Jack from The Snuts joined us to talk about the band, their upcoming debut album, career highlights, mental health awareness, and everything in between.
We kicked off by asking him to sum up The Snuts for new listeners. “We’ve always stayed true to what we said at the start; that our style of music is for everybody. There were no brackets on our music, and it wasn’t one particular kind of trend, scene or clique. If you come to one of our shows, there are people like sexy sixty-year-old couples at the back and then there are people down the front and it’s their first show ever. So I think it’s just modern rock and roll for everybody, it doesn’t sound that cool - it sounds like Jesus rock group”.
After being in an on/off lockdown for almost a year, its become a habit to ask people what they have been doing with their time (and hopefully a question we won’t have to ask much longer)
“We’re doing ok, sometimes you feel a bit bad when you say you’re ok during a global pandemic. It’s a nice thing for us to recharge and just try and be a better band for when it all comes back.”
During the first lockdown The Snuts shacked up together to finish their upcoming record, but since heading back home they have struggled, like most of us, to be apart from one another. “We grew up together, we’ve known each other since we were like, toddlers basically. So I think having that time apart was pretty intense for us.”
Their latest single ‘Somebody Loves You’ was released on February 4th and pushes through a positive message and feel-good vibe we could all do with right now. “I think there’s something about this track that we’ve never done before, it has a real positive message and a feel-good thing going on. I just moved to Glasgow at the start of lockdown and I spent a lot of time by myself. I’d seen somebody spray-painted ‘somebody loves you’ those three words all over the city, I couldn’t avoid seeing it wherever I went. So the idea of the song started there. I noticed that everybody was checking up on each other and it took the pandemic for everybody to make sure the people they cared about were okay”.
The song is all about people coming together and helping one another out, a message The Snuts took further with the accompanying music video.
“We managed to record it, and from there our record label said we can make whatever type of video you want for this amount of money. So we decided to work with the Refugee Council here in Glasgow and have it centred on us, our families, or people here settled in Glasgow who’d be up for taking part in a music video. We ended up with a nice handful of people who wanted to take part. The brief was really simple, to show what the song means to you, and find the things and people that you care about and see if we can make a video out of it. It turned out nice and we donated the budget to them (Refugee Council). We’re just going to continue working with them and it’s just really nice. We got content that we weren’t expecting and it summarised the song for us without us having to say it. It felt like the right moment in time to put a song like that out”.
‘Somebody Loves You’ is the first single released from their upcoming debut albumW.L so we asked if it was a good indication of the vibe the album would take. “I would say it’s more like a collection of everything we’ve done so far. We’ve been conscious to push ourselves with the styles and the genres that we like to play in. I think this album is a lottery of stuff that people kind of fell in love with originally. We were conscious not to leave out any songs that we knew that people who supported from the start would really appreciate. Some of the songs are just really simple to try and tell the story with a guitar and vocal, or a guitar and a cello, there’s quite a bit of that on the record. So it’s just everything put together. And trying not to put a bracket around the type of music that we make, then people will never be disappointed”.
Fans and Journalists alike have often incorrectly assumed W.L stands for West Lothian, the area of Scotland from which the boys hail. But Jack tells us it actually stands for ‘Whitburn Loopy’. “ I don’t know if you have them in England, but every town has got a young team, basically like their gang and that was the one from our town”.
“I think making this record for us has been a journey from being kids playing the guitar, to where we are now. The first track on the record, for example, I wrote the first verse and chorus when I was like, 15, or 16 like 10 years ago. The album is just time stamping that journey from growing up to what we are now. It’s good to document it with something that was important to us in our youth”.
When lockdowns began to ease in places last summer artists began to play socially distanced gigs. I don’t think any of us realised how short-lived that glimmer of hope would be. The Snuts last gig was a socially distanced show in August where they opened for The Libertines, a stark difference to the sweaty moshing crowd both bands were used to pulling in.
“It was actually quite a beautiful experience for us. They always say never meet your heroes, it is generally true, but with The Libertines they were just absolute gentlemen. It was an afternoon show and a nighttime show, and they watched every song in our set for both shows, which is unheard of in this game. Playing to a socially distanced crowd was quite nice because I felt like everybody was there for the same reason. People were missing music and we were missing playing, there was a certain kind of aspect of togetherness. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but there was a nice vibe in the air being able to do that again.”
The bands next live gigs are scheduled for April, and even with such uncertainty, Jack remains positive that it won’t be long till they can play again. “We’re feeling quite positive, but it changes every day what’s going on, so nobody really knows! I’m not writing them off, I feel good. Everybody really knows what they miss now about live music, and I think when it comes back, it’s gonna be such a celebration, whenever it does it will be well worth the wait”.
COVID has had a huge impact on the live music sector with small independent venues being hit the hardest. The lack of funding and delays in government support has caused a lot of our beloved local haunts to close their doors for good, a story shared across the home nations.
“I think the big wake-up call has been a lot of these venues were struggling anyway, before this all hit, so I think it’s a shame that it has taken this for people to only notice these venues now. Sneaky Petes in Edinburgh for example, was one of these places where we cut our teeth and where we’ve seen some of our favourite bands where they were cutting their teeth. I just hope there’s going to be some sort of recovery. But that comes with legislation, it comes with government support, and that’s absolutely dormant at the moment.”
Despite some early optimistic ticket buyers getting in on the Reading and Leeds sales, the thought of going to a Festival this summer still seems incomprehensible. Being surrounded by thousands and thousands of people seems like such a faraway fantasy we are forgiven for getting dragged into daydreams of line-ups gone by.
“We played at Benicàssim two years ago, it was our first European festival and the first time we played live abroad. We were clashing with The Killers, on at like 3 in the morning, we were like what chance do we have here? And then as we walked out the tent was full, and people sang along the whole way. It’s just one of those moments, you’re like, I’m never gonna forget this. I think that was my top festival moment. The thing is a year before that, we went to that festival and we’d stopped playing as a band and we never really started taking it seriously, as we do now. We sat the Festival at Benicàssim and said we’re gonna fucking play this next year if we get the band back together, it was a nice moment for us”.
Here at Head Above the Clouds, mental health awareness is at the heart of what we do. Jack spoke about how the upcoming record touches on mental health and wellbeing. “We’ve tried to comment on our own experiences of mental health and our struggles as much as possible. ‘Boardwalk’, is about being at your lowest, searching for the things that keep you positive and keep you looking forward to better days, so there’s quite a lot to talk of that. There’s also commentary throughout the record kind of summing up the drug culture, and just the culture in general in Scotland, in tracks like ‘Top Deck’ and ‘All Your Friends’. We almost educate a little bit about the effects of excess in your younger days and how it can affect you mentally, as you get older. I think we feel a certain amount of responsibility to try and talk about some of that stuff and put it in a place where it can help”.
We asked what the was most challenging thing for him being in a band and going on tour, and what habits has he adopted to keep those negative thoughts at bay. “Going on stage, I’m terrified before going on every time like beyond belief and it never gets any better until I’m up there. When we’re on the road I make sure to exercise every day, even if it’s a walk in the morning, or a run or a cycle whatever you do. If you’re under any sort of pressure at all, it’s important to do something like that every day I would say”.
Always on the hunt for the best new music, we couldn’t say goodbye without asking Jack for his current recommendations. “I’d say a Scottish band called Wraucces. When we were on tour and came back to Scotland to play, we asked for people to submit their music to us directly, and we’d choose 3 people to play in these shows with us. But we got something like 350 submissions just for Scotland alone, so we chose 9 young bands and artists and they were one of them. They’ve just brought out their first EP, I was listening to it this morning, I think it’s glorious. When they played with us they’d never even been on stage, and a year later released music, so it’s probably a good time to tell people about them.”
The Snut’s debut album W.L. is out on April 2nd
Words: Eloise Adger
“I’m in my flat in London at the moment but most of the last year I’ve been in the countryside, back at my parent’s house, where I grew up. I was so lucky in comparison to other people stuck in the city as we have loads of space to be outside and in nature. That’s what is most beneficial for my mental health actually, being outside in nature that’s the biggest healer if I’m feeling really stressed. I just walk or do something active. The worst thing is to be on my phone, that really fuels my anxiety. I think a lot of us get trapped, especially at the moment it’s difficult to not be on the phone and to do something else to keep the mind active.”
British singer-songwriter Jasmine van Bogaerder, or Birdy to you and I, has been a sensation for nearly a decade. First finding fame when her cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ went viral, tracks from her debut album of covers graced the soundtracks of The Vampire Diaries, The Fault in Our Stars and The Edge of Seventeen and brought global recognition. Her next two releases, Fire Within (2013) and Beautiful Lies (2016) charted the development of an artist finding their own voice and stories to tell.
After four years of relative silence, she returned in 2020 with EP Piano Sketches, a stripped-down collection of hauntingly beautiful ballads set to take centre stage on a new album that will release in April. Five years away from the industry has been a painful wait for fans but a necessary experience to grow and develop, not just as an artist, but as a young woman.
“I think I needed a bit of a break after the last album because since I was 14 I had been putting out records and touring, it was always one thing after the other. So it started as a little bit of a gap year at first, but then I just needed some time to get inspired and gather more experiences and live a bit.”
Most of us can probably share the same embarrassing stories of our teenage years loitering in local parks, getting drunk on Frosty Jacks and making a fool of yourself on social media. It’s not a tale Birdy can relate to, she signed a record deal and was whisked away to perform at festivals around the world while her friends were revising for their GCSEs.
“It was really weird, at the time it was happening so fast that I didn’t have a moment to take it in and understand what was going on. I remember when ‘Skinny Love’ was put on YouTube and the views going up and up I was watching it like ‘Oh my god what’s happening.’ Then it got played on the radio and everyone in school knew about it. It did feel like everyone at school was experiencing it with me, it was such a hype, it was so exciting”
“I wasn’t really aware of any of the negative sides of it [the fame] which was probably a good thing. I was also very well protected from it because I was so young, I was never bombarded with it like ‘well now we’ve got to move up and do this thing’, it was slow to ease into it. But it was very strange not being at school, missing out on friends birthdays and summers being at music festivals. My friends were going to music festivals, I was playing them.”
The upcoming fourth album Young Heart is quite the step away from the delicate fairytale-like pennings of the coming of age record Beautiful Lies which chartered the ups and downs of growing up in the limelight. Young Heart is a painful retelling of a relationship ending, the initial bitter heartbreak followed by the struggle to untangle two intertwined lives and move on to a new chapter. Taking inspiration from powerful artists Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Nina Simone, the singles we have already heard juxtapose these feelings of love and loss, light and dark, in a way that is new but also familiar. It is arguably some of her best work, which doesn’t do much to support those arguments that art doesn’t necessarily have to come from pain.
“The record is inspired a lot by a heartbreak. At the beginning of my break, I ended a relationship and I found it really hard to write about and went through a bit of writer’s block at the beginning. The whole process of writing this album was dribs and drabs and just dealing with those feelings at that time. A lot of it is about fate and there’s a lot of conflicts and you know, ‘have I made the right decision?’ You know the feeling when you miss this person but also feel compelled to change and grow, there’s lots of sort of different things at play I feel like throughout the record.”
“Writing was quite a difficult process just because I was in a difficult emotional space at the time and throughout making it. I was very strict with myself about everything coming from the heart and being true, if I could sense anything that sounded formulaic or over thought I didn’t want to do it. That was quite hard because I was not finishing a lot of things because they didn’t feel true to me, so it just took a while to get the right songs and to work with the right people who really understood what I was trying to do.”
Those ‘right people’ came in the form of Jamie Scott and James Ford who between them have worked with the likes of Jessie Ware, FOALS, HAIM and Florence + The Machine. The time away also allowed her travel as she wrote heading out to LA and Nashville the home of the heartbreak song.
“I went to LA to write a bit, some sessions were successful and some weren’t, I did meet some amazing people out there and we wrote a song called ‘Evergreen’. Then I went to Nashville, you know the home of the most amazing storytellers and incredible musicians and everyone you meet plays every instrument to the highest standard and that was so nice because people just make music because they want to, there are no other motives. I just really enjoyed that.”
And while most of the album was written in the states, being back at home over lockdown also provided a new and unexpected collaborator, her older brother Moses.
“It was really fun and also really stressful for both of us. I’m really a perfectionist, and I would just do take, after take, after take, until I get it right and he would just be like ‘oh my god, just do it properly’, it’s quite awful for him to have to deal with me!”
“It’s amazing actually because he’s done a whole production course and he’s sort of learning to produce and he helped me to record one of the songs on the record (Nobody Knows Me Like You Do) which was the last song I recorded for it, that was really nice.”
Birdy grew up in a very musical family, her mother a classical pianist encouraged her to play and write music from a young age and her father exposed her pop’s most successful songwriters The Beatles, George Michael and ABBA, inspiring a love of merging both genres which she has mastered over her career. But with 6 siblings there isn’t always a shared appreciation for each other’s eclectic tastes. “My sister and I are completely different but we’re really close! She’s a singer too, she’s more jazz and more pop than I am and she’s an amazing dancer who’s into the performance side of things and being on stage. Whereas I find that difficult because I don’t feel comfortable talking, even when I’m on stage, the hardest bit for me is when I have to address the audience, the rest I quite enjoy. But she doesn’t like the music I like, and I’m not too fond of most of the music she listens to”
And while songwriting was a creative release since she can remember, it wasn’t something she was allowed to pursue until her second album. “I’ve always been a writer since I was about 7. I started writing songs, and I really wanted the first album to be my own songs, but I was so young and Skinny Love had taken off so there was a lot of pressure to release an album. It made sense to do the covers and give myself a bit of time to develop my songwriting.”
Before we sign off I quickly ask her what she is most looking forward to with this release and what she wants listeners to take away from it. “I’m excited to get it out there because it’s been so long in the making, for people to hear it and see what they think. It’s quite a different sound from anything I’ve done before, it’s a lot more guitar lead and a lot more stripped back from my last record. It’s very raw and in a way a return to my first record, so I think any fans of that record will probably understand this one a lot”
Young Heart is available to pre-order now, and on streaming services from 30th April.
Words: Jade Poultney
“I think I think we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel”
The ever-hopeful Jake Bugg sets the tone for what will hopefully be the beginning of the end when it comes to COVID-19. Both Jake and I seem to agree that the thing at the forefront of our minds is the pub with Jake also holding onto the idea of getting back out on the road gigging. Having spent lockdown bunkered under in his London home he tells me the things top of his to-do list when the world opens up. “I’d like to travel to new places. Obviously, we travel a lot for work, but it’s mostly cities. I’d like to go anywhere different even if it was something mad like the Amazon rainforest or the desert. I’d like to mix it up a little bit. I think that’s one of the good things to come out of this, it’s definitely going to make people more appreciative of life”
For many in the industry, it’s been a tough call to decide whether to continue with planned releases or whether to bide their time with COVID-19 being rampant. Jake for one has moved full steam ahead with his new album due to be released in April and tells me how he felt less stress when it came to producing it than his previous albums. While many felt the pressure to be productive and creative in the extra time the pandemic gave them he felt the opposite only stumbling across pure joy when making his 5th studio album.
“This has probably been the most fun record for me. It’s been a great time. The last album was very tough, it was a difficult process. But with this album, it’s been a lot more fun. I think it’s because I’ve just got a little bit older and a lot more open. I’ve released a lot of music, so I don’t feel I have much to prove to myself. Being more open and working with loads of different people was a lot of fun, it was nice to realise you can have fun and still do right by my music. Whereas, in the past, I found it a little bit more of a chore.”
His latest single ‘All I Need’ was produced with the immensely talented Steve Mac, moving in a refreshing new direction, oozing pop-focused melodies whilst still staying loyal to his musical roots.
“My label made it possible to work with Steve Mac and luckily, he decided that he would work me. We got on really well. Steve definitely comes from a more pop-oriented background, which was what I was looking for. I know that I have plenty of ideas for melodies, songs and things like that but what was great, working with Steve, was stripping it all back and making it as simple as you possibly can. I wanted the songs to get straight to the point which I think a lot of artists struggle with. I’ve got better at it through working with others but in the past I’ve found myself being very self-indulgent, adding a couple of chords here and there that aren’t necessary. So here we kept it simple, and it worked.”
In comparison to the other tracks Jake has released we can see the shift to a more modern take on Folk-Rock while still maintaining his signature sounds and honest lyrics.
Something I was very aware of was that I knew that I wanted to take this approach. I wanted to modernise the sound to my DNA and what I already do, but the thing I was aware of is that it had to be me, it couldn’t be a more generic side, it had to come from me. I feel like I’m still there in the songs just with a little bit of pop production. If anything, it makes it a bit more accessible than previously. That was the challenge with the first two records. It’s very hard to recapture that, especially if you’re trying to do it. I think the single has moved things forward whilst evolving my sound.”
Being a perfectionist tends to come with the territory of being an artist. Having recently moved Label I wondered whether Jake felt a huge amount of pressure to produce a hit record.
“Fortunately, I had a lot of songs ready before I signed the deal. Ultimately that was what helped me get the deal, I got signed on a lot of the songs I already had which was great because I felt it told me I was moving in the right direction. I felt I hadn’t had as much success with the last two records, so to be offered a new deal with better terms than my old one was a promising sign to me. And I think that was because of the songs I had. It was a fresh start in a way. It definitely feels like chapter two for sure which was most definitely needed.”
Most would assume by the time they’ve played Graham Norton three times it would be a given that an artist would have a large group of followers. Jake dismisses that notion, shyly telling me he has a ‘few’ fans who want to listen to his tracks and performances. He’s either horrendously modest, or he really doesn’t realise the following he has built over the past 8 years. With that in mind, Jake laughs questioning why people tuned in when he felt he could at times look miserable.
“I was speaking to my manager about this the other day. I kind of said that in the past whenever I was doing TV performances I always looked like I wasn’t happy to be there. I think it’s because you’re always on the back of coming off tour and you’re exhausted. Like it would be meant to be a day off, instead, you’ve got to go spend the whole day in the studio, but this time we hadn’t done anything for ages. So we’re all like, absolutely overjoyed to be there doing it. And just to get out and playing again. And obviously, the rehearsals building up to it with the crew meant we were just having a great time. It was brilliant to be on the show again. I actually had a really good time.”
And just like that Jake and I are dreaming of being anywhere but home, mostly the pub again. With lockdown on our minds, I wanted to ask how he’d been feeling mentally, not just through the pandemic, but how he’s found his mental health change over the years.
“It’s difficult to say because I struggle with it in different ways. I think going through different things and different experiences makes us who we are. Personally, I’ve felt depressed many times, especially in the midst of the first two records and the amount of touring and pressure that was going on. To be honest, I always felt no matter how much reassurance and love the people around you gave you, it has to kind of come from you in a way that you’re prepared to pull yourself out of that hole which is very difficult to do. But you’ve just got to find that in you. It’s sad as I just don’t want anyone to have to deal with that. It’s a terrible thing.
Touring was was one of the things that kept me going. I’m very lucky to be able to have that perspective when I’m feeling down when things aren’t going my way or as well as I would like. I’m more fortunate than most people and I remind myself of that, I’m lucky I really am. I get to do what I love for a career and that’s amazing. So I’m able to think like that, but I know it’s not as easy for others.”
We leave the interview on that note. It’s hard to see what’s not to love about Jake, not only his music but him as an individual. In the space of our quick chat, there was nothing but uplifting optimism and excitement for the release of his 5th studio album. It’s clear to see the time and work Jake’s put into his new music and the new sound he’s leaning in to without forgetting the origins of his folk-rock beginnings.
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is available to pre-order now.
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Jake Bridgland