Snarls puts its heart into ‘With Love’

The Columbus rock four-piece will celebrate the release of its dreamy new album with a concert at Ace of Cups on Friday, June 14.
snarlsKate Sweeney

Snarls singer Chlo White said she used to fixate on romantic relationships in an unhealthy way – a tendency that occasionally bled into the songs populating the Columbus four-piece’s earlier records. But on With Love, out now on Take It to Heart Records, the musicians imploded this idea, evolving to explore a range of platonic and romantic connections that flaunt a heart nearly as big as the glittering, ground-quaking riff that introduces the album-opening title track.

“I do think we shifted to this lens of friendship-love,” said White, who joined singer/bassist Riley Hall and guitarist Mick Martinez for an early June phone interview in the midst of the band’s current tour, which hits Ace of Cups on Friday, June 14. “I think with our maturity and growth, there was just a different frame of mind happening when we wrote these songs. ... It was a healthier dynamic all around, both personally and in our band.”

Though unspoken, Martinez said part of this shift could be attributed to the songs having emerged at the tail end of the early pandemic, at a point in time when quarantines and stay-at-home orders served as an unwanted reminder of both the potency and frailty inherent in the connections that bind us. “Maybe it wasn’t a direct influence in a way where we sat down and decided, ‘We’re going to write about that,’” she said. “But I think everyone’s perspective definitely changed with the pandemic.”

The lingering public health crisis also introduced to the music the weight of mortality, which reveals itself not in dour, slate-gray cloud cover but rather in a steady pull to the light, with the musicians making repeated calls to embrace the magic of the moment. “What are you going to do today?” White asks on “Driving Faster.” Later, on the darkly melodic “Sugar Rush,” the singer wrangles with the idea of impermanence, gradually acknowledging the lasting imprint that can be left by even the temporary. “Nothing lasts forever,” White offers, “so why not try it out?”

For the band members, these explorations were further rooted in some of the disconnect they felt coming off of early tours, which forced them away from friends, family and any sense of routine for weeks and months at a time. “I think after some of our first big tours, we for sure walked away ready to write some pretty emotional songs about platonic relationships,” Martinez said.

For recording sessions, snarls again teamed with producer Chris Walla, this time decamping to Norway in April 2023 for three weeks. The musicians previously teamed with Walla in 2021 for the What About Flowers? EP, a comparatively shattered affair captured at the height of social distancing. In those sessions, the producer coined the term “maximum heartbreak” as a means of describing snarls’ musical aims.

For With Love, Walla embraced motivational tactics more in line with the enveloping, big-hearted concepts present in the songs. While recording White’s vocals for one track, for example, Walla paused the session and bolted from the studio, returning with a photo of bandmate Hall, which he proceeded to tack up within the singer's eyesight.

“I think he was nonverbally trying to put that [idea] in my face, like, ‘Okay, this is why you’re singing this,’” said White, who acknowledged that the producer’s tactic worked, eliciting a more immediately tender take. “And it made me… I’m getting teary-eyed now even thinking about it. But it was really sweet. He has all these silly little tricks, but they’re really near and dear and wholesome.”

The band members described the Norwegian setting as picturesque, with the bulk of the time spent working at DreamFarm studios, a rural retreat located two hours from Trondheim and set in a valley amid snow-capped mountains – a scene that remained viewable from the large windows in the studio’s live recording room. “I’m just in there in a trance, recording guitar parts for the end of [‘Ur Song/Lovers of Valdaro’], staring at these mountains, like, ‘What the hell?’” Martinez said.

“It’s not like the West Virginia valley where it’s rolling. You’re literally in this valley and [the mountains] just go straight up,” Hall said. 

“It made me understand why [Norway] is the birthplace of black metal,” White said. “It was like, ‘I feel so inferior right now next to these huge bodies of rock.’”

The sense of awe this setting inspired in the musicians carried over into the resulting album, which evidences a softness at odds with those imposing rock formations.

“My head was in the clouds a lot because it was all just so amazing,” White said. “I was just so thrilled to be there every day, and I feel like that dreaminess appears in the sound of the record, too. Sometimes in the studio, it can be hard to encapsulate that emotion repeatedly, especially when you’re recording things over and over again. But we all just had our hearts in it every time.”

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