I was lucky enough to speak to Callum from The Snuts about their soon-to-be-released second album. Having just arrived back to Glasgow the day before chatting to me, it seems the record only needs a few finishing touches. Speaking about their latest single, ‘Zuckerpunch’ (read my review here), to the album in general, to the wider political context and finishing talking about in person post-lockdown gigs and accessibility, this quick chat was not quick or brief on the details.
Starting off chatting about the origins of the idea behind their latest single ‘Zuckerpunch’, Callum told me that it came about in a very natural way. “We were just talking and just getting to know each other, and this theme constantly came up – that we don’t actually have control of what we are doing, buying, or consuming”. With key emphasis on consumption, Callum went on to state that “the way we consume media” is troubling, especially since social media is such a huge part of society, but that no one has ever “really questioned”, “no one has really stopped and questioned – is this right?”. All of this preliminary conversation was occurring whilst Mark Zuckerberg’s 7-hour testimony was on the television behind them.
“So, we had this in the background, and it inspired it, and it kinda snuck up on us and social media zuckerpunched us from behind, and now were completely addicted to it. It’s completely ingrained in our life, so we thought ‘Zuckerpunch’ – Mark Zuckerberg – he’s the man who’s started it all.”
I went on to share with Callum that I saw a Zuckerberg interview where he explained the reason, he renamed his brand of Facebook to Meta was due to his belief in the metaverse, the idea that everyone is going to be living in a virtual reality very soon. Callum exclaimed “Oh man! That’s so sinister! That’s like a f**king James bond villain or something. Why is nobody questioning this guy?” His reaction was really refreshing that not only was he genuine and authentic, as is their latest music, but that artists are not shying away from conversations that need to be had.
We went on to discuss the name ‘Zuckerpunch’ some more, starting with my joking of Urban Dictionary’s top definition “someone who’s royally d**ked you over for their own personal gain”. Callum chuckled and replied, “We actually didn’t even read any of those but that kinda sums up the entire industry”.
Going on to discuss the ‘attention economy’, Callum clearly had thought a LOT about this entire topic – “the more anyone spends on social media scrolling laterally translates to pound and dollar signs into these guys pockets, and they’ve no interest in stopping”. I almost felt like I was having a better and more informed conversation than I have in my undergraduate module on ‘Trust and Security in the Digital World’. Callum ended this topic of discussion with how studies on this topic get brushed aside and dismissed, “so we just kinda thought as artists that it is our job to kinda look out into the world and question stuff”.
Moving on to discuss the appearance of Boris Johnson in ‘Burn the Empire’, and of course ‘Zuckerpunch’ has obvious links to Mark Zuckerberg, I asked if any of the upcoming tracks are aimed at more corrupt individuals in our society.
Pushing on when the album will be released, I got out from Callum that they “will be furious if it’s not out by autumn this year”. He also said that every track in this upcoming album was “wrote and recorded within eight weeks”, and the album will have “11 tracks, possibly 12”; with “probably five” tracks released beforehand.
I went on to ask if there’s an added pressure on this album, seeing as the debut album W.L. made number 1. Callum said, “even if I was to say that I don’t feel that right now I definitely do – I think everybody feels that though”.
Having expressed these anxieties, Callum is confident in The Snuts abilities, “we’ve kept the music really interesting; it’s not completely far removed but it is quite removed from the last record.”
Moving on to ask Callum if he felt artists have a responsibility to ‘be political’, his answer surprised me. “To be honest I don’t feel anybody should entirely feel a massive responsibility to that, especially as an artist because you can only comment on the world and how it affects you and how it makes you feel creatively.” To me, this almost seemed like a U-Turn from earlier “it’s our job to look into the world and question stuff”. However, he redeemed himself by expanding “Art’s always here to question the status quo, question if things are right or wrong. So, I think it’s our job to always pose questions… I think if you were to really get into the politics you should become a politician.”
I’m still conflicted about this answer because, in my opinion, every minuscule act a person undertakes is political, whether an artist speaks up and out, or stays silent on a particular matter, it is a political choice to do so, with political implications whether they intend it or not. However, Callum again expanded and said, “Politics effects everybody, and I think if it effects you, and you can say something about it, you should – but I don’t necessarily feel every artist has to feel a massive weight on their shoulders”.
It was clear from his answer that he views an artist’s responsibility as making people question the world, and how they live, or what is considered the norms; rather than direct people towards a particular view or opinion. I would argue there are blurred lines there, but that’s a debate for another day.
Asking whether they’ve received backlash from the past two (politically charged) songs, Callum answered immediately “Yes! Yes, we have… Quite a lot…” However, it seemed as though it wasn’t taken to heart,
Again, this comment shows how fundamental the conversation on social media is needed, and places further significance on ‘Zuckerpunch’. “As soon as you put yourself in any public space people are always going to find ways to hate you – if it’s not your politics, it’s your haircut; if it’s not your haircut, it’s the music you make. People find it quite easy to hate on you.”
Discussing how the promotion of the new album is going, especially given the past album was solely online due to covid and lockdowns, Callum said that is “definitely night and day, everything feels more authentic! I think because you can actually see the reactions, and judge the reactions to songs, and you can actually speak to people after shows, you can kinda even see crowds sing.”
Specifically considering ‘Burn the Empire’, Callum states they were a bit “cautious” before releasing and playing it, “but within maybe five shows, by the time it got to the chorus, you could hear it was like a war crowd, people would just chant back”. Clearly, the song resonated with fans “and you knew at that point that stuff was connecting”.
My final question specifically related to the album was: “You’ve said in an interview (with Far Out) that the producers you’re working with on this album are from ‘totally different spaces and cultures’. What does this mean for the overall vibe and tone of the album?”
“There’re much more key parts. Jack got a piano, so he’s been laying down stuff. It’s been great, John got sample pads. It just feels like it kinda broke down what it meant to be a band.
“As well, Matt Detonate, he’s from a classic church background and so he can play like the organ and add soulful elements to it. And Coffee is from Miami, so he brings this whole American angle, but he loves London and hates America, so he brings a nice edge to the writing. And melodically I think he can sing in f**king 15 octaves or something – he’s unbelievable. So he’s helped Jack, even just construct songs vocally and melodically.
“And Detonate kinda focuses mainly on musicianship and instrumentation. He kinda just took us back to school and showed us all these new rhythms – Caribbean rhythms, Jamaican rhythms, just stuff that we had never explored ourselves. You know, just four working class guys from Scotland who have never even been, so even being in rooms with these people is inspiring.
“And the conversation – everything was a conversation; every song was a conversation. Just getting to know each other, getting to know about each other’s backgrounds – stuff we’d never even experienced before was kinda special.”
Callum’s authenticity was shining through here. It was clear he’s so appreciative of the producers and the experience, and excited would be an understatement for how he feels about the record.
With reference to my recent article on the importance for artists to consider accessibility and inclusivity of their fans, I wanted to question Callum on the accessibility of their upcoming gigs.
“100% it’s an artist’s responsibility to look after your fans’ safety and wellbeing, as well as the venues.” Mentioning that he’s witnessed incidents in the past, he went on to say “so we try to always make sure there’s a safe space for people, and a way to report it around the gigs, because it’s just in this day and age, its f**king disgusting that it’s still happening. It’s f**ked but we tried to look at that and make it as easy as possible for anyone who had anything like that happening to have a safe space, and someone to report it to.” I think this really shows that it is not difficult for artists to put measures in place, and it just shows they care about their fans. Arguably, the bare minimum, but then again, only a small number of artists do this.
Ending with a “I hope to see you in Manchester” and the promise of “well, I can guarantee you’re going to be blown away. We’ve put a lot of production into the show, so I think it will be one to remember!”, I can certainly say I’m excited for the upcoming shows and will be impatiently waiting for the release of more tracks and the album itself.
Find them on instagram here.
The Snuts are playing Manchester academy on Wednesday 27th April 2022 with support from The Royston Club and Lauran Hibberd, you can purchase tickets here!
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