plugs out of the mikes mid song because she wanted us to stop swearing. At a late night festival afterparty gig where everyone was drunk as could be. What a cunt.

I heard you say recently that you’re more of a live band than a studio band, and that seems to ring true. Do you welcome the day when albums are no more, or do you still consider them the cornerstone of what music is about, in terms of stating a band’s MO?

I think we felt that way around the time of the first album; we were still finding our feet in terms of songwriting and being confident in the studio, so we left a lot of decisions to the producer/engineer. It’s easy to say “I don’t like how this is sounding” but it’s a lot harder to say “This is why I don’t like how this is sounding, and this is what I think we should change to make it better”. That just slowly comes from learning more. When we recorded Moving Out of Eden, I can’t speak for the other guys but personally I felt very much at home and I felt like I knew exactly what needed to be done. Rich (the producer/engineer/mixer) was great at taking our suggestions and making them work, he didn’t have the usual “that won’t work so we won’t even try it” mentality a lot of engineers have. Do I think albums are important? Definitely, but I think for a long time I’ve been more of a “singles” guy, it might be my attention span. I love a good, punchy, 3 minute song.

And lastly, if the Snowdroppers were an animal, what animal would you be and why?

Some sort of badger-like creature. I don’t know why, it’s just how I picture it in my head.

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