Sounds Local: The power of 3-chord pop
We have all had the experience of driving in the car with the radio blaring in the background, when suddenly a song comes on that instantly grabs you. You turn up the volume, maybe even attempt to sing along, all the time wondering “who is this?” That basically describes my experience of hearing the song “Anna” for the first time.
It didn’t take me long to find out that the band behind the song are The Snaz, an indie rock band from Brattleboro that features Dharma Ramirez, 16, on lead vocals and guitar, Mavis Eaton, 15, on keyboard, Zack James, 14, on drums and Nina Singleton-Spencer, 15, on bass.
I admit it was surprising to find these musicians were so young, but if this is the future of rock, then all is not lost.
You can hear for yourself when The Snaz plays The Rendezvous, 78 3rd St. in Turners Falls on Saturday, May 10, at 9:30 p.m.
Eaton and Ramirez formed the band back in the fall of 2011. “We thought it seemed like something cool to do,” said Eaton, who is a sophomore at Brattleboro Union High School.
Eaton said she knew how to play keyboards but admitted at the time the band formed she was rather rusty and hadn’t played in awhile. She was, however, in a better position than Ramirez, who didn’t even know how to play guitar, and even though she is now the primary songwriter of the band, she had never written any songs.
“When me and Mavis decided to start a band, I became dedicated to learning the guitar,” said Ramirez who is also a sophomore at Brattleboro Union High School. “I remember my first song was a series of A-shape chords all the way up the neck, because that was the only chord shape I knew. I started writing the minute I started playing. That was the point of learning to play guitar for me.”
They were eventually joined by Sally Fletcher (she left in December and was replaced by Singleton-Spencer) and James, who was only 12 when he joined the band.
The Snaz were fortunate to land some nice breaks early on. While performing at a local fair they caught the attention of musician and producer Peter Solley, who now resides in Newfane but at one time was a member of Procol Harum and has produced acts such as Peter Frampton and The Romantics. Solley was so impressed with the group that he took them under his wing and helped them develop their sound.
The band later won the Brattleboro Battle of the Bands contest and as a prize received recording time at Guilford Sound Studios in Vermont. With Solley serving as producer, the band recorded a five-song EP that included the song “Anna.”
The song tells the story of a popular girl, though it’s not written about anyone specific. “Anna’s got the nose, she’s got the clothes/It seems like she’s got it all/Anna plays it cool so the boys drool/It’s kind of making me mad.”
“We sent the CD to WRSI, (93.9 The River in Northampton) but we didn’t know they were playing our song until we heard it on the radio,” said Eaton. “We were quite surprised.”
“I knew when I wrote it that it was catchy and poppy,” said Ramirez. “I hadn’t realized the power of a three-chord song that you can sing along with. Our producer, Peter Solley, was really excited when he heard it and stressed the importance of putting it first on the EP to grab listeners attention.”
And it does, indeed.
“Anna” was voted the No. 2 song of the year in WRSI’s listener poll of the top 100 songs of 2013.
“Now it is the only Snaz song you’ll hear on the radio,” said Ramirez. “Hopefully we’ll get another one like that out of this next album.”
The band hopes to get into the studio this summer and record their first full-length release. Eaton said listeners will hear some changes in the band’s sound, including the addition of synthesizer and more focus on harmonies. Ramirez said her songwriting has evolved as well.
“The new songs are going to be a reflection of last year into this one,” she said. “In other words, my experience of being 15.”
The next few months are busy ones for the band with many shows on tap, including quite a few here in the valley.
In addition to the show at the ’Voo on Saturday, The Snaz will appear at Luthier’s Co-Op at 108 Cottage St. in Easthampton on Tuesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. They will share a bill with Belle Amie at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St. in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday, June 18, at 8 p.m. They will also appear at the Taste of Amherst on the Amherst Town Common on Friday, June 20, at 5 p.m.
Later in the summer, they will be part of the Upper Valley Music Festival being held on Saturday, July 26 in downtown Turners Falls and will also be appearing at the Greenfield Energy Park on Sunday, July 27, at 6 p.m. This is a double bill with Belle Amie.
And while high school is never easy, being in an up and coming band must bring with it lots of positive attention.
“Not really,” said Eaton with a sigh. “There are a few people who are like ‘I saw your band, you’re really good,’ but me and Dharma were never great socially, so now we don’t get much attention.”
Maybe that will change with all the shows that they have coming up.
“These shows are going to be fun and we hope that people will come out,” said Eaton.
And when you are only 15, it’s hard to think about the future of your band, but for right now, the Snaz are giving it their all.
“We are going to try and take it as far as we can,” said Eaton. “We don’t really know, but I guess we are going with whatever happens.”
There is a suggested $10 donation for the show that will be held at the Greenfield Energy Park. Tickets for the Upper Valley Music Festival are $15 and available at www.uppervalleymusicfest.com. All the other shows mentioned are free with tips always appreciated.
The Last Waltz Live benefit show at Memorial Hall Friday
The Last Waltz Live returns to Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls, Friday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. In case you missed out when this show was performed there last March, it is a re-creation of The Band’s 1978 classic concert film, “The Last Waltz.”
The Rev Tor Band from Pittsfield will take on the role of the Band and perform the music of the group that was featured in the film including songs like “The Weight” and “Up on Cripple Creek.”
The Rev Tor Band will be joined by a fine group of local musicians who will perform the songs of the film’s special guests, who included Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and many others. Most of these musicians did not take part in this production last year.
The participating musicians include Jeff Martell, Milan Dragicevich, Jenny Goodspeed, Tory Hanna, Dave Houghton, Jamie Kent, Todd Mack, Stephanie Marshall, Lisa Martin, Wildcat O’ Halloran, Janet Ryan, Phil Simon and Art Steele.
The Rev Tor Band brings in the local musicians as a way to make each concert a special, unique event and also to promote a sense of community. Rev Tor first performed this recreation in 2012, shortly after Levon Helm, of The Band passed away. Part of the fun of this show is they do not announce beforehand who is performing as who so if you want to find out who will be singing “Helpless “or “Forever Young,” you’ll just have to be there.
This show is a benefit for Music in Common, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through the universal language of music. Visit www.lastwaltzlive.org and www.youtube.com/lastwaltzlive to learn more.
Tickets are $27 in advance and available at www.musicincommon.org/tickets or $32 at the door.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org