Artist Spotlight: Snõõper

    Nashville’s Snõõper began as the duo of vocalist Blair Tramel and guitarist Connor Cummins, who started recording songs on an 8-track in 2020 and put them out on DIY labels. When pandemic restrictions were lifted, the group expanded to include bassist Happy Haugen, drummer Cam Sarrett, and guitarist Ian Teeple, and they made their live debut in September 2021 supporting Lil Ugly Mane. Part of what makes Snõõper’s approach as a punk band so unique is the way they combine some of the members’ hardcore background with a wild playfulness that not only extends to, but is largely centered around, their live show, which incorporates mediums such as 8-bit animation and puppetry for a meticulously structured yet constantly evolving set. It’s that experience they set out to mirror on their debut full-length, Super Snõõper, released last Friday on Jack White’s Third Man Records. It’s impressive just how many ideas they pack in under 23 minutes, boasting an assemblage of styles that somehow comes across as gleeful yet frantic, mangled yet precise, intense and extremely danceable at the same time. The whole time, it’s clear the thing Snõõper capitalize on isn’t chaos or aggression, but pure fun – even if it only funnels out as such at the very last second.

    We caught up with Snõõper for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight series to talk about the origins of the project, the making of  Super Snõõper, their live show, and more.

    Did you always have the live show in mind when you were making the record?

    Connor Cummins: We pretty much went into the LP with the mindset of it just being the live show on the record.

    Blair Tramel: But the way that we recorded originally, we never wanted to play live. The pandemic was when we were recording, so we kept making songs, and I remember at one point we just stopped recording with real drums because we were like, “We’re not going to play it live, we don’t have to worry about how it would sync up live.” And then we met up with Cam once the pandemic was over, and everyone in the band has added their own twist to the way that they play the songs.

    CC: I kind of look at the earlier recordings as demos, and this is the first actual recording of any of these songs on the LP.

    BT: It was fun recording it, too. I feel like we did it relatively quick, because we had all practiced these songs so many times and had played live so much at that point.

    CC: I don’t think we’ve really talked about that part much in interviews, but we recorded it in three days. We had somewhat of a vision, but we had a lot of pressure on us to finish it quickly. I think that also comes out in the record, like it’s a sprint to get the record done in time.

    Could you talk more about the origins of the project as a duo? What was your vision at the time?

    BT: I don’t think Snõõper would have happened if we started as a full band. We wrote like one song and then we got a full band together, not even anyone here, but it wasn’t going well. I think we really needed to nitpick everything. It was over the pandemic, so I would leave the house for a big walk or something, Connor put the song together, and then I’d be like, “Okay, now you need to leave while I do vocals.” And he’d go on a big walk and we’d have a rough version of something. But I think that process was really important, being able to individually hone in on all this stuff. I started making music videos for everything, and we just started putting it out because we were like, “Well, there’s no hope of playing live.”

    CC: I honestly feel like there really wasn’t much of a vision. We were truly just having fun, and I still feel like that’s what we still try to do to this day. I think there was a haste, and we were so excited – we’d be like, “This song is almost done, let’s just put it out now.” I still try to have the same idea when recording and letting it happen naturally, but now there’s more of a, “I know we’re excited, but let’s just wait a little bit longer. Maybe let’s get it mixed. Maybe let’s get it mastered.” The reason I look at the early songs as demos is because they weren’t mixed at all. I mixed them on the board really fast. I wish we would have spent more time mixing and working on the songs. But the structure is the same.

    Cam Sarrett: To say that there’s no distinct vision in mind – I think if you make a band too much like a business plan, it just sucks. I think maybe this is what you’re getting at, Connor, it’s about creating a space where you’re free to do things, and everyone has their influences that they’re bringing in.

    CC: The vision is definitely more in the live show. We keep the recording extremely free, but the live show has more of the vision now. We’re always like, “What can we do to make this more exciting?”

    BT: For me also, the record coming out is the first time I’ve had to think about how anything’s being perceived, which I hate. [laughs] I didn’t want to play live at first – you can create such a specific thing surrounding a song if you don’t play live – you can do a music video, you can do art for it, which felt really special and nice. That’s why every song had a music video and a whole vision around it, and I wanted to continue that with the live show. It’s less about us, necessarily – we have the puppets and the props and the tracksuits that we use to play live, so there’s an aesthetic to it. But with this record coming out, people writing reviews about it and asking us questions, I’m like, “Oh man, I haven’t even had the time to really think too deeply about our music.”

    What excited you about eventually bringing other people into this space?

    BT: I think meeting Happy, who was also doing music over the pandemic and seeing videos of stuff he was doing. And then Cam had been in another band with Connor that was existing over the pandemic. It just all meshed really well. We’ve had other members come and go who we still are really good friends with, but it hasn’t worked out with touring and everything. Now we have Ian, who comes from Kansas City and has been in like every project that we love – Warm Bodies, BB Eye – and he’s done art for us from the beginning. And now Sean is doing auxiliary percussion, which is a huge thing too.

    CC: And we just jumped in. We booked our first show, and we’re like, “Okay, this is the date, we have to get everything ready.”

    CS: We practiced in the course of three to four weeks, it was very quick.

    BT: But everything post-pandemic was so fun and exciting. Immediately people were going to shows and everything was packed.

    How did you go about fleshing out those old demos, writing new songs, and bringing it all together for the LP?

    BT: We still always do the process the same; new songs will always be written on an 8-track at home.

    CC: We just try to write the skeleton, and then everyone can add their own little things. Cam re-wrote a lot of the electronic drum tracks – I never thought ‘Pod’ would have sounded the way it does. I would have never come up with the drum part that’s on the record.

    CS: And simultaneously, I never would have played that drum beat if I didn’t have electronic drums that I was trying to make real. It wouldn’t be the style that I would normally play, so it’s a cool interplay between the 8-track demos and how it actually fleshes out live.

    CC: There is an element of trust for everyone in the band to do a certain amount of their own interpretation of whatever the song is. It doesn’t have to be the exact same way as the demo. It’s all back and forth, you never really know how it’s going to go.


    There’s such an immediacy and forward momentum to the music, but it’s also very collage-like and a little surreal, which also ties into the visuals. Where do you think that side of the band comes from?

    BT: I think a lot of it comes from the insecurity of being in music – this is my first band. I don’t feel confident doing vocals necessarily. What I do feel confident in is making paper mache or puppets, so when we get those involved, I’m like, “This rules, I feel confident about this show.” And people have liked it. At first I was nervous to incorporate them, because you don’t see many bands with puppets. [laughs] But we sent out the Bug – we have a big bug mascot puppet – into the crowd two nights ago, and he got pretty wrecked. People go pretty crazy. When I see people doing flyers for us and incorporating our characters, that feels awesome. Originally we started over COVID, so we were really in control of the way the visuals were perceived and the songs were perceived, and I wanted to carry that over into the live show. There’s always something new – we have a big phone that we’re picking up today. I’m getting pretty crazy with it. We have to have a big car to tour in because we have so many props and things, and sometimes I’m like, “Is this too much?” But then the band hypes me up and they’re like, “No, we need it,” which feels really nice.

    CC: It’s it’s been a really natural progression. On our first tour, we didn’t have any props. We didn’t have outfits or anything. I think we had the one weight.

    BT: It’s kind of messed up right now.

    CC: And then we had the puppet idea for a second tour, and then there was a video game, and there’s a stoplight count and a big phone with an LED banner.

    CS: Dude, Blair built a giant telephone in less than a day.

    BT: I’m getting fast.

    CC: The video game is truly the coolest part. It has a TV installed on it, and she created an animation that goes with the set that plays live. So if you’re bored with our live show, you can just look over and watch this whole animation she’s made.

    I feel like even if you remove the visual element, that sensibility feeds into the music as well, with the use of samples and how the songs are stitched together.

    BT: We want our shows to be like we’ve been curating an experience, and I think that ties into the samples and everything where it’s non-stop. When you go to a Snõõper show, I think people now expect that the puppets are going to come out at a certain time or this or that, and it’s like going on a ride or something.

    CC: It’s the most fun when people who like Snõõper come to a show, but they bring a friend who doesn’t really know what they’re getting into. Like, “I’ve heard maybe there’s like a puppet, it’s like a punk band or something.” There’s maybe a sense of shock sometimes on people when there’s all this chaos going on. But at the root of the live show, we still come from a hardcore punk background where it’s got to be really fast and intense. And then it’s like, how do we make that more fun and less agro?

    BT: It is really funny, though, to see sometimes grown men – the puppet comes out, and they have no idea what to do. I’m like, “Thank God you’re having this experience.” They get really excited and they, like, try and punch the puppet. It is usually a punk show so I don’t care what happens, and I pack my hot glue gun everywhere we go so I can make repairs. If it happens it happens. We’re not playing aggressive music, but we definitely get on a lot of hardcore and punk shows, so it’s funny to see that reaction.

    CS: We also, simultaneously, have a lot of young fans – and I’m not talking about high schoolers or something.

    BT: There is a guy that came to a show here the other day, and he was like, “My six-year-old daughter has some feedback about a video that you guys have on YouTube.” I used a fake hand and Connor’s hand gets stuck in the door, and it falls off. He’s like, “My daughter was so freaked out by that.” [laughs] I think the videos, because there’s a lot of animated parts, end up on kids’ Youtube algorithms somehow.

    How surreal is that to you?

    CC: It takes really cool parents to let their kids listen to that stuff. [laughs] I was just thinking about how my parents or my grandparents probably wouldn’t have been cool with that. There’s been a couple of other people who let their kids listen to it, and they’ll send us drawings.

    VT: I’m a teacher, so I’m also really aware of – like when we’re doing lyrics, I never curse or anything, because I do know that maybe my students will find out about our music, and I would be really like embarrassed if there was a lot of profanity or anything. There’s a couple of my students who have been singing ‘Pod’. I’m trying to be really mindful of the lyrical content.

    But you’re conscious of it not in a way that’s fearful but that forces you to think about how you can make the experience fun in a way that’s different.

    BT: Yeah, for sure. It makes me really happy when adult men and people that I’ve seen in hardcore show are rocking with the puppets. I think that we do fall into a punk category, but I’ve never felt self-conscious of not being punk enough or not being hardcore enough. I’m like, “I think you guys need this.” [laughs]

    It reminds me of how ‘Fitness’ pokes fun at fitness culture, but you’re leaning into it a bit too by following the rule from that sample: going real fast with not a lot of rest.

    BT: It was completely unconscious at first, but now we have leaned into it. ‘Fitness’ was a really hard song. When you did that, I was like, “This is so fast and weird.” I didn’t want to do lyrics for that one originally, and we just kind of made it a joke. And then we just messed around with it, and it’s really evolved into something totally of its own.

    CC: The song is so fast, but also best poser, in the last sample, it’s kind of poking fun at like, it doesn’t matter how fast we play it, we’re probably still posers.

    BT: [laughs] And the fake weight and everything.

    CC: Somehow the tracksuits or the whistle were never intentional to be tied in with that. It just all happened, and then we looked at what we had and we’re like, “Oh, this is all kind of a big cohesive thing now.”

    It seems like that’s been a pattern with the project in general.

    CC: Yeah, most things in Snõõper happen subconsciously and then we reflect on it and we’re like, “Wow, there was an underlying theme or some subconscious idea happening.”

    BT: Very deep in COVID, I made this paper mache sandwich, and I also made the weight. I took a picture of myself lifting and the weight and eating the sandwich, completely unrelated to the song, so we just had it laying around the house. And then we did ‘Fitness’ and it all tied together.

    When you decided to stretch out the song ‘Running’, was it just another fun thing that came about that way, or did it also come from a desire to do more stuff like it?

    CC: That kind of just happened naturally. That was one where the band really took it and went with it. Cam and Happy were the originators, because the guitars would cut out and the bass and drums would just go on their own thing for a while. We started doing a little bit of feedback and noise on it and just kept extending it.

    BT: That one became so fun to play live, because people were really responsive, and I think we just wanted it to keep going. Usually that’s when the puppet comes out and everything kind of goes crazy. We just didn’t want it to end, so we had to make a way for it not to.

    Can you share one thing that inspires you about being in Snõõper?

    Ian Teeple: Sometimes we’ll be like, “Oh, maybe we shouldn’t do the tracksuits or the puppet tonight.” What we’re doing is so fun and funny, but the approach to it is very serious and sincere, and a lot of the day is spent figuring out how are we going to logistically make this work. That’s my favorite thing, where it’s goofy and silly, but taken very seriously.

    Happy Haugen: My favorite though, too, is like, the other day this person said after the show, “You guys look like you’re just having a lot of fun up there, you can’t stop smiling.” I thought about it for a long time after that, and then the next set, I felt myself smiling a lot. The commitment to the bit makes it so much more fun, because in the end it always pays off. If we’re ever having a tough day, or like, when the ceiling might not be tall enough for the puppet, we just make it happen somehow regardless.

    IT: Even on like day 40 that we’ve been together, you can’t not play with energy just because the music is so fast. So even if you’re exhausted, it’s a blast. [all laugh]

    CC: Everyone in the van calls our genre pressure rock. Everything always seems crazy and like it’s all going to implode. We always show up to the venue at the last second, Blair is repairing the puppet 20 minutes before the set, everyone has broken guitar strings they’re all changing, there’s no picks, someone’s guitar pedal just blew up, someone’s tracksuit is messed up. [laughs] I tossed my guitar one day and immediately regretted it. But it’s like taking a big inhale and you’re like, “I don’t know if everything’s going to work out.” And then everything works out, and it’s a big exhale. It’s like, “Cool, let’s do this again tomorrow.”

    BT: At the same time, when things don’t work out, we used to get really in our heads about that, because there are so many elements and the live shows have been getting crazier. Something that’s inspiring to me is even when that stuff happens, the energy is still there at this point. If something gets unplugged and the puppet gets obliterated or whatever, people are still having a good time, and that’s the most important thing.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Snõõper’s Super Snõõper is out now via Third Man Records.

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