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SNAKES AND LIONS: “Among Falling Stars And Rising Tides”

Wiesbaden, Germany’s SNAKES AND LIONS have been around for a while now, but I somehow missed out on them. They’ve just unveiled a full stream of  “Among Falling Stars and Rising Tides” in order to let people learn it by heart and go and scream it out loud during one of their upcoming gigs. I managed to catch up with them and ask them a couple of questions that turned out to be a cool introduction to their work and an insight into their minds :)

Since recording their newest record this summer, they’ve been super-excited and proud of it. The entire record will be available for free until the end of the tour, which has just started! Catch them live, but first launch the player and read up on my newest feature below.

Hey guys! What’s up? How are you? I’m right after the first listen to your new baby, and I must say I’m really impressed! Please shoot me an introduction to the band and your newest work called „Among Falling Stars And Rising Tides”.

We are Dominik and Nils on guitars, Chrisse on vocals, Markus on bass and me, Julius, on drums. We’ve started playing as SNAKES AND LIONS in 2010, back then with our old guitarist Felix. We recorded our first untitled EP in 2011 with Emil from Nighttime Productions and released it DIY. In September 2012 we went on our first tour with On The Edge Of Forever from Sweden. By then we had already written most of the stuff that now is on “Among Falling Stars And Rising Tides”, which we recorded this spring, again with Emil taking over the engineering duties. The title is taken from the third track of the record “Delta”, which we thought summed the themes up pretty perfectly – being part of this world, where only so little is under control and your personal struggle in making the best out of what is under your control and accepting that shit will always happen.

We have released it as a stream with a download option so people know what to expect from us on our upcoming tour, since everything that’s available online is 2 years old and I think we changed and grew a lot since then. The vinyl release will take some more time though, so all you lable-makers out there – hit us up!

Ok, let’s go back to the origins of SNAKES AND LIONS. Where do you come from guys? Do you all live in one area?

We all grew up in small towns in the Rheingau area, near Wiesbaden. By now three of us have moved into the same appartment complex in Mainz, where two of us study. The others are still back enjoying the wild vinyard-life hahaha.

Are there many post hardcore / screamo bands in the city?

Well in the town I grew up in the only other band is the local brass music orchestra, where I got my first drum lessons, hahaha. Another drummer who started out there is David from RISING ANGER who are also from around where we grew up and good friends of ours. There’s not much of a scene for the kind of music we make around here, kids are more into Metalcore. But there’s SARG from Darmstadt or CANNON FOR CORDOBA from Frankfurt. One band we really looked up to when we started out was TOGETHER from Aschaffenburg. Still one of our favorite bands. Other than that there’s SENDING LIGHTS from Würzburg and MNMNTS and RANT from Trier, but that’s like at least an hour to drive and too far for poor carless students as us…

Haha! Cool.

Alright, let’s dig deeper :) Where did the name SNAKES AND LIONS come from?

It’s just a symbol of duality, of good vs. bad. When we started out we thought that lion stood for a lot of positive attributes such as courage, integrity and honesty, whereas a snake signifies betrayal or deceitfulness. We basically thought in the end, every question in life can be boiled down into yes or now or 1 and 0. By now we’ve gotten a little older and kind of feel that categorizing everything in either good or bad makes life boring. So yeah… that’s where our name comes from… we still like it though somehow. The root of every song is still some sort of inner conflict, so this duality-thing still fits, I guess.

You mentioned the theme behind „Delta”. Considering the rest of the tracks, what are some of the lyrical themes on the album? Are they all as personal as they sound?

The lyrics on this record were not written by just one of us but by three. I think that’s a pretty odd thing for a band to do, but we see this band as a platform for all of us to express themselves in any way we’re capable of. We don’t see ourselves as preachers of moral or political values. We share certain political beliefs which we are not scared to share or to stand for – that’s why you’ll never see us play with homophobic, sexists, racists or religious lunatics – but it’s not what we want to express with our music. So yeah, the lyrics are personal and range from inner struggles and our way of coping with adversity to a fear I developed when I stood by my best friend on his father’s deathbed, who was terminally ill from lung cancer, a fear of having to go through the same bullshit with my own parents, who happen to be long-time smokers themselves. Even though most of the lyrics contain negative emotions it is such a good feeling to finally get them out and somehow store them in a song.

Great! It’s very nice to hear that there are no primary songwriters in the band and everyone, more or less, have a say? ;)

There’s been quite a development since your first demo release. How did you guys develop your work?

I think the main songwriters are Chrisse, Dominik and I, though it’s not like we develop set songs and all the others have to learn their parts. We bring a couple of riffs to rehearsal and a vague structure of how the song should develop and then start jamming… Usually the lyrics come in second. Chrisse and I usually have a lot of stuff already written so we just look through the stuff and if it fits, we stick to it… but i think there’s a point we could focus more on – making the lyrics and the music develop together. It’s something I really want to work on a little harder, since I think you can really enhance the effect of the music and the lyrics.

When we wrote our first demo, all we wanted to do was “be hardcore” and be taken seriously. Looking back at it, we failed I guess, haha. With our untitled EP we started getting a little more introspective and maybe darker, not as much focused on proving how hardcore we are, but rather on making better music. Though we were still pretty insecure and didn’t have the courage to try something really new. On “Among Falling Stars And Rising Tides” we started to incorporate new elements from all the stuff we like to listen to and that we would like to play into our sound. Playing more shows and getting a lot of positive feedback really strengthened our self-esteem and made us eager to push ourselves to the limits – just making the music we want to make, without wasting a thought on what everybody else will think.

„Be Hardcore”, haha :D Yeah, the cover art. for the demo tells it all ;)

What are some of your influences that got you into creating such emotive and yet heavy compositions?

Exactly haha. There’s so many cool bands that have influenced us in a way… the obvious choices would be CARPATHIAN, TOUCHÉ AMORÉ, DEFEATER or VERSE. Also Bands like DAITRO or SED NON SATIATA and the supreme masters of innovative hardcore CONVERGE are big for me personally. My dad always says that we have an audible Post-Punk-Influence in our songs but I haven’t found it yet. However, bands like JOY DIVISION have probably influenced most of the bands between themselves and us, so maybe he’s not that wrong. I think our sound really reflects our own personalities… the songs I write tend to be more restless and unsteady, whereas Chrisse’s songs have a little more structure to them.

You mentioned a vinyl release for this new record of yours. Any labels you’ve been thinking about?

We’ve thought about a lot of labels and send our record to all of them haha… But we or rather the interested labels haven’t come to terms yet. So… there’s a lot of money to be made off our music and it’s still up for grabs hahaha.

;) How do you think vinyl will stand against the inevitable progress of digital music?

The persistance of vinyl has only become apparent to me recently. I realized that the CD never won the entire market, and the same I think, will happen to digital releases. I love touching a thick paper sleeve or smelling a screenprinted cover. There’s more to music than just sound. You can enhance your music with artworks, with the way things are done in general. It’s all part of the esthetics. One should make use of it, in a creative way, there’s a message in everything and that’s what you should use for yourself as someone who produces, whatever you might produce. There will always be people who won’t be satisfied with presenting their music just as a repeatable soundclip, but present it in a multimedial way – such as playing it live or having it pressed as a record with artwork, linernotes etc.

What other means of promotions are you planning to use to let people know about your newest work? Any chance to see another music video promoting „Among Falling Stars And Rising Tides”?

We’ve done this DIY-Video for “Sandskin” with footage from our Sweden-Tour 2012 and there’s probably gonna be new video-material of us after this tour, though we’re not sure whether we want to do another video ourselves. I for my part would love to have a good full-live-set up on Youtube, for one part, because I’d love to compare with older footage, for the other because that’s what we’re writing this music for – to have it played live and to put it into people’s faces. With regards to other means of promotion… we’re not that eager to work with any agencies or endorsers or sponsors or what you wanna call them. As long as we can handle it ourselves, we want to handle it ourselves or at least with people we know and trust, who don’t see us as clients but as friends. I love (web)zines and read a lot online everyday, because I want to know what the people are like that make music, you know? It’s really interesting to find out how and why people make the music they make…

… and how brilliant they are about promoting their stuff independently, inventing loads of crazy DIY stuff to attract people towards their music, right? Aren’t you tempted to do some stationary, create some viral campaign or something? ;)

Haha… well… I think the best promotion is just to play good music and good shows and work hard. Of course we think about how to promote our record in other ways too, but… most of it just seems dishonest or making a bigger deal out of what we do than it actually is. We won’t post shit like “tomorrow we’ll announce when we’re gonna announce the primary color of our artwork” or “share and like this picture to win free merch”. So, yes we watch other bands’ tricks and try to learn from then, as we do with their touring, their music etc.

Ok, let’s move forward. The best timing for an album to arrive is a couple of weeks before a tour starts. Tell me more about your upcoming trek.

We’ll go to Hungary, Croatia, Italy and France for the first time, as well as we’re going to play Forget Your Sorrow Festival for the third time, which is always a blast. It’s gonna be 9 days full of new places, new faces and smooth drives, I hope. Booking this time was a lot easier than the last time around, which is very good. And a lot of fun, it’s always exciting seeing things slowly develop. We came up with making the record available for streaming relatively spontaneous, since we thought that we might want to show people what to expect from us. As I said before, the old songs are now 2 years old, and the new ones are also relatively old to us, since we wrote them about a year ago or even longer.

Will it be your longest tour so far?

It will be, since our last one was cut short by a broken van. But we’d love to do more touring in the future. Maybe this winter. Maybe next spring. I’ll let you know, haha. It’s my humble word of advice to anyone out there: start a band, work hard, be nice and have the best time of your lives once you are on tour. There’s not much you need to do – just being on tour is the best feeling I’ve ever had.

Why? I mean what’s so special about it? :)

I think it’s the change of rythm and that you get to do it with people who might know you better than anyone else. It’s just so ultra-exciting. It’s a rush of experiences and new impressions, the only constant thing being your evening ritual of doing what you love most. A different city every day, a different language, different people, a different mentality – it’s way easier to get to know the characteristics of a culture when you’re being guided by people who are part of it. It’s an entirely different way of travelling, extremely different from just flying someplace, going to the beach and doing some sightseeing. And then there is always chance, throwing stones in your way, getting you off course or making you end up in some quirky souvenir store full of elks in the middle of Sweden.

Haha :) Are there some cons?

You mean in the sense of contras? Well we haven’t been on tour long enough to miss our family or anything like that… It’s a financial risk, but it’s worth it. Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Was it easy to book your time and leave Germany? Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices because of it? Oh, and was it hard to book it? How do you do it?

Well it all started out with Tomislav from TOMORROW WE HUNT telling us to hit him up whenever we want to play in Zagreb. I helped him with contacts in Germany for their tour last year and we played with them in Aachen and obviously he liked it. But to be honest, in the times of Facebook, booking has gotten much easier. I can’t imagine having to write letters or call strange peoples for good luck, as they had to do back in the nineties. Awful! I’ve got this big list of contacts I collected over Facebook, and all I did was message anyone who seemed to fit our routing. But this time there was also a couple of people stepping up and asking us themselves, if they should set something up for us which was really nice for me, because when I need to book something, I’m always scared to annoy people. I don’t want to beg and I don’t want to make anyone feel like they are inclined to do anything for us. If you like our band, set something up, if you don’t, please don’t. I’m always willing to help anyone who comes asking – mostly strangers writing me messages on facebook – we are setting up shows ourselves, too, but setting up a show doesn’t mean that the band owes you a show too or something like that. We don’t play those shows and are not interested in such deals. We don’t play contests or pay-to-play bullshit either. This is not a business and you are not contractually obliged to do anything. This is voluntary and it is what makes it so cool. If people put their heart in it and look forward to setting up a show for you, you feel it when you arrive as a band and really look forward to it. That’s what I love about DIY-shows. The attitude, the chaos, the fun. Anyways, in terms of sacrifices – I don’t think there’s many, the only thing is having to play with a fill-in guitarist, because Nils has just started his new job. But that had nothing to do with playing outside of Germany. We are certainly not thinking we’ll get back all the money we put into this tour, but that’s not what we’re doing it for. It would be nice, at some point being able to tour and end up with pockets filled with money, but at the moment to us, touring is vacation and escapism. It’s a big adventure and an experience I’ll remember all my life and it’s worth paying for.

Great! I interviewed Tomislav some time ago and it was a great pleasure :)

Despite the fact of Facebook domination, is there something more that would make it easier to book a tour for a DIY punk band? Perhaps some kind of an online tool you’d like to use to make it faster and more secure?

I’m pretty content with the way it goes right now. I like the fact that there’s no paperwork or forms to fill out. It’s all about trust, which is so much different from the way “business” is done outside of this DIY-thing. I don’t know, I don’t need securities or contracts or anything. I don’t want to formalize booking. I think the way it is done, it is good, at times adventurous and maybe a little naive, but that’s what makes it special and fun to me.

Have you tried to book something in Poland?

Yes, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

Booo :(

Which places would you love to visit next with this band?

Poland and Eastern Europe in general, South East Asia, because it seems so vibrant and such a nice place. We’ve followed REASON TO CARE‘s “Childhood Dream” tour very closely and got jealous as fuck. I also did an interview with LASTING TRACES on their SEA-adventure. Maybe Spain? And we definitely will go back to Sweden. US & Canada would be awesome too… a dream come true! My sister met some people who played in a metal band in Zambia, maybe we’ll get to tour Africa with them too, one day…  hahaha. So… yeah. We’re just going where people want us to go.

Haha, nice! Don’t forget to send me some photos! :)

Ok, what else gentlemen? Aything else you’d like to discuss with me?

We’re willing to discuss anything hahaha… vegan peanut butter cookie recipes, movies, football, cryptozoology and why ANTITAINMENT is the best band ever…

Now you got me curious. How the fuck is ANTITAINMENT? :)

Way better than your band hahahaha… They have a song that says “AN-TI-TAIN-MENT – viel besser als deine Band” – in English: ANTITAINMENT, way better than your band.
But honestly: they rule. period. They are from around where we’re from and are some kind of legends for us.

Great! Thanks for letting me know! Any more cool local bands you’d like to spread the word about?

Not all of them are really local, but they’re all good friends of ours. I really look forward to meeting you in person one day! Which city are you from?

RISING ANGER, SENDING LIGHTS, ABYSS A.D., THE TOURIST, AYAKASHI, HECTOR SAVAGE

I’m from Warsaw dude. Do you know any Polish hardcore bands?

Besides THE LOWEST and DRIP OF LIES, none come to mind. But if you want to, you can illuminate us haha… Maybe one of them will deliver our Tour-Anthem ;)

So then there’s another place we want to go: Warsaw.

Sure! :) I interviewed both bands, haha! Go here, here and here to check it out. THE LOWEST are about to drop a new EP, watch out! Also, we have tons of amazing bands here. Polish scenes are pumpin’ right now, which is really amazing.

Ok, man. Let’s keep in touch then. Thank you so much for your time. Please share the interview and tell your friends about IDIOTEQ, I’ll do the same about you ;) Seriously, great job you’re doing out there. Keep it up!

I can only return the compliments haha :) Keep doing what you are doing and see you soon!

Thank you so much for your time!

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