Brooklyn, NY’s Rue Snider and No Strand are an indie-folk/American band who write extremely catchy, earnest songs with lush harmonies and rich guitar solos. At their lead, Rue Snider relocated to NYC from Pittsburgh in the summer of 2005. Previously having experimented with short films, Rue pursued music in New York, cultivating his guitar playing and songwriting.
Currently the band is planning to release and tour in support of their first record, Alone Again Relax and Ghettoblaster caught up with him to chat about it. This is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
I participated in a 31-day song challenge in January of 2013 where I wrote a song a day based on a list of words. Four tracks from Alone Again Relax came from that time. I wrote one song in April and I wrote four more between June 28 and July 4 of 2013 right after the relationship the album is about ended. After we were basically done recording I thought we needed something to complete the story arc so I wrote two more songs in October that ended up being the first and last tracks.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
The song “Carolyn”. It’s a mid-tempo rocker, which created a problem. We aren’t really a rock band at this point and it’s hard to do a song like that without drums and bass. We had a very difficult time capturing anything that sounded decent at all.
Then, our producer, had the idea to take it apart completely and put all kinds of effects on the vocal and on my acoustic guitar. He built a new beginning for it where he played Robin Irene’s harmony backward and added all kinds of train sounds, and wolfs howling, and a loud market in Delhi, among other stuff. Not only did it work, it became the highlight of the record. I think it’s the best thing we’ve done yet as a band. The producer gets the credit. It took a lot of work but now it’s amazing. His production on this track helped strip the record of some tired singer-songwriter conventions. I think the other songs, especially the two following it, sound different in light of what we did on “Carolyn”.
Also the lyrics on that one are really personal and specific. There’s always a danger when you write like that that certain people will be taken out of the song as a result. It’s kind of like seeing someone naked on stage and no longer being able to separate the character from the actor. We did a lot in mixing and producing that track to put our clothes back on if you will.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
The answer is the same, “Carolyn”. It’s from the brain of our producer, E.W. Harris. He was the right guy to make this record with and I’m really glad he was there to push us and think outside of the box.
The thing that I think is more interesting is how E.W. was able to distil where we were trying to go with these songs and capture the sort of lo-fi vibe we wanted almost exactly. There’s a song called “You’re Gonna Miss Me More Than I’ll Miss You”, which sounds as close to what I heard in my head when I wrote it as anything possibly could. We recorded these songs really fast, like in a 12-hour day fast, and E.W. Harris was able to get the most out of us in a very compressed time frame.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
No Strand is James Margolis and Robin Irene Moss in addition to myself. They are both talented songwriters separate from the band and although they’re full time members, the songs I write are larger and more beautiful and all around better because of their contribution.
My friend Melinda May who is a wonderful songwriter that lives in Brooklyn, as well as E.W. Harris, our producer, sang harmonies on “You’re Gonna Miss Me More Than I’ll Miss You”.
What else did E.W. Harris contribute that changed the face of the record?
E.W. Harris is in a Brooklyn based band called The Sky Captains of Industry. We’re all fans of theirs and huge admirers of his solo work. He coached all of our performances and helped shape this record in ways we couldn’t have done on our own. He really listens in the studio and is an active participant in the process while still letting you make the choices you need to make.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
“Alone Again Relax” is the definition of a concept record. It’s about an almost year long, tumultuous relationship I was in. Every song was written about one woman. When things ended with her I was in a very dark place. I’m grateful I had these songs to retreat into. They gave me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to go to bed at night.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We’ve been playing the record live for several months. The song “Dead Man’s Shoes”, which is our first single, really gets people going. Our great friend Danny Feighery made a video for it that is pretty outstanding (http://youtu.be/s9gVxDnmG_A) and he gets all the credit for that.
There’s also a song called “Denouement” that ends the record. It’s interesting because Robin Irene doesn’t sing on the recording at all but she contributed a ton to the lyrics and melody. Her and James both did. It’s the one song where the writing is credited to the band and not just me. I’m excited about more opportunities to shape things like that in the future. Clearly “the sum of our parts is better than our limbs alone.” That’s me quoting myself. Why not.