Making Of A Suburban Indie Rock Star
At this point, people must be tired of me writing about snow ellet. When I first discovered him in early April of 2021 I didn’t think much of the project. In a sea of music, it was just another drop in the countless hours I spend on Bandcamp. But I still felt compelled to support suburban indie rock star, especially because they were from Chicago. The opening track “To Some I’m Genius” obviously stuck out, hooking me in. As I related in a recent piece, after I published my last piece on the Chicago Emo revival, people surprisingly took to snow ellet. I got to see a hype cycle firsthand, culminating in a Pitchfork review. For that reason, I’ll always feel selfishly tied to this project and anything snow ellet does. To have that kind of connection is rare and should be cherished as such.
But we should go back a bit; to be precise a month before all of this happened. The date was March 19, 2021, and snow ellet was officially born, debuting a five-song EP. For years Snow had operated as a background player, playing in pop-punk and indie rock bands. After taking a stab at a shoegaze indebted project in 2019, they transitioned to a project closer to home. They were someone who idolized blink-182, The Starting Line, and The Drums in equal measure. This mixture of influences would prove to be a lethal combination, creating an alchemy of power pop that still feels novel. The project in this way would be a true expression of himself or as he says “pop-punk for the indie kids and indie rock for the pop-punk kids.” Even the cover art is a hint, recreating the Nine Days album art.
There was still some uncertainty I imagine in taking this big jump. Chicago is overridden by creatives constantly and sometimes great music fails to reach an audience. Most of the time local musicians end up just playing to their extended friend group of people who are also in bands. And as one gets older it’s even harder to break out of this invisible wall as life becomes a bit more complicated. There’s also the possibility that the project would fall flat and doesn’t work for a listener. This tension is expressed throughout the EP, dealing with self-doubt, especially on the opening track. It makes for a true expression of what putting your art into the world is actually like. It’s a constant minefield of doubt that never really goes away.
Though there was only a month in between the initial release and its press bump something had forever changed. There’s a difference when you make something without expectations and it can be liberating to create in this way. Being perceived in any way is a weird phenomenon and with that comes new challenges. People now have some preconceptions as to what a snow ellet song should be or sound like. And especially with any music with pop leanings, it sometimes feels like as a listener you’re trying to chase the high of hearing your favorite song from them for the first time. Even if the expectations are unfair they still exist. It’s no longer a thing to be shared with your friend circle but a thing that has expanded beyond the Chicagoland area.
We would see the follow-up to the first EP with a re-release that came in tandem with a signing to the new label Wax Bodega. Though new they’ve already amassed quite a roster of pop-punk and emo stalwarts, releasing an EP from Hot Mulligan, a Pronoun EP, and a wonderful record from Carly Cosgrove. With the reissue of suburban indie rock star came two new songs that were released on August 13, 2021. Personally, I was pretty immediately drawn to both “wine on the carpet” and “nowhere to go”. They felt like b-sides and were just as much of earworms as anything else on the original EP that was at that time only a few months old.
For Snow, the move to a label was a big change in itself. There’s a big difference between self-releasing music to working with an entire team. He now longer had to rely on a few advocates to get people to pay attention. Now thanks to No Earbuds, a publicity company run by Jamie Colletta, there was someone explicitly working on his behalf. Tour opportunities that were once impossible were now a reality, opening up for Knuckle Puck at the end of last year.
My relationship with the project has changed as well in the past year. I can no longer pretend to be completely objective. I’ve been fortunate to cultivate a friendship with Snow and have been privy to information that I can’t disclose here. They’ve become a show buddy who would make my night better every time I went to a show alone. This would in turn give me insights that almost no other writer would receive. It leaves me in a weird position that only journalists deeply entrenched in subculture get to experience. The people I cover are always within reach. Those lines that are usually drawn between a journalist and the people I write about are much less concrete. It’s why this piece couldn’t be anywhere else but on my little blog. But even with these caveats I still feel compelled to document this next stage for snow ellet. I feel more equipped to tell the story than anyone else (Yes I’m aware of how pompous and full of myself this sounds).
When Snow first sent me a dropbox link to Glory Days I was a bit nervous, to be honest. I felt destined to be disappointed and at first, I honestly was. On first listen, I didn’t think it was terrible but I wasn’t in love with it. “19”, the opening track on the new EP wasn’t as instantly gratifying as “to some I’m genius”. All of the songs kind of passed through me. I wasn’t connecting with it and to be honest it was bothering me. suburban indie rock star was one of my favorite releases of last year and to have this response to the follow-up was a bit annoying. But I was determined to really spend my time with it even if it did feel like I was trying to force my way into liking it.
Eventually, my initial response changed. I’d now argue that Glory Days eclipses the original EP. The pop songwriting is even stronger without veering too far away from what makes this project compelling. “Brand New” has so many memorable moments that the whole song feels like one big chorus. The production is better, giving the songs even more of a pop sheen. And the lyrics are still relatable, dealing with universal topics anyone can relate to.
But the story surrounding the new EP isn’t totally nice and tidy. That uncertainty that permeated suburban indie rock star is still there. Being a scene and critic favorite doesn’t mean that self-doubt will be erased. It’s what makes this project so compelling in that anyone can see themselves reflected in these songs. Who hasn’t feared turning 30 (“Can’t Hear The Phone”) and had an existential crisis in anticipation of it?
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