January 20th, 2019- Snuffed is one of the latest additions to Chicago’s impressive array of hardcore punk bands. Before their show at the Archer Ballroom, a DIY space in Bridgeport, Locals Only met up with the members of Snuffed. Sprawled across the worn carpeted stairs of the Archer Ballroom and bundled up in flannels and thick winter coats, guitarist Aaron Schmitt, drummer Joe Brandenburger, vocalist Karly de Sota, and bassist Ryan Shane opened up about the band’s formation, Chicago’s signature hardcore dynamic and the inspirations they take from local bands and the city.
How did Snuffed form and start playing shows so quickly?
Aaron: Me and Ryan and Joe, we all lived in Bloomington, IL forever together and have been in bands together. Me and Ryan were in a garagey ska band together.
Joe: Aaron and I were in Reduced Instincts for a number of years; we still technically are.
Ryan: Joe and I moved up here a year and a half ago. Aaron and I were just hanging out together all the time. Joe had an [electronic drum] kit set up in our apartment and Aaron was like, ‘I have these riffs!’ I was trying to learn drums…
A: And I was trying to learn guitar…
R: So we were both learning together, just playing on practice amps. Every other day I’d ask Joe to play drums in [our project] and he’d say ‘No. Nah, I’m busy.’
J: It was a soft no, clearly.
R: I’ve asked him to play in every project I’ve had since we were 12, so he says no to a lot of things I ask him to play in. But one day he caved and we had four or five songs so we started practicing just the three of us and [realized] this was a pretty cool project; we could play in a band with this. We had a vocalist who ended up dropping out, and then I met Karly.
Karly: We met at a show in Albion House and then we hung out at a show at Empty Bottle.
A: Oh I was there too, that’s when we met!
K: They said ‘hey, we have this project and need someone to do vocals.’ I met up with them and we jammed and I kept listening to the music over and over and over again and thought, ‘okay, maybe I can make this work.’
Karly, what was it like for you to jump into this band and begin writing songs with them?
K: I’ve always written my whole life, poems and all kinds of shit, so I had lyrics I was just sitting on. When they sent me the music they had already written, I kept listening to it until I knew that what I had written could fit against the music. When we started playing it and practicing it together, I just took what I had ingrained in my brain and brought it to life.
R: We gave Karly those songs and let her have free reign to do whatever [she wanted].
J: The instrumentals and the vocals were very much written separately.
R: Exactly. Karly would come with sheets of lyrics on her phone. We knew the first time we practiced with Karly it was gonna go well. She came with an intensity that…was such a strong example of a front person. The other vocalist we had before was very timid, but Karly came and brought the ruckus.
K: I just fake it ’til I make it.
What was it like to go from such a separate songwriting process to recording Mind’s Eye together?
R: We practiced pretty hard before we recorded. We were trying to practice on a weekly basis with Karly and Karly was more than down to practice vocals the entire time, which was another thing I didn’t see with vocalists a lot. A lot of vocalists will do a take then [stop], but Karly was willing to hit it until she felt confident with it, so by the time we practiced enough we came together really well. We recorded with Brendan [White] from XEUTHANIZEDX.
At this point in the interview, the band laughs as Brendan, whose band will be opening tonight’s show, shuffles up the stairs and offers Ryan a quick embrace on his way to the third-floor performance space.
R: We recorded live with Brendan and it felt like anything else me, Joe or Aaron had done. We had recorded live in our friends’ basements forever.
K: I had no idea what the fuck I was doing
R: It was a different experience for Karly because we recorded all the music live and then it was back to Karly doing her own thing with the music.
K: At first, I was like ‘what am I doing?’ I was clueless. It was my first time recording and these guys were all seasoned; they know what they’re doing and have been playing in bands forever which is great because sometimes I feel like I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, which is normal, because I’ve never been in a band, never played shows. I never thought I would, but it’s awesome. I love it.
R: We razzed her and threw beer cans at her the whole time and tried to fuck up the takes, but that was the punk part of recording.
A: Also, Karly recorded all of her takes in an hour, whereas it took us like 7 hours.
R: It took us collectively like 5 hours and Karly knocked it out in like 45 minutes through a Fender amp.
Which local bands inspire you?
A: Local bands? C.H.E.W
K: C.H.E.W is a big one. Lil Tits, for me.
R: Lil Tits for sure. That’s one of my favorite local bands. Paper Mice is another one. The Eradicator is incredible. No Men and Burdened.
A: All the old Chicago hardcore bands like Expired Youth and Weekend Nachos, even though I don’t know how much of that comes through in our music.
R: I would say we’re very Chicago-influenced; we like a lot of the bands from here.
K: Low Hangers!
R: When I first described the band I would say it was for fans of Chew and Low Hangers so only people who lived in Chicago would get it. So people would know we’re coming with another good raw punk band. Write that down: C.H.E.W. is the most important band in Chicago
K: C.H.E.W. is probably the most influential band in Chicago.
If you had to write a “FFO” description for Snuffed, which bands would you choose?
R: For bands outside of that [local] spectrum, I say Exit Order, sometimes.
R: Warthog, Deviant
J: Violent Reaction in the UK
Chicago music inspires you. What else about the city inspires your music and lyrics?
K: My lyrics are usually very personal. I wouldn’t say there’s too much outside influence. It’s usually personal shit, things I like or some of it is silly. I have a co-worker whose band is a big inspiration for me. They’re called Lil Tits. Before I played my first show I found myself asking Hannah, who plays the guitar and does vocals for Lil Tits, lots of stuff. How do I do this? Before our first show, I was like ‘What do I do?” and she said “You’ve just got to do it.” She’s right.
R: I was jamming Lil Tits in central Illinois when we all lived down there. I love that whole 90’s riot grrl vibe. As far as the music is concerned, I think what influences us from the Chicago standpoint is that all the bands here are so different but everyone just has that same Chicago dynamic; you can tell they’re from Chicago. It’s a personality thing, especially with the hardcore bands. There’s a lot more experimentation but there’s also those bands with the dads who are 30 [years old] that rep their Chicago Bears gear and rock the fuck out. It’s a vibe; people here aren’t playing music to get somebody to notice them or to sell records. We came from a small scene so it was cool to come out here and be a part of a scene that was already eclectic. In central Illinois, it was all these good bands who were all completely different playing for the same 20 people.
Snuffed has already played many shows, recorded an EP, and booked shows for the next few months. What are your goals for the rest of 2019?
A: We were actually just talking about this.
R: Karly made us have a band meeting where we thought someone was getting kicked out.
K: I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re just going with the flow.
J: Yeah, because we all work different hours which makes it hard.
K: We all have different schedules but we are playing a show at Margaritaville on February 1 and we’re playing out of town in northwest Indiana on the 23rd, and I think we’re going to take a break in March to write some new music.
R: We don’t want to be one of those bands that oversaturates the scene too quickly. At first we were like, ‘Yeah, let us play all your shows!’ But now we’re trying to coordinate and plan stuff. We don’t want to be that band that hops on every show every week-and-a-half.
A: We’re going to do some weekend runs in April and onward. It’d be cool to do a week-run in the summertime.
K: I think we’re going to try to play some out of town shows this year.
R: We’ve got merch and tapes coming, too.
J: I’m excited to write, because as soon as one thing I do comes out, I just need to get the next thing going or else I feel like I’m taking too long.
R: We’re taking that next step as a band where we take it more seriously, but at the same time we’re taking it at our own speed.
Have you guys had any issues with being labeled a “female-fronted” band?
K: Not too much. Without getting into it too extremely, we were put on a bill and described as “female-fronted grind,” which is incorrect in many ways. I’m not throwing shade at this person, I just don’t think they knew because obviously we’re not a grind band.
A: We didn’t even have music out at that time.
K: We corrected them very quickly on the female-fronted [label] and they said sorry and fixed it. Other than that, I haven’t had too much of an issue but I know that as a whole it is an issue because a lot of people still use that term. It’s fucking annoying.
A: It’s tokenized.
R: We don’t correct people to be holier than thou, but you’ve got to realize that it’s a band. That’s all we are. Our music is for everybody.
A: It’s just hardcore; it’s just punk music.
Before we end this interview, is there anyone that you want to thank?
R: Brendan White for recording our EP.
A: Adrian Kobziar for putting up with our ceaseless demands.
J: Pat Bright did our album art.
K: My homeboy Jeremy Miller for doing our [logo] artwork that I was really happy with.
R: Anybody who has helped us booked shows or reached out and liked us.
K Anybody who comes to shows. Aidan Karr, the real scene supporter
R: Aidan and Lily [from XEUTHANIZEDX] are at every single show. Tony Smith is my idol.
J: Tony Smith has to be in the liner notes.