Sometimes wistful, sometimes powerful, always unexpected – it’s hard to find the words to encapsulate Snowapple’s myriad of sounds. Three central voices melt together into hypnotic harmonies, backed by captivating lyricism and quirky yet beautiful chord changes. Brimming with influences ranging across pop, opera and avant-garde Cumbia (Columbian folkloric dance), this ensemble of singers and multi-instrumentalists are defying genre in every way possible.
Having already spawned its dreamy lead single, “Afternoon”, the band’s highly-anticipated new album, Wrong Feet, is set for imminent release. A song about a drawn-out Sunday afternoon spent waiting and longing for a loved one who never shows, “Afternoon” draws lyrical inspiration from one of Garcia Lorca’s emotionally ridden, unrequited love poems. Sonically, it is built around a percussion line imagined by percussionist Gunga Alan Purves on the balafon, a West African instrument. Oozing retro cool, its Océane Combeau-directed music video takes us on a Mad Men-style journey through the sun-drenched households of suburbia, each inhabited by its own quirky character.
While we can expect more of these light, summery tunes in the new album, they will be interspersed with a series of hard-hitting, philosophical tracks addressing serious topics, such as violence against women in Mexico. Both elements are equally central to who Snowapple are as a band. On the one hand, they hope to use music as a way of raising awareness about issues close to their hearts. On the other, they want to continue spreading joy, humour and silliness through sound.
Despite the uncertainties of the past few months, Snowapple are still finding different ways to dream big. “In these strange times when life has come to a standstill, we have examined how we can carry on giving expression to our great passions,” explains singer Laurien Schreuder. Refusing to be pigeon-holed, this multidisciplinary group are even working on their very first medium-length art film.
We caught up with them below, talking the myriad of inspirations behind their upcoming album and what we can expect from them next.
How have you been during this uncertain time?
Thanks for asking! We’ve had our ups and downs. Some tours and concerts had to be cancelled but we’ve been finding ways to keep busy. Right now our spirits are high because we’ve just recorded our new album and it’s in the process of being mixed (we are actually in the mixing room as we write). Very exciting!
How have the challenges of this year impacted your music and creativity?
We had to find new ways to keep busy and give an outlet to our creativity. We miss being on stage, but having some time and space to write new songs has been rewarding. It’s also been an interesting experience doing livestream concerts – it was great to connect with so many people and old friends from all over the world at once!
How did you all meet?
Una, Laura and Laurien met while working in the Amsterdam music scene. Cynthia and Osito joined the band on one of our Mexico tours and stuck around. And we met Nora while we were doing an artist in residence in a mime-studio. A lot of the other musicians join for specific projects, like Gunga Alan Purves, our squeekologist and drummer. A lot of the musicians on the album ‘Wrong Feet’ play in the Amsterdam improv scene, we met them through Una’s father Sean Bergin.
Over the course of Snowapple’s almost ten-year existence, the band has developed into a large bunch of musicians and like-minded people from all over the world.
And where are you all from and how did it influence you sonically?
The original core group of three singers are Laurien and Una from the Netherlands and Laura from Latvia. As Snowapple, we’ve worked with musicians from many countries, including Mexico, the US, Brazil, Scotland, France, Italy, Japan, Australia and Senegal. We also work with people from different generations and musical movements and genres. That makes our sound very free and diverse.
Who are your musical heroes?
We have many. At the moment we are inspired by strong female international artists like Vivir Quintana, Joan Baez, Miriam Makeba, Joni Mitchell and Elis Regina, to name a few.
How would you describe your genre?
Some call it ‘indie dream folk’, others call it ‘avant-garde punk opera’, yet others call it ‘eclectic cumbia’. Our latest album is inspired by South African kwela music and Andalusian poetry.
Congratulations on your latest single, “Afternoon”! It includes various cultural and artistic references – what is it you enjoy about creating music that has several layered meanings?
Thank you, we really enjoyed making the song. It was an elaborate process, I think that’s why it has so many layers. It started out with a percussion line on the balafon, a West African wooden xylophone. It was a kind of meditative repetitive rhythm invented by our Scottish drummer Alan ‘Gunga’ Purves. The lyrics are based on a poem by García Lorca which describes an afternoon that slowly turns into evening while the protagonist – patiently waiting and longing for the arrival of his beloved – doesn’t realise how much time has passed.
Your music video for “Afternoon” is super whimsical and retro, yet also beautiful and full of humour – what did you want to convey with it?
Océane Combreau, who created the video for us, said: ‘An afternoon in a suburban neighbourhood, with its nice neighbours and wholesome outdoor activity, is everything you would expect… at least on the surface. Behind closed doors, a world of poetic absurdity and the surreal quirks of others are revealed.’
And it’s taken from your forthcoming second album “Wrong Feet” – why that name in particular?
It’s the title of our second single, due to be released in January. The title refers to the expression ‘starting off on the wrong foot’. It’s also a reference to a feeling of disconnection from your own body.
You’ll flit between more serious subject matter and lighter summery songs – why is it important to you to have both in your arsenal?
On the one hand, we feel strongly about many serious subjects and terrible things going on in the world, and we discuss them a lot and want to help work towards concrete change. On the other hand, we love to use humour and silliness and fun in our songs and in our live act. Including both sides in our albums is the only way we know how to make music.
We just released a video and a song called: “No Estás Sola (You Are Not Alone)” together with “Vivir Quintana” and “El Palomar”, a group of female singers/activists who are trying to raise awareness for the femicides happening in Mexico.
What ties Wrong Feet together as a body of work?
The main ingredient – three female voices harmonising – is always present. That allows us to take our music in many directions. On this album we improvise a lot: it felt liberating to say, ‘Let’s do whatever we want to do, with no restrictions. Let’s just have some fun and try to convey that feeling to the listener.’
What’s the most unusual place you’ve pulled inspiration from?
We once based a song on text messages we’d received from an ex-boyfriend…. “Baby Blue” that one is called. “I miss you, like a South searching bird”, was one of them. The boyfriend was very poetic.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
We hope they’ll feel inspired to pursue their own path, to embrace change… To keep going and not forget to smile once in a while.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2021?
We’ll be releasing our album, “Wrong Feet”. We intend to travel to Mexico to play at the Women’s March on 8 March. And we’ll be putting the finishing touches to our first medium-length fiction film: A Moonless Night.