For those of you living under rocks, These Arms Are Snakes is the newest surprise from a scene that continually surprises. Dwelling in Seattle, the five-piece, comprised of former members from groundbreakers like Botch, Kill Sadie and Nineironspitfire, manages to inject something fresh, dark, and new into hardcore's tired bones, mixing it with shoegazer, post-rock, experimental and just about every sound made with a guitar in the last fifty years. Live, the band is a different beast altogether, comprised of flashing strobes, heroic lunges about the stage by the musicians, and the knowledge that what you're doing is amazing. Joe Preston, drummer for the quintet, was kind enough to answer my questions by email one night in September of 2003. THIS IS MEANT TO HURT YOU, their debut EP, is available now on Jade Tree records, and all the information you'd ever want is available at http://www.thesearmsaresnakes.com.
Given the music and the personnel involved in the band, Jade Tree seems like a strange place for These Arms Are Snakes to be. How did that happen, and how are you liking it so far?
Actually it is kind of a funny story, we sent out demos to a handful of labels. Mostly labels that we liked or had bands on them that we liked. Jade Tree came up, and we almost didn't send them anything, basically because we thought that we would never hear anything from them. But we sent them a package and didn't even have any contact info in it, so they had to hunt us down. All of the people at Jade Tree are amazing! I have no complaints and don't look back at all in our decision to work with them. They do their job well and are super fun to hang out with. I think Jade Tree is the perfect place for us.
After coming from a series of bands which worked themselves up from obscurity to being relatively well-known, this new band has started out on top with a whole series of expectations. These expectations, combined with a first tour opening for the Blood Brothers, and immediately signing to Jade Tree Records, have given the band a boost of press from the get-go. What have the reactions been among the public to this new band, what are the reactions of the band to the public's perception of These Arms Are Snakes, and how has the instant ‘popularity' affected the band?
The first tour was amazing and above and beyond any of our expectations of what our first tour was going to be. From what I can tell, we were definitely well received. Beyond that I don't really know, everything seems to be going good so I can only assumed some people like us. We are absolutely astonished by all of this. Obviously we couldn't be happier or ask for more, but at the same time it is a lot to take in and deal with. Everything has happened in under a year, and it has been one of the most stressful years of my life, and I don't think that I have ever worked harder for anything in my life. On top of all that, only one of us has a job now (and no we are not living off of the band). So it has been quite a rollercoaster ride.
These Arms Are Snakes seems to contain a far more experimental aspect than the previous works of the members of the band, from vocal effects to mathier elements to skewed song structures. Was this a conscious decision as a band, and how do you feel this sound related to the previous works of the people on the band and to the hardcore roots the members were brought up in? How would you relate These Arms Are Snakes to hardcore?
When all of us finally started playing together (a long story) it is just what came out. We all have very similar taste in music as well as very different. With that we all were on the same page as what we wanted and individually got to add our own influences to make for quite an interesting mix of elements to work with. As far as "hardcore" is concerned I think that we have elements of that as well as other things. I really like how Brian states this so I am going to quote him: "When I got into hardcore it was because it was something new and interesting, so that is what we are trying to do, make it new and interesting."
Live, the band is a flurry of spastic motion and a rather impressive light show. Aside from looking cool, what reaction does the band hope to achieve based on the live show? How do you feel the visual aspect of the band affects listeners, particularly those who may be hearing the band for the first time live?
Well, live the idea is to set a mood. The lights help do that, and are set along with the music. Other than that we just do our thing. I don't think we are looking for a specific reaction, just have fun and try to take it all in. As far as the visual aspect for new listeners, I honestly think it can be a lot to take in. Which can mean that people might not connect with it at first, or really enjoy it. It can go either way.
Interview by Charlie.